If you’re one of the unfortunate women who has had a UTI (or if you’re like me, three in the span of a year), you might wonder what you could have done to deserve such a hell. If you have never experienced a UTI, consider yourself lucky.
UTIs (urinary tract infections) are a type of bacterial infection affecting the urinary system, according to the Mayo Clinic. Women are more susceptible to UTIs thanks to anatomy; women have shorter urethras — the opening to the urinary tract — which means it is much easier for bacteria to travel up the short urethra to the bladder.
In fact, UTIs are the second most common type of infection, accounting for 8.1 million visits to the doctor annually, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. For women, the chances of experiencing a UTI in her lifetime is more than 50 percent.
Rest assured: you and your urinary system are not doomed. Here are simple things you can do to help prevent the dreadful UTI:
Pee when you get the urge
When I first got a UTI, I had no idea why it happened. Eventually I found that not peeing frequently makes you more prone to UTIs because it allows for bacteria to build up in the bladder. Frequent urination flushes out this bacteria.
For busy women, finding the time to go to the bathroom can be difficult and this is not intentional. Sometimes we just get caught up in work and forget that we have to go. If you’re one of these people, change your habits now and go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the sensation that you have to urinate.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drinking water flushes out bacteria in your urinary tract, which in turn causes you to urinate and dispose of that bacteria. Your pee should be either colorless or a very light, light hue of yellow and certainly not shades of dark yellow. If your pee is dark yellow consistently or even bloody, go see a doctor.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that women drink 9 cups or 2.2 liters of fluid containing water each day. While juice contains water, often times bottled juice is filled with added sugars, which are not healthy. CamelBak also has a nifty hydration calculator that recommends the amount of water you should drink based on your personal factors.
Aim to drink eight glasses of water each day and for each beverage you may have, such as coffee, soda or alcohol, drink one glass of water. This goal becomes a bit ambitious on a Friday night after several rum and cokes, so it is important to drink water well in advance of going out to the bars.
Cut back/cut out caffeine and alcohol
I’m looking at you, coffee and Diet Coke addicts. When I look back on the time leading up to my first UTI, I consistently consumed unhealthy amounts of Diet Coke and coffee and had minimal water intake. This was detrimental to my urinary tract.
Caffeine and alcohol can irritate the bladder, so consistent consumption of beverages containing caffeine or alcohol will aggravate your bladder and make you more prone to UTIs. When I cut soda out and limited my coffee intake to just one small cup while also increasing my water consumption, I felt healthier. Knock on wood, I have not had a UTI since October.
Wipe front to back
Okay this is kind of obvious but in case you didn’t know, an FYI, when you wipe back to front — especially after a number two — you are introducing bacteria from your anus to your urethra. Ew. And as we already know, women have much shorter urethras so it doesn’t take long for this bacteria to reach our bladders.
Pee after sex
Think about it: when you have sex, stuff gets pushed up and around near your anus, vagina and urethra. Your urethra is especially vulnerable during sex, which is why you should always pee after sex. It flushes out any bacteria that may have been unintentionally introduced to your urethra during sex.
Meghan is a pug enthusiast interested in social justice, environmental issues, Latin America and women’s rights (both here in the U.S. and around the world). When she’s not worrying about postgraduate plans, Meghan binge-watches Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Jane the Virgin. She’s still uncertain about the career path she will pursue after graduating, but would like to work in international development and public policy one day. Until then, she’ll keep watching videos of Doug the Pug while sipping whatever bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon is on sale.