Women tend to have urinary tract infections more often than men because bacteria can reach the bladder more easily in women. The urethra is shorter in women than in men, so bacteria have a shorter distance to travel.
The urethra is also located near the rectum in women. Bacteria from the rectum can easily travel up the urethra and cause infections.
Having sex may also cause urinary tract infections in women because bacteria can be pushed into the urethra. Using a diaphragm can lead to infections because diaphragms push against the urethra and make it harder to completely empty the bladder. The urine that stays in the bladder is more likely to grow bacteria and cause infections.
Usually, the latest infection stems from a strain or type of bacteria that is different from the infection before it, indicating a separate infection. Even when several UTIs in a row are due to E. coli, slight differences in the bacteria indicate distinct infections.
Research has indicated that women who are "non-secretors" of certain blood group antigens may be more prone to recurrent UTIs because the cells lining the vagina and urethra may allow bacteria to attach more easily. Further research will show whether this association is sound and proves useful in identifying women at high risk for UTIs.
Infections in Pregnancy
Pregnant women seem no more prone to UTIs than other women. However, when a UTI does occur in a pregnant woman, it is more likely to travel to the kidneys. According to some reports, about 2 to 4 percent of pregnant women develop a urinary infection. Scientists think that hormonal changes and shifts in the position of the urinary tract during pregnancy make it easier for bacteria to travel up the ureters to the kidneys. For this reason, many doctors recommend periodic testing of urine during pregnancy.
If your family doctor thinks you have a bladder infection, he or she will probably test a sample of your urine to find out if there are bacteria in it. Your doctor will then prescribe an antibiotic for you if you have an infection. Usually, symptoms of the infection go away 1 to 2 days after you start taking the medicine.
Your doctor may also suggest a medicine to numb your urinary tract and make you feel better while the antibiotic starts to work. The medicine colors your urine bright orange, so don't be alarmed by the color when you urinate.
What Should I do?
Your doctor also may give you a low dose of medicine for several months or longer to prevent infections from coming back.
If having sex seems to cause your infections, your doctor may suggest that you take a single antibiotic pill after you have sex to prevent urinary tract infections.
The kidneys can also be infected and this can be a more serious problem. Kidney infections usually require an antibiotic for a longer time and are sometimes treated in the hospital.
Tips on Preventing
- Drink plenty of water to flush out bacteria. Drinking cranberry juice may also help prevent urinary tract infections. However, if you're taking warfarin (brand name: Coumadin), check with your doctor before using cranberry juice to prevent urinary tract infections. Your doctor may need to adjust your warfarin dose or you may need to have more frequent blood tests.
- Don't hold your urine. Urinate when you feel like you need to.
- Wipe from front to back after bowel movements.
- Urinate after having sex to help wash away bacteria.
- Use enough lubrication during sex. Try using a small amount of lubricant (such as K-Y Jelly) before sex if you're a little dry.
- If you get urinary tract infections often, you may want to avoid using the diaphragm. Ask your doctor about other birth control choices.