Up to half of all women will experience a urinary tract infection (UTI) in her lifetime. These infections can occur anywhere in the urinary system, including the kidneys, bladder, ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder) and urethra (the tube that transports urine out of the body). Simple anatomy makes women more prone to UTIs than men are. A woman’s urethra is shorter, so bacteria don’t have far to travel to get to the bladder and grow.
Some women face increased risk, such as those who have diabetes, kidney stones or a chronic illness that affects the immune system and who take medications that lower immunity (such as cortisone).
The following self-care measures can help you avoid UTIs:
- Drink plenty of water. Fluids, especially water, help flush bacteria from the urinary tract. Studies show drinking cranberry juice helps make the bladder wall slippery, preventing bacteria from sticking. (If you take blood-thinning medication, check with your doctor before drinking cranberry juice.)
- Get your vitamin C. It increases acid in your urine, discouraging bacteria growth.
- Don’t hold your water. Delaying a trip to the ladies’ room keeps urine in the bladder longer, allowing bacteria to grow.
- Wipe this way. Wipe from front to back after using the toilet to stop bacteria in the anal region from entering the urethra.
- Wear cotton underwear. Avoid tight-fitting clothing and nylon underwear that trap moisture and let bacteria thrive.
- Empty your bladder after intimacy. This can help flush away bacteria that might have entered the urethra.
- Avoid irritating items. Skip feminine deodorant sprays, douches and powders.