From the world of “It’s just not fair,” as a woman you’re 30 times more likely to develop a
urinary tract infection (UTI) than a man is. And, if you do get a UTI, you have a 6 in 10 chance of having another one (or more) within six months.
A UTI is a miserable experience that nobody wants to repeat. The uncomfortable and painful symptoms include:
- Pain and/or burning sensation when urinating
- Inability to urinate despite an intense urge
- Pressure in pelvis or lower abdomen
- Blood in urine (seek medical care immediately)
- Confusion or disorientation
Cognitive symptoms, such as confusion, are most likely to affect older women. A fever could indicate that the infection has passed to your kidneys.
If you have recurrent UTIs, you may wonder why you do and what you can do to stop them. At Elite Gynecology in New York City, our caring and knowledgeable gynecologists, Molly McBride, MD, and Tamara Guichard, MD, offer a virtual UTI clinic so you can get the antibiotics you need to clear your infection and get back to business (both in and outside of the restroom).
Why do you keep getting UTIs? Following are some of the most common reasons why you’re plagued by recurrent infections.
First, it’s not your fault
No, you’re probably not “wiping the wrong way” (back to front) or eating the wrong foods. When you’re a victim of recurrent UTIs, you may just be unlucky. And, very possibly, your mom or grandmother was also unlucky, too. Recurrent UTIs tend to run in families. You may also have been born with anatomical variations that increase your risk.
Most UTIs are caused by bacteria called Escherichia coli (E. coli). You’re probably familiar with E. coli from reports of food poisoning or food recalls. Normally, E. coli resides in your large intestine. However, certain risk factors increase the chances that E. coli move from your rectum into your vagina, where they can then enter and infect your bladder.
You’re lucky in love
You may be unlucky with UTIs but lucky in love. If you have a lot of intercourse, you could actually increase your chances of a UTI.
Sexual intercourse raises the number of bacteria in your bladder. More bacteria lead to a higher risk for a bacterial infection.
One way to minimize the chances that your moments of ecstasy turn into days of pain is to urinate after each time you have intercourse. Urination helps flush out bacteria from the bladder. Be sure to hydrate well, too, so you produce sufficient urine to do the job.
You’re killing the good bacteria
If you use spermicide as part of your birth control, you may be unwittingly killing beneficial bacteria called Lactobacilli. Normally, Lactobacilli are a type of probiotic that lives inside your vagina.
One benefit of Lactobacilli is that they produce organic acids that act as antimicrobials. Unfortunately, spermicides may kill the helpful probiotic, but don’t affect E. coli, which allows this harmful bacteria to proliferate.
You’ve lost your good bugs
If you’ve reached perimenopause or menopause, you have less Lactobacilli than you did in your youth. That could be why you’re now having more UTIs than you did when you were younger.
In addition, aging weakens your bladder muscles. When your bladder can’t contract fully to completely empty itself, bad bacteria can thrive and cause a UTI. The good news is that hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogen may bring back the good bacteria and reduce your chances for another UTI.
How to prevent and treat UTIs
If you have a UTI right now, you need relief. You can drop off a urine sample to our virtual UTI clinic and get a prescription delivered straight to your nearest pharmacy. Usually, UTIs are cured by a short course of antibiotics.
With recurrent UTIs, however, we may recommend another strategy. For instance, you could benefit from a low-dose antibiotic treatment over a period of six months to kill the E. coli or other bacteria that cause your UTIs. If you tend to develop a UTI after sex, we may recommend taking a single dose of antibiotic after intercourse.
Once your infection has been treated, however, you certainly don’t want another. You may be able to prevent the next UTI by:
- Drinking 2-3 liters of water or other healthy fluids daily
- Switching to non-spermicide contraception
- Urinating after sex
- Using HRT in perimenopause or menopause
If you have a UTI, contact our office nearest you — in Midtown East, Murray Hill, New York City, or Forest Hills, New York. Use our online appointment button, or stop by our virtual UTI lab.