Ever sat down on the toilet and felt a searing, burning pain when you tried to urinate? It may also have felt like you couldn’t properly empty your bladder – hardly surprising when it feels like you’re pushing razor blades out of your urethra!
What you experienced was a urinary tract infection (UTI), and some experts say that as many as 50% of women will experience at least one UTI in her lifetime.
What is a UTI, what causes it and what are the symptoms?
A urinary tract infection is an infection in any part of the urinary system, or the urethra, bladder or kidneys. It’s usually caused by bacteria (like e-coli) from the large intestine travelling from the anus to the urethra. This is the primary reason women are taught to wipe from front to back, which limits the risk of contamination.
Once a UTI sets in, it can travel to the bladder and even the kidneys if left untreated, and it can cause serious damage if ignored.
The symptoms of a UTI include:
- A burning sensation when you urinate
- Increased urge to urinate, even though very little urine comes out when you go
- Dark, cloudy or strange-smelling urine
- Blood in the urine
- Nausea, vomiting and/or dizziness
- Pain or pressure in your back or lower abdomen
- Feeling tired or shaky
- Feeling fevery (which is a sign that the infection may have spread to your kidneys)
9 Ways to help prevent a UTI
Whether you’ve had one, none or countless UTIs, there are several things you can do to help reduce your chances of contracting an infection – even if you’re in a high-risk category (like if you’re diabetic or menopausal, for example).
You should always:
- Drink enough fluids to help flush out your bladder regularly (most UTIs are caused by bacteria that’s already in the bladder but allowed to multiply to unhealthy levels. Regular urination helps prevent this build-up).
- Always empty your bladder after sex, as sexual activity can cause harmful bacteria to travel into your urethra.
- Never hold it in if you need to urinate.
- Wipe from front to back after you’ve urinated.
- Avoid feminine hygiene products as these kill both good and bad bacteria. The good bacteria helps fight the germs that cause UTIs.
- If you’re prone to UTIs, avoid bathing – stick to showers instead.
- Wear cotton underwear.
- Include probiotics in your diet.
- Always change out of wet or sweaty underwear right away, like after swimming or exercising.
Visit Marie Stopes for your next women’s wellness check-up
Whether you suspect you may have a UTI or you simply want to make sure you’re in the best possible health, pop into your nearest Marie Stopes centre for your annual women’s wellness check up. And, if you have any of the symptoms listed above, get to your doctor, gynae or clinic right away.