It first happened on the side of the road outside a little town in southwestern France. My then boyfriend and I were road tripping from Frankfurt to St. Jean-de-Luz for a wedding and spent the night in the car on the side of the road (so romantic!). When I woke up in the early morning with an extreme urge to pee followed by a sharp pain, I was pretty concerned. What was it?
After waiting it out for a bit with no improvement, we decided to head to the closest town for a doctor. I got antibiotics and tips to avoid urinary tract infections (UTIs) in the future. I was reminded to pee immediately after sex and drink plenty of water.
Female urinary tracts are more susceptible to infection because the urethra is much shorter than the male version, and bacteria can reach the bladder more easily. The opening of the urethra is also closer to the anus and its bacteria. Some people may be more prone to UTIs if their bladder doesn’t empty completely when they pee, which can happen for different reasons. Other factors that may make someone more UTI-prone include having a sexually transmitted infection (STI), having given birth to several children, using spermicide or a diaphragm as contraception or being post-menopausal, obese or diabetic.
While my doctor’s suggestions work for most people, they weren’t cutting it for me. After experiencing multiple UTIs each year for the past nine years, I’ve figured out what works best for me, which will hopefully help you too.
1. I drink at least 2 liters (8 cups) of water every day.
Tip: I keep a liter bottle on my desk, so I don’t have to get up every time I finish a glass.
2. Before or after sex (especially if it’s been a while), I take cranberry capsules.*
Tip: Because cranberry juice is often sweetened and bacteria feeds on sugar, I take cranberry capsules, which are concentrated and not sweetened.
3. I ALWAYS pee immediately after sex.
Tip: The longer you wait, the more time bacteria has to build up in your urethra and start causing problems. And always wipe front to back!
4. I monitor my alcohol intake, as alcohol can push me over the edge from initial symptoms to a full-blown UTI.
Tip: Stop drinking or have a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage.
5. When I know I have a UTI and decide to go to the doctor for antibiotics, I advocate for myself.
Sometimes physicians will be hesitant to give you medicine or try to get you to wait a bit longer before the symptoms are more prominent. This is why it’s REALLY important to know your body and stand up for yourself.
Track UTIs in Clue using custom tags—to find out what might be causing your UTIs, or if they are correlated with your cycle.
* Disclaimer: There isn’t much evidence to support this. Research has found little evidence that cranberry products are effective in preventing recurrent UTIs, but more high-quality studies are needed.