What To Do When You Have a UTI
January 6 2022 | Written by Madi Hanaka (She/Her)
In my childhood home, my grandma always had three beverage staples in her fridge: milk, ginger ale, and cranberry juice, 100% pure cranberry juice. I remember innocently stealing a glass of it once thinking that it would quench my thirst, only to find that my grandma definitely did not keep it stocked because she enjoyed the taste, but rather as a home remedy for her regular UTIs. Since then, I’ve heard numerous tips on how to avoid and cure UTIs, like eating garlic, drinking water with baking soda, and wiping front to back - just to name a few. Although until now, I’d never really bothered to find out which methods are proven to be effective. In this week’s blog, the Marlow team presents to you the UTI guide, where we cover the “need-to-knows” and debunk some common misconceptions about this everyday infection.
What is a UTI?
A UTI - urinary tract infection - is an infection that occurs in your urinary system, caused by bacteria in the urethra.
There are two types of UTIs:
- Cystitis - infection of the bladder
- Urethritis - infection of the urethra
Fun fact: 11% of women have at least 1 UTI each year
How do I know if I have a UTI?
If you have a UTI, there are a number of symptoms you may experience. Some common symptoms are:
- A frequent and/or urgent need to pee (even despite having already emptied your bladder)
- Pain when you pee
- Cloudy our foul-smelling pee
- Soreness, pressure and/or cramping in your sides, lower abdomen or pelvic area
- Bloody pee
UTIs, if untreated, can also develop into kidney infections. If you experience any of the following symptoms, be sure to contact your doctor:
- A frequent need to pee
- Pain when you pee
- Pain in your lower back/sides
Fun fact: Although extremely common in those with vulvas, you do not need a vulva to get a UTI. Anyone can get this type of infection!
How do you treat a UTI?
First of all, you will have to see a doctor. UTI treatment generally consists of antibiotics which, depending on the type of antibiotics you are prescribed, you’ll have to take for 1-5 days. To manage pain, your doctor may also recommend taking over-the-counter pain medication.
Once you begin taking your prescribed antibiotics, your symptoms should subside within a couple of days. Of course, be sure to take your medication as prescribed and keep in contact with your doctor if your symptoms persist or worsen.
Fun fact: UTIs are one of the most common reasons women are prescribed antibiotics
How do you prevent UTIs?
This question is difficult to answer as there is a lot of contradictory information on the topic. On various websites, you’ll find lists of age-old techniques, like drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills, that promise to bring UTI relief, but in reality, many of these methods haven’t been proven to be effective.
Dr. Jen Gunter discusses this in her book, The Vagina Bible. She highlights that there is a severe lack of evidence that cranberries are linked to UTI prevention.In fact, it’s yet to be proven that enough of the compound in cranberries (proanthocyanidins) even makes it into urine to flush out the bacteria. She takes a similar stance on peeing after sex, stating that two studies have actually shown this method to be ineffective as well.
Recently, Dr. Gunter also published an article about the long-standing recommendation of wiping front to back to prevent UTIs, and to our surprise, she highlighted that even that has yet to be proven.
If you are trying to prevent UTIs, it seems many of the most well-known techniques don’t hold water. As discussed in previous blogs, it’s always good practice to avoid cleaning your vulva with products that could cause irritation like douches or scented wipes. Instead, opt for an unscented soap to clean only outside. Additionally, practicing safe sex is a good way to prevent infections of any kind, like using condoms, water-based lubricant and freshly washed sex toys. Many doctors also recommend keeping well-hydrated and emptying your bladder when in need to help prevent infection.
If you find yourself getting UTIs often despite practicing the aforementioned techniques, be sure to call or visit your doctor to discuss additional prevention and/or treatment options.