UTI and Your Period
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UTI and Your Period

by Aisle Team
UTI and Your Period

POV: UTIs are becoming a monthly occurrence for you and you’re starting to wonder if your period could be the culprit. We're delving into the connection between UTIs and your menstrual cycle, uncovering how hormones can influence your susceptibility to a urinary tract infection. 

What is a UTI?

Let’s kick things off with a quick recap: UTI stands for urinary tract infection, an irritating  bacterial invasion that can bring on symptoms like burning during urination, frequent bathroom trips, and funky-smelling urine. Not exactly a party we’re looking to crash.

UTI Symptoms: What to Watch Out For

UTI symptoms can sometimes overlap with period woes, making it tricky to distinguish between the two. Symptoms like bloating, pelvic pain, and fatigue can show up for both periods and UTIs, adding an extra layer of confusion.

But here's the key difference: painful urination is a clear sign of a UTI, not a typical period symptom. Here are the most common signs that you’re dealing with a UTI:

Burning Sensation When You Pee: If it feels like fire every time you hit the bathroom, that's a big red flag for a UTI.

Frequent Urination: Suddenly finding yourself making more trips to the bathroom than usual? It could be a sign that something's up.

Cloudy or Strong-Smelling Urine: Your pee might hold some clues. If it looks cloudy or smells funky, it could indicate a UTI.

Pelvic Pain: Uncomfortable twinges or pressure in your pelvic area can also be a sign of a UTI.

Symptoms Not Associated with UTIs

There are a few symptoms that could mean you’re looking at something other than a UTI. These signs could be associated with a different infection like STIs and should be addressed with your healthcare professional. .

​​Rash or skin lesions

Flu-like symptoms

Pain during sexual intercourse

Abnormal vaginal bleeding

Can a UTI be caused by your period?

Here's the scoop: while your period itself doesn’t cause UTIs, the extra moisture down there during your menstrual phase can create a cozy environment for bacteria to thrive. However, it's not the blood that's the culprit – it's the dampness. No biggie, preventing a UTI is all about maintaining a dry environment down there and changing your period products regularly to keep things fresh.

Hormones play a significant role in influencing your susceptibility to UTIs (urinary tract infections). Here's how:

Estrogen: Estrogen, a hormone primarily associated with the menstrual cycle, has been found to have a protective effect against UTIs. It does this by increasing the acidity of vaginal fluids, making it more difficult for UTI-causing bacteria to thrive. Higher estrogen levels, typically present during the first half of the menstrual cycle, create an environment less hospitable to bacterial growth, thereby reducing the risk of UTIs.

Progesterone: Conversely, progesterone, another hormone involved in the menstrual cycle, can have a negative impact on UTI risk. Research suggests that progesterone may suppress the immune response, making the body less effective at fighting off bacterial infections. During the second half of the menstrual cycle, when progesterone levels are higher, this suppression of the immune system may increase the susceptibility to UTIs.

Which period products increase the risk for UTIs?

Whether you're Team Tampon, Team Pad, or Team Menstrual Cup, there’s no solid evidence to suggest that any specific product increases your UTI risk. But here's where it gets interesting: reusable options like period underwear, menstrual cups, and cloth pads are gaining popularity for their absence of harmful ingredients (think chlorine, phthalates, and fragrance)  and eco-friendly vibes. 

Testing for a UTI

If you suspect a UTI, it’s time to play detective.  The good news is you can test for a UTI with an at home kit. Testing involves providing a urine sample, but it’s best to avoid doing this during your period to prevent contamination. However, if you’re using a reusable period product like a menstrual cup, you can still collect a clean sample for testing.

If you decide to consult with a healthcare provider to test for a UTI the process can look something like this:

Examining a urine specimen: Your healthcare provider will take a urine sample that will undergo laboratory analysis to detect the presence of white blood cells, red blood cells, or bacteria. 

Cultivating urinary tract bacteria in a laboratory: Following urine analysis, a urine culture may be conducted to identify the specific bacteria responsible for the infection. This diagnostic test aids your provider in determining the most suitable medications for treatment.

Visualizing the urinary tract: Structural abnormalities within the urinary tract could contribute to recurrent UTIs. To investigate this possibility, your healthcare provider might recommend imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI. Contrast dye may be administered to enhance the visibility of urinary tract structures.

Inspecting the bladder's interior with a scope: For individuals experiencing recurrent UTIs, a cystoscopy may be performed by your healthcare provider. This procedure involves inserting a slender, flexible tube equipped with a lens, known as a cystoscope, into the urethra and advancing it into the bladder, allowing for a direct view of the urethra and bladder.

How to get rid of a UTI

If you find yourself face-to-face with a UTI, don’t stress. These infections are usually easily treated with antibiotics. Just remember to reach out to your healthcare provider to start treatment and nip it in the bud right away. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider ASAP:

  • a fever over 103°F (39.4°C)
  • shaking
  • chills
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • blood in your urine

Preventing a UTI

While we most certainly recommend working with your healthcare provider, especially if you have any of the symptoms listed above, there are also a few methods you can use to help prevent a UTI.

Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps flush out bacteria from your urinary tract, reducing the risk of UTIs. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day.

Stay dry: Keep your genital area clean and dry, and always wipe from front to back after using the bathroom to prevent bacteria from entering the urinary tract.

Pee after sex: Urinating after sexual activity helps to flush out any bacteria that may have been introduced during intercourse, lowering the risk of UTIs.

Choose the right period products: Opt for breathable and comfortable period products, like breathable cotton underwear or cloth pads made from clean materials. Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing for extended periods, as it can trap moisture and promote bacterial growth.

Take cranberry supplements: Some studies suggest that cranberry supplements or juice may help prevent UTIs by preventing bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. However, consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements.

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