A Period and a UTI at the Same Time? Nooooooooooo!
There’s no such thing as a good time to get a urinary tract infection. But getting a UTI at the same time as your period? Oh, no!
The urinary tract is a brilliant drainage system for getting rid of excess fluid. The kidneys remove extra fluid from the blood to make urine. The urine travels from the kidneys to the bladder through tubes called ureters. The bladder stores the urine and then drains it through another little tube called the urethra. But like any other complex system, things can occasionally go wrong.
How Do UTIs Happen?
UTIs occur when bacteria has entered the urinary tract where they can multiply and create an infection. According to the Mayo Clinic, most infections involve the lower part of the urinary tract -- the bladder and the urethra.
Interestingly, women are much more likely to develop a UTI. Kidney Health Australia calculates that roughly 1 in 2 women will get a UTI in their lifetime, compared with 1 in 20 men. That doesn’t seem quite fair, but there are anatomical reasons for it. A woman’s urethra is situated close to the anus, making it possible for bacteria from fecal matter to invade the urethra. And a woman’s urethra is short and straight; this makes it easier for germs to travel to the bladder.
Regrettably, age is also a factor, and one that you can’t avoid forever. Your chances of getting a UTI increase as you get older. Menopause often signals a drop in estrogen. Estrogen and progesterone also drop during the beginning of the menstrual cycle. This doesn’t mean that lowered estrogen levels during menstruation cause UTIs but it may have some effect on an existing UTI. Researchers can’t seem to agree on the exact role of estrogen, but it is generally thought that this hormone plays a role in a woman’s susceptibility to UTIs and that it has anti-inflammatory properties that help to fight the effect of a UTI.
Get Treatment for UTIs
One important thing to remember is that a UTI should be treated, and the sooner the better. They generally do not go away all by themselves and an untreated UTI can become a serious health issue. Dr. Bilal Kaaki, an MD specializing in gynecology and obstetrics, warns that an untreated bladder infection can spread to the kidneys, allowing it to travel to the bloodstream, causing sepsis (harmful microorganisms in the blood or other tissues).
Precautions Against UTIs
There are some precautions you can take to help protect against UTIs.
Diaphragms, sponges, and other contraceptive devices coated with spermicides can increase the risk of developing a UTI. The spermicides can harm protective bacteria in the vagina and disrupt the PH balance. Once the infectious bacteria are in the vagina, it’s a short trip to the urinary tract. You may want to consider consulting your doctor about alternate contraceptive methods.
Quite apart from the usual regular baths or showers, you should wipe from front to back after urinating and after a bowel movement. This will cut down on the chance of fecal matter contacting the urethra.
Women who are sexually active tend to be more susceptible to UTIs than those who are not. Semen, vaginal discharge, and lubricants can all find their way into the urethra. Urinating immediately after sex will help flush out any marauding bacteria.
Dehydration, an insufficiency of water, can create a susceptibility to UTIs. Not drinking enough water won’t cause a UTI, but staying hydrated will certainly help prevent one by frequent flushing of the bacteria from the urinary tract.
Caffeinated beverages, spicy foods and alcohol are bladder irritants, according to the Mayo Clinic. So are tomato-based products and chocolate (say it isn’t so). They won’t cause a UTI, but they could worsen the symptoms. Try to avoid these irritants if you’re being treated for a UTI.
Wearing tight pants and jeans or wearing underwear made of synthetic materials all prevent your vaginal area from “breathing”, getting enough air to stay dry. Moisture gets trapped, allowing for bacterial growth (bacteria love a warm, damp environment). Loose clothing, and especially underwear and sanitary pads made from cotton or other natural fabrics will help to prevent this, as will frequently changing your pad.
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