Growing up, I was told that if don’t drink enough water and/or if I hold in my pee, I would get sick. The usual warning I would hear from my family, teachers, and doctors was “You might get UTI (urinary tract infection) if you do that.” A lot of people I know are also told the same thing.
But recently, I found out that there are misconceptions around the the condition. Many would associate UTI solely on sexual interaction when really, it’s not just that. We’re now here to give you insight on what really causes this and also debunk some of the myths that you may have been told. Most especially since women are at greater risk of it. So educate yourselves and keep reading.
Mayo Clinic defines UTI as “an infection in any part of your urinary system—your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract—the bladder and the urethra.” While most of us may think this is only a bladder problem, Manila Med enumerated that there are different types: cystitis, urethritis, and pyelonephritis.
Cystitis is a bladder infection caused by the E.coli bacteria which spreads across the anus and urinary tract. Urethritis is caused by the gastrointestinal bacteria spreading across the anus and urethra. Lastly, pyelonephritis is a kidney infection “that begins in the bladder and moves upward to one or both of your kidneys or can be hematogenous/spread by the blood.”
As mentioned, the most common myth is that women only contract UTI from sexual activity. While it’s true that sex is a risk factor and that women who have more partners can contract the disease, it’s not directly related. Dr. Fara Bellows, a urologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Glamour, “When you have sex, bacteria that’s residing in your vaginal reservoir can get pushed up your urethra and into your bladder, where it can cause an infection.” She adds that it’s important to maintain “proper hygiene around the act of sex” as a preventive measure.
Also, SELF noted that peeing before and after sex is equally important because it decreases the chances of UTI. But you don’t have to force yourself to pee right after you do it. “That sense of immediacy you feel is unfounded, so unless you really have to pee, there’s no need to force yourself—squeezing out a drop or two isn’t effectively flushing out your system anyway.”
Contrary to what people might say, you can still get UTI even when you have good hygiene. Mayo Clinic explains that since the female urethra is shorter, it’s easier for bacteria to travel from the anus to the bladder. Dr. Lisa Abney of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai backed this up, telling SELF that this will most likely happen if you wiped from back to front.
Meanwhile, over-cleaning can also increase the risk. “It is not helpful to clean the vagina with harsh soaps and chemicals because these will kill off the lactobacillus in the vagina,” Dr. Abney said. The lactobacillus is responsible for battling the UTI-causing bacteria.
There have been news that women get UTI from wearing skinny jeans and tight yoga pants. While it can contribute to the cause, the gathering of bacteria down there is still the main culprit. Elite Daily explained that bacteria grows in sweaty and warm places. To prevent this, it’s best to not stay in sweaty clothing for too long and to always wear clean underwear.
Again, because of how common UTI is among women, getting it more than one isn’t unusual. Dr. Steven Sterious told Prevention that “some women will actually have recurring infections close together. Your doctor will probably want to look into your case more closely if you have several in a 6-month period, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that something more serious is going on.”
Art by Marian Hukom
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