The first time I went through the hell that is having a full-on urinary tract infection, I had no idea what was happening, why it was happening or, most importantly, how to make it go away. After 21 years of mostly pain-free urination, it suddenly felt as if my lady bits were on fire every time I peed — which I soon learned was because I had developed a UTI, which I had contracted through sexual activity. I had just become sexually active, and as ridiculous as this sounds, it felt like my own body was slut-shaming me — until my antibiotics finished their job (which took about three days), peeing was miserably difficult, and I hurt all over.
Because of that experience, I've made a point to learn all I can about how to avoid contracting UTIs, because they really are painful enough to interfere with your daily life and they can cause your kidneys to become infected, too.
If you've ever had a UTI, then you don't need me to tell you how hellish they can be. But you may not know that there are actually several easy and effective ways to prevent yourself from getting a UTI in the future. Here are six tips to get you started.
1. Drink Plenty Of Water & Cranberry Juice
Drinking lots of water is a great way to dilute your urine, and diluting your urine guarantees that you'll urinate more frequently and flush out any bacteria that might be hiding in your urinary tract. So if you're not already drinking lots of water, you really should start.
As for cranberry juice, well, the evidence that it helps prevent urinary tract infections isn't exactly conclusive, and despite what the urban legends may claim, it definitely can't cure a UTI. But cranberries do contain a natural antiseptic called hippuronic acid, which can prevent too much bacteria from sticking to the lining of your bladder. And staying well-hydrated with an all natural, low sugar, vitamin C-rich cranberry juice can only aid you in your overall mission to stay healthy, which can help you avoid UTIs.
2. Make Sure To Pee Shortly After You Finish Having Sex
We all know sex can get pretty dirty, no matter what you're doing — all that sweat and skin-to-skin contact can spread bacteria. So to avoid letting any bacteria work its way up your urethra and into your bladder, you really should be peeing right after sex. If the sex ends and you don't have to go, drink a full glass of water so you can make yourself go — because you really need to flush out any bacteria that your sex adventures might have bestowed upon you.
I know jumping out of bed to pee the second sex ends could potentially mess with your post-sex cuddles, and post-sex cuddles are the best — but you can always hop back in bed and get your snuggle on after you use the bathroom. Trust me, cuddles are not worth the horror that is dealing with a UTI.
3. Always Wipe From Front To Back
You probably already know to do this, but just in case you don't, know that wiping from front to back is crucial to preventing UTIs. Wiping from back to front pushes all the bacteria from your anus right into your vagina and your urethra, then up into your bladder from there. Wiping wrong is basically a bacteria-riddled recipe for developing a urinary tract infection, so be sure to wipe correctly.
4. Stick To Unscented Feminine Hygiene Products
Though they may smell nice, scented soaps, sprays, powders, tampons and pads can irritate your urethra and up your chances of developing a UTI. So be kind to your urinary tract, and try to avoid putting anything scented down there — there's nothing wrong with the natural scent of your vagina. If you're anxious about your smell, just make sure to practice good vaginal hygiene, and you'll be in the clear.
5. Don't Wait Too Long To Pee
You need to flush the bacteria out of your bladder and urethra as often as possible, and holding your urine is no way to do that. I know stopping to use the bathroom can be super annoying when you're really busy (I for sure hold it way too long when I'm writing), but it only takes a couple of minutes and it could keep you from having to deal with the pain, expense and recovery time that a UTI will require.
So take the time to pull over at that gas station, miss a little bit of that movie, and always use the bathroom before you go to bed. It may seem annoying to have to work around your bladder's schedule, but you will never regret not developing a UTI, I can assure you.
6. Take Showers Instead Of Baths
There's nothing quite like taking a long, relaxing, bubble bath at the end of a stressful day (especially a stressful, chilly winter day). But opting for a shower instead of a bath is one guaranteed way to help your urinary tract.
Soaking in the bathtub makes it too easy for the bacteria and harsh chemicals from your bubble bath to get inside of your urethra — so it's really best to avoid baths altogether, especially if you get UTIs frequently. That said, if you're anything like me, there's no way you're going to be able to cut out baths completely — but at the very least you should avoid using too many bath oils, salts or bubbles when you bathe. Try using a natural, unscented soap for the bath instead.
There's no way to 100 percent ensure that you never get a UTI again, of course — but these tips will definitely help you keep your urinary tract happy.