What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
A urinary tract infection (UTI), also know as cystitis, is when part of the urinary tract (which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra) becomes infected due to microbes entering the area and multiplying.
What causes a UTI?
UTIs are caused by bacteria entering the urinary system (most commonly through the urethra), and there are certain factors and behaviours that can increase the risk of this occurring, such as:
- Being sexually active
- Urinary incontinence, or those with catheters
- Having diabetes
- Poor hygiene practices
Can menstrual cups cause a UTI?
No, menstrual cups themselves do not cause UTIs. However, it is possible for bacteria that causes UTIs to be present on your fingers when inserting your menstrual cup, which may result in a UTI. Always make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before inserting your cup! While it is rare, some people may experience some bladder pressure or irritation while wearing a cup due to where it sits within the vagina. Here are some tips for peeing with a menstrual cup in to reduce discomfort.
How can you prevent a UTI?
Luckily, there are some things we can do to prevent UTIs from occurring. In the case of UTIs, it’s a good idea to be diligent in preventing them rather than relying on antibiotic treatment when they have already occurred.
- Stay hydrated with enough water throughout the day
- Empty your bladder as soon as possible after you have the urge to urinate
- Always pass urine directly after sexual intercourse
- Always wipe from front to back and maintain good personal hygiene
- Wear clothing that allows airflow and avoid tight synthetic underwear
- Some studies show that taking cranberry or D-mannose supplements can reduce the risk of developing a UTI, but conclusions are varied
- Maintain beneficial bacteria in the body with probiotics and avoid spermicides, douches or vaginal deodorants that throw off the balance of good bacteria in the vagina
Common UTI symptoms include:
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Frequent urination, or needing the urinate often with small amounts
- Blood in the urine or cloudy urine
- Pelvic pain or discomfort
More serious upper urinary tract infections in the kidneys may cause fever, back pain, nausea and vomiting. It’s important to see a doctor ASAP for treatment if these symptoms occur.
Treatment for UTIs
UTIs usually require treatment with antibiotics, so it’s essential to see your GP. Some people may experience relief from a mild UTI by using supplements such as cranberry extract or d-mannose, however, it is important to see your doctor for treatment if symptoms persist. Untreated UTIs may travel to the kidneys, causing serious damage or even blood poisoning, which can be fatal!
Antibiotics can come with many unwanted side effects, especially when used for recurring infections. To avoid using them, it is important to do what you can to prevent an infection from occurring in the first place. Prevention is always better than cure!