What are they?
Urinary tract infections are infections to different parts of your urinary tract (believe it or not), like the bladder/urethra. They’re easily treated with antibiotics in around 3 days, and are quite common (especially so in pregnancy due to the hormone changes!). They’re absolutely nothing to worry about if you get them treated right away, but if you don’t then it could possibly spread to your kidneys. Kidney infections are alot more serious and could be damaging, so quickly give your GP a call if you think you have one!
They’re caused by germs entering your urethra, the tube that carries your pee. People with vaginas are more likely to get infections as their urethra is shorter, allowing easy/quick passage. It’s quite normal to get around 1/2 a year due to this. If you have a penis and get one (especially young), this could be indicating a larger problem and you should see your GP as soon as possible.
How do I know if I have one?
The symptoms of a UTI are:
- Pain/burning sensation when peeing
- Needing to pee often but not much comes out
- Feeling as if you can’t fully empty your bladder
- Sudden urge to pee
- Lower belly pain
- Cloudy/pink/red/smelly pee
- Feeling achy/tired
And for a rarer, more serious kidney infection:
- Pain where your kidneys are (one side of your back under the ribs)
- Nausea and vomiting
If you think you have one, always check with your GP. It could be a different issue! Once you have your antibiotics, drinking plenty of fluids and painkillers such as paracetamol can help with the temporary pain.
How can I prevent them?
- The main culprit causing UTI’s is sex, lots and lots of sex. The vagina comes into contact with alot of bacteria (e.g. mouth, genitals, toys etc). To prevent UTI’s, peeing after sex can help flush out some of the bacteria. If you feel the urge to pee, do it! Holding in urine after sex can actually increase your UTI risk.
- Maintaining good vaginal hygiene is key to prevention, for example, don’t be stupid and wipe back to front (and other absolute basics).
- If you regularly exercise, sitting around in sweaty gym clothes can encourage multiplying bacteria. Make sure to quickly shower/change in order to stay fresh.
- It’s generally accepted that cranberry juice/supplements are good for preventing UTI’s as they stop bacteria sticking to the walls of the urethra (especially the main culprit E-coli). However, chugging cranberry juice can add up to alot of extra calories/sugar.
- Some people swear by vitamin C supplements, as they make your pee more acidic which can denature (kill) the bacteria.
- Drinking lots of fluids regularly can also help prevention as it dilutes and flushes out your bladder properly.
- Going on a pill with low oestrogen can also increase risk, so if you’re already a regular sufferer this can be a concern. This is as oestrogen regulates vaginal lubrication and pH, so a drop increases risk of irritation and infection.
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