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Dealing with UTIs

It’s tough having a vagina, and even more so when urinary tract infections pay a visit. Chances are, most menstruators experience a UTI close to period week. While a UTI does not directly affect your cycle, some factors, such as hormonal imbalances, stress, sex, and hygiene, have been linked to UTIs and cycles. Estrogen usually keeps infections at bay. But it’s the lowest during your menstrual cycle, which explains the susceptibility.

Some of the possible reasons for developing a UTI are:

1. Sex: Usually for some people, more sex means more chances of infection. The bacteria that cause UTI lives in the anus and can shift towards the urethra during sex, or make the urethra more sensitive and exposed to bacterial infections.

2. Stress: The pain and discomfort, along with mood swings, that periods bring along are sure to induce stress. This can lead to UTIs, as stress lowers cortisol levels and weakens the immune system.

3. Hygiene: Products like pads and tampons, if not changed at regular intervals, trap heat and moisture in the underwear, which highly promotes bacterial growth.

4. Diabetes

5. Not emptying the bladder completely

6. Using some forms of contraception such as diaphragms, cervical caps, spermicides, and spermicide condoms

7. Pregnancy

8. Menopause

9. Heavy use of antibiotics

Here are some symptoms to help you figure out signs early on and get the appropriate treatment:

· Strong and frequent urge to urinate

· Cloudy, strong-smelling, or bloody urine

· Burn or pain while urinating

· Nausea and vomiting

· Abdominal pains

These symptoms of a urinary tract infection vary depending on age, gender, whether or not a catheter is present, and which part of the urinary tract is contaminated.

A majority of UTIs are harmless, but some may cause serious problems. Recurrent or long-term kidney infections may result in permanent damage, and some sudden kidney infections can be fatal, particularly if bacteria invade the bloodstream, resulting in septicemia.

Prevention: There are several measures to be taken to protect yourself from the risk of a UTI. Some of the major ones being:

· Drinks lots of water

· Urinate within frequent intervals

· Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine, that irritate the bladder

· Urinate after sex- very important

· Keep your genital area clean and washed

· Wipe from front to back after urinating or bowel movements

· Prefer to take a shower over baths

· Avoid using oils and perfumed products down there

· Wear cotton underwear

· Prefer using menstrual cups like WomxCup over pads and tampons

Note: Avoid using a menstrual cup if you have an existing UTI, as the infection can spread and remain on re-use.

Treatment: It is advisable to visit your doctor as soon as you experience symptoms. Some of the treatment methods recommended are:

· Antibiotics or antimicrobials are widely used to treat UTIs, which are caused by bacteria. The type of medication and duration of treatment will be determined by the individual's symptoms and their medical history.

· To ensure that the infection is fully cleared and to reduce the possibility of antibiotic resistance, the full course of care for UTIs should always be completed.

The signs of a urinary tract infection usually go away before the infection is actually gone.

· For people with UTIs, drinking plenty of water and urinating regularly is often advised because it helps to flush out the bacteria.

· To relieve pain, a number of pain relievers may be prescribed. A heating pad placed on the back or abdomen may also be beneficial.

If you are someone who has recurrent bladder infections when your menstrual cycle approaches, these remedies might help:

· Take a single dose of antibiotic after sex

· Take a single dose every day for at least 6 months

· Undergo vaginal estrogen therapy if you have already had menopause

In case of situations like the current lockdown, here are simple home remedies that you can turn to in case you need to deal with a surprise UTI:

· Cranberries and their extracts can prevent the development of UTIs.

· Cranberry extract tablets are twice as effective as cranberry juice, as they have painkilling and anti-inflammatory effects.

· Consume probiotic food products like yogurts and supplements.

It’s best to check with your doctor before you include any of the above in your routine.

In case you catch a UTI, take enough rest and you’ll be fine.

Don’t forget, our love for you burns stronger than a UTI! :P

Written by Nibha Patil

Artwork by Khyati Patkar

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