Your definitive guide to those dreaded UTIs

We've all been there

Live a cystitis free life by wising up on urinary tract infections, because, seriously, they are not fun. We know how to avoid a yeast infection and everything about thrush and bacterial vaginosis but what about UTIs?

Urinary tract infection

What is it?

For the uninitiated, a urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a bacterial infection in the tract that your urine passes through. UTI’s can come in stages. In the first instance the infection is known as cystitis, which affects your urethra, but if it’s left untreated it can then move up your urinary tract into your bladder and into your kidneys, ending in a kidney infection. Infections of the bladder, called cystitis, or urethra (the tube which transports wee from your body) are classed as Lower UTIs.

Urinary tract infection causes

A UTI is caused by bacteria getting past your body’s natural defences. The vast majority are caused by E. Coli, usually found in your digestive system, and may be a result of having poor personal hygiene.

UTI’s are not STI’s and you can get one without ever having sex, but sex can play a part, particularly if you’re having a lot of it (lucky you). Luckily, there are steps you can take to stop it from ever having to be a problem again.

It’s important to remember that sometimes, no matter how careful you are, UTI’s just happen. Some of us are more naturally prone to it than others. Remember that it’s not a reflection on you, and it’s nothing to feel ashamed of. Recognising the onset will prevent the infection from taking hold.

Urinary tract infection symptoms

Signs that the infection is coming include needing a wee and the not being able to have one, weeing and feeling like your bladder is still full, a burning sensation whilst weeing, pain in your stomach and bladder area and blood in your wee.

Urinary tract infection treatment

Peeing after sex

Frankly this very simple trick should be on the curriculum at every school in the entire world. After you have sex, go and have a wee. It flushes any bacteria that might have got into your urethra out, massively reducing your chance of getting a UTI. Simple, easy and honestly criminal that all girls aren’t taught it earlier.

Keep yourself clean

Gently cleansing your girl bits is sensible. Don’t use perfumed soaps because they’re harsh, and don’t put soap inside your vagina (it’s magic and self cleaning, and you’ll upset it.) Whilst getting a UTI is not to say that you’re unclean and definitely nothing to feel guilty about, keeping things clean will reduce the amount of bacteria hanging around. As will wearing clean, cotton knickers. Which hopefully you’re doing anyway.

Stay hydrated

It’s always a good idea, for lots of reasons. Clear skin, shiny hair and flushing out any lingering nasties from your urethra when you pee. Ideal. Drinking alcohol can make an underlying infection a lot worse because it dehydrates you, so try to swap between water and booze when you’re drinking, which has the bonus of staving off a hang-over.

As soon as you feel even a twinge, stop drinking any alcohol, and down at least a pint of water. The Marie Claire team swear blind by natural remedy Waterfall D-Mannose.

Avoid cranberry juice

It’s widely thought that drinking cranberry juice can help to prevent or cure a UTI, but this is in fact false. A recent study published on jamanetwork.com found that cranberry consumption has little to no effect on the treatment of UTIs. Half of the subjects took tablets equivalent to 20 ounces of cranberry juice per day, and it was found that levels of bacteria in urine and the number of UTIs was not affected. So, step away from the cranberry juice. It won’t help.

Stick to your normal contraception

You might have heard rumours that using condoms can cause cystitis, but there’s no reason to believe it’s true. Experts are split on whether condom usage has an affect on UTI’s, either making them more or less likely. With so little conclusive proof to go on, there’s no need to alter your contraceptive choices an an attempt to avoid the burning pee situation.

Go to the doctor’s

Recognising the signs and acting on them should kick cystitis before it gets started, but if not then you should high-tail it to the GP ASAP. Some people’s bodies are able to kick an infection without antibiotics, but others will need medicine to get rid of it.

And, founder of Just For Tummies, Linda Booth, whose for women probiotic promises to keep your pH levels at bay, answers all your burning questions..

UTI in pregnancy

‘UTIs can be more common during pregnancy due to the location of the uterus. It sits directly on top of the bladder and as the uterus grows, its increased weight can block the drainage of urine from the bladder, causing an infection.’

UTI home remedies

‘One of the first things to do when you have a urinary tract infection is drink plenty of water. That’s because drinking water can help flush away the bacteria that’s causing your infection. Avoid tight jeans, wear cotton underwear, wipe yourself from front to back after going to the loo, and choose only fragrance-free personal hygiene products, soaps and shower gels. All of these actions will help prevent a UTI from developing.’

Why do you get UTIs after sex?

‘During sexual intercourse, the e-coli bacteria (responsible for around 80% of UTIs) can be pushed into the urethra where it can travel into the bladder and beyond, causing an infection.  After sex, have a wee to help wash away any bacteria, or use the bidet or shower. After intercourse, it’s important to go and empty your bladder and wash down below to prevent e-coli from getting up the urethra and into the bladder – if there’s not much urine then drink a full glass of water so you get a good flow next time. This will help wash out any harmful bacteria. Many women suffer from chronic UTI infections caused by position during sexual intercourse. Changing position may alter friction on the urethra and remember that the distance between the anus and the urethra is only small, which makes it so easy for the e-coli to be pushed into the urethra and vagina. Experiment with different positions during sex. Anal sex increases the risk of spreading the e-coli into the urethra and vagina, while spermicides, un-lubricated condoms and any other chemical based lubricants may also irritate the urethra and vagina.

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