TABOO or members of the TABOO Team are not medical professionals, and this does not constitute medical advice. Please talk to a medical professional if you have concerns about any issues raised in this blog post.
If you’re a person with a vagina, chances are that you’ve experienced at least one UTI – or Urinary Tract Infection – in your life. They’re irritating, uncomfortable, and sometimes incredibly painful. Ranging from a slight itching sensation down there, to nausea and vomiting, a UTI can easily be dismissed as a small annoyance that comes and goes. However, left untreated, UTIs can pose serious health risks. But don’t worry - TABOO is here to give you the low-down on all things down low.
UTIs are typically caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract through the urethra. UTIs come in varying forms, but the most common types affect the bladder and urethra. Certain factors can make someone more at risk of developing a UTI. People with female anatomy are more likely to, given the proximity of the urethra to the vagina and anus. Being sexually active can also increase your chances (here is your gentle reminder to always pee after sex!), as well as some forms of birth control – diaphragm users, I’m looking at you! When treated promptly and properly, UTIs rarely lead to complications. However, if left untreated, UTIs can have severe consequences. Now for the scary stuff: complications of a UTI can range from recurrent infections to permanent kidney damage or even sepsis, which can be potentially life-threatening. This is why it’s crucial that people – specifically, those with female anatomy – understand how to prevent and treat UTIs.
Thankfully, prevention is fairly straightforward. You can reduce your risk of developing UTIs by making small lifestyle changes, such as the following:
- Drink plenty of fluids! Drinking water helps to dilute your urine, ensuring that you urinate more frequently, and flush bacteria from your urinary tract before an infection can start.
- It’s hard to discuss UTIs without coming back the age-old adage: wipe from front to back! Doing so helps to ensure bacteria is not spread from the anal region to the vagina and urethra.
- Avoid irritating feminine products, such as douches, feminine washes, and powders. Vaginas are not inherently dirty! Just ensure you’re maintaining personal hygiene and you’ll be right as rain.
- Change your birth control method. Diaphragms (these are also known as ‘female condoms’) can foster bacterial growth.
- And finally – it’s so important we’re saying it twice - don’t forget to empty your bladder after intercourse!
If you’re concerned that you may be experiencing a UTI, diagnosis is fairly straightforward and you should speak to your GP. They may ask for a urine sample to analyse, or in the case of recurring UTIs, they may suggest a scope or ultrasound to determine the cause. If you are found to be suffering from a UTI, the first line of treatment is usually antibiotics. The type of antibiotic will vary based on the severity of your UTI and your medical history, as the numerous side effects associated with antibiotics may outweigh the risks associated with a UTI. Pain medication may also be prescribed to numb your bladder and urethra, but the pain is usually alleviated shortly into your course of antibiotics. For a more severe UTI, you may receive intravenous antibiotics in a hospital.
Like many feminine health issues, UTIs are often ignored due to range of reasons, including a lack of education around what’s going on down there, or simply just being too embarrassed to talk to your GP. It’s vital that you find a GP that you trust and can comfortably reach out to with questions. If you think you may be experiencing a UTI, take a look at some of these trustworthy online resources and have a chat to your doctor: