Can I prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
You can usually prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI) with lifestyle changes. These tips can include:
- Practicing good hygiene: You can often prevent UTIs by practicing good personal hygiene. This is especially important for women. Because the urethra in women is much shorter than it is in men, it’s easier for E. coli bacteria to move from the rectum back into the body. To avoid this, it’s recommended that you always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement. Women should also use good hygiene practices during their menstrual cycle avoid infections. Changing pads and tampons frequently, as well as not using feminine deodorants can also help prevent UTIs.
- Drinking plenty of fluids: Adding extra fluids, especially water, to your daily routine can help remove extra bacteria from your urinary tract. Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day is recommended.
- Changing your urination habits: Urination can play a big role in getting rid of bacteria from the body. Your urine is a waste product and each time you empty your bladder, you’re removing that waste from your body. Urinating frequently can reduce your risk of developing an infection, especially if you have a history of frequent UTIs. Drinking plenty of fluids will encourage this, but makes sure to avoid fluids and foods that could irritate your bladder. These can include alcohol, citrus juices, caffeinated drinks and spicy foods. You should also try to urinate immediately before and after sex. This could help flush out any bacteria that may have been introduced during intercourse. You can also wash the genital area with warm water before having sex. Don’t douche. This practice isn’t recommended by healthcare providers.
- Changing your birth control: Some women have an increased risk of developing a UTI if they use a diaphragm for birth control. Talk to your healthcare provider about other options for birth control.
- Using a water-based lubricant during sex: If you experience vaginal dryness and use a lubricant during sex, use one that is water-based. You may also need to avoid spermicide if you have frequent UTIs.
- Changing your clothing: Avoiding tight-fitting clothing can actually help keep you dry, preventing bacteria from growing in the urinary tract. You can also switch to cotton underwear. This will prevent extra moisture from getting trapped around your urethra.
In some post-menopausal women, a healthcare provider may suggest an estrogen-containing vaginal cream. This may reduce the risk of developing a UTI by changing the pH of the vagina. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have recurrent UTIs and have already gone through menopause.
Over-the-counter supplements are also available for UTIs. These are sometimes recommended for people who have frequent UTIs as another way to prevent them. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting any supplements and ask if these could be a good choice for you.