3 Reasons Why UTIs May Become More Common During Your Period

Are you tired of the discomfort and inconvenience of getting a UTI during your menstrual cycle?

As if menstruation wasn’t already enough to handle, the added discomfort of a urinary tract infection can be overwhelming.

But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! In this blog post, we’ll explore the three main reasons why UTIs are more common during your period and provide you with some practical tips to prevent them from happening in the first place. So, let’s dive in!

Reason 1: Hormonal Changes

During your menstrual cycle, levels of hormones like estrogen and progesterone fluctuate. Estrogen promotes the growth of healthy vaginal flora, including lactobacilli. Lactobacilli produce lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, helping keep pH levels low to prevent overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria.

Right before your period when estrogen levels drop, the vaginal flora changes. There are less lactobacilli, so vaginal pH rises. This allows bacteria like E. coli to multiply and potentially travel up the urethra, leading to a UTI.

Reason 2: Menstrual Fluid

Menstrual fluid can act as a growth medium for bacteria that cause UTIs. The pH and composition of menstrual blood allow E. coli and other bacteria to thrive. As menstrual blood flows out of the uterus and through the vagina, it can carry bacteria up to the urethral opening. Once in the urinary tract, the bacteria can attach to the bladder and urethral lining and multiply quickly, resulting in an infection.

The iron-rich environment of menstrual blood is ideal for bacterial growth. Menstrual fluids contain glycerophosphate and lactic acid that facilitate bacterial colonization. The shedding of the endometrial lining during menstruation also exposes the raw tissue underneath, making it easier for bacteria to gain entry into the bloodstream.

All these factors make the female anatomy more vulnerable to UTIs during menstruation. Practicing good hygiene and being aware of any abnormal symptoms can help reduce infection risk.

Reason 3: Changes in Bladder and Urethra

During menstruation, the muscles around the bladder and urethra relax, allowing bacteria more opportunity to enter and cause infection. The urethra shortens and widens, leaving less of a barrier to prevent bacteria from traveling up into the bladder.

Additionally, the cervix opens more during your period to allow menstrual blood to pass. This opening can allow bacteria to spread more easily from the vagina to the urethra.

With the urethra and bladder more exposed due to relaxed muscles and widening, the risk of UTI-causing bacteria making its way in and infecting the urinary tract goes up. The changes that the reproductive system undergoes to prepare for menstruation leave you more susceptible to bacteria entering and traveling up the urinary tract.

Prevention Tips

Keeping the genital area clean is one of the most important things you can do to avoid UTIs during your period. Here are some tips:

  1. Practice good hygiene. Wash your genital area with mild soap and water when you shower. Always wipe front to back after using the toilet. Avoid douches and fragranced soaps or sprays, which can irritate the urethra.
  2. Urinate before and after sex. This flushes out any bacteria that may have entered the urethra during sex. Urinate as soon as possible after sex to help remove bacteria.
  3. Take showers instead of baths. Avoid sitting in bath water, as immersing the genital area can expose the urethra to bacteria. Showers are better during your period.
  4. Wear cotton underwear. Breathable cotton is less likely to trap moisture than silk or nylon. Change your underwear daily.
  5. Drink plenty of fluids. This dilutes your urine and helps flush bacteria from your system. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can irritate the bladder.
  6. Take cranberry supplements. Cranberries contain substances that may prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder walls. Taking cranberry capsules during your period may help reduce your risk.
  7. Consider probiotics. Probiotic supplements may help prevent UTIs by maintaining healthy bacteria in the urinary tract. Ask your doctor if probiotics could be helpful.

When to See a doctor?

If you have symptoms of a UTI during your period, it’s important to monitor your symptoms and see a doctor if they worsen or persist. Here are some key signs that you should make an appointment:

  • Fever or chills – A fever over 100.4°F (38°C) can be a sign that the UTI has reached your kidneys. Fevers or chills with a UTI require medical treatment.
  • Back, side, or abdominal pain – UTIs can cause pain in areas like your back, sides, or lower abdomen. Worsening pain may indicate the infection is advancing.
  • Nausea and vomiting – Some nausea or vomiting can happen with a UTI, but consistent nausea/vomiting can signal a kidney infection.
  • Fatigue and discomfort – Significant fatigue, weakness, or discomfort may mean the UTI is becoming serious.
  • Foul-smelling urine – Urine with a strong or foul odor can be a sign of infection. It should be evaluated by a doctor.
  • Rash or hives – Some UTIs cause a rash or hives, especially if the infection has reached the kidneys. Seek medical care for this.

No symptom improvement in 3 days – You should be evaluated if UTI symptoms don’t start improving within 3 days of your period ending. The infection may persist.

It’s always smart to touch base with your doctor if you have any concerns about worsening UTI symptoms. They can check for complications and get you proper antibiotic treatment if an infection has developed. Acting quickly can help prevent the UTI from spreading to your kidneys.

While UTIs can happen at any time, these factors make the days leading up to and during your period a high-risk time. Pay attention to potential UTI symptoms like painful urination, pelvic pain, and cloudy urine. Drink plenty of fluids to flush out bacteria.

Consider probiotics and unsweetened cranberry juice to maintain a healthy urinary tract. See a doctor promptly if you suspect a UTI, as antibiotics will be necessary to clear the infection.

With some awareness and preventive care, UTIs around your period don’t have to halt your daily routine. Stay healthy and listen to your body.

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