Are you experiencing a burning sensation while passing urine? Don’t brush it off or dismiss it because it could be a urinary tract infection (UTI), an extremely common infection that is all too easily ignored by people but can cause immense pain and discomfort. While UTIs can affect any part of the urinary system, including the kidney, ureters, bladder and urethra. However, it is most common in the bladder and urethra.
In women, the urethral opening is located close to the anus. So it is very easy for intestinal bacteria to enter the urethra. That is why although both men and women experience UTIs, they are especially common in women.
Let’s read about UTIs, how to identify their symptoms, and how you can manage them as a woman!
What are the main symptoms of UTIs?
UTI symptoms can range from strong and painful to almost non-existent. When the symptoms arise, they include:
- A strong urge to urinate that does not go away over long periods of time
- A burning feeling when you do urinate, in some cases it can also be a stinging feeling
- Urinating often and passing small to moderate amounts of urine
- Urine that looks cloudy
- Urine in the colours of red, pink or darker yellow – which is a sign that your urine contains blood
- Strong-smelling urine that reminds one of ammonia
- Many women experience a strong pain in the pelvic area and around the area of the pubic bone.
- A discomfort in the lower belly
UTIs and Women: Why is It So Common?
Although both men and women get UTIs, the sad truth is that women get UTIs up to 30 times more often than men do. As many as 4 in 10 women will get a UTI at least once within six months. Here are some of the risk factors for women when it comes to UTIs:
- Female anatomy – In general, women have a shorter urethra than most men. As a result, bacteria can easily enter the bladder due to the short distance
- Sexual activity – For women, being more sexually active can lead to more UTIs due to moving of the bacteria from the vagina into the urethra. Having new sexual partners also increases the risk if you are not sure that your partner has been tested
- Certain types of birth control – Using methods like diaphragms for birth control may increase the risk of UTIs due to accumulation of bacteria. If you also use spermicides (creams that kill sperm), there will be a risk of getting a UTI
- Menopause – In women, after menopause, a decline in estrogen can cause changes in the urinary tract as well. These changes can increase the risk of UTIs in women
- Pregnancy – Pregnancy hormones can affect the bacteria in the urinary tract. Also, many pregnant women have difficulty in completely emptying their bladders due to the developing baby causing pressure in the uterus above the bladder. The leftover urine can contain bacteria and cause UTIs
What Can You Do to Prevent Them?
While UTis are extremely common, the good news is that once you know about them, you can manage them with some standard healthcare measures! Here are some expert-approved tips to reduce the risk of catching UTIs:
- Glug glug! Drink plenty of water all the time (at least 2-3 litres) as this will ensure you pee more and help flush out the bacteria from your urinary tract
- Do not hold your pee, even if you are worried about your surroundings or doing it in an unfamiliar location. Emptying your bladder regularly ensures that your body limits bacterial growth
- After you have sex, ensure that you pee immediately, as during sexual intercourse, the chances of bacteria entering your urethra massively goes up
- After peeing or pooping, ensure that you wipe from front to back to prevent harmful bacteria from entering the urethra from the anal area
- Ensure that your diet ensures foods rich in prebiotics and antibiotics. Prebiotic such as garlic, onions, apples, bananas and whole oats promote healthy gut bacteria which fight against harmful bacteria. Antibiotics like garlic, honey, ginger and clove help in fighting bacterial infections.
- Do not use irritating feminine hygiene products like tampons and scented powders, for they can also increase the growth of harmful bacteria. With tampons, you have to change them frequently if used as bacteria can grow on tampons, especially super-absorbent ones.
- Remember that a few birth control methods like diaphragms might promote overgrowth of bacteria. Keep that in mind when choosing your contraceptives! Here are a few contraceptives methods that will not increase your risk of a UTI – condoms (without spermicides), NuvaRings, birth control patches and an intra-uterine device (IUD)
- If you see even one sign of a UTI, do not hesitate or wait a day. Visit your doctor immediately