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How to prevent urinary tract infections

The onslaught of a urinary tract infection (UTI) is clear: The constant urge to go; the burning; the discomfort. For those of us who’ve dealt with recurring urinary tract infections, we’re all too familiar with how the unpleasant events that follow those initial symptoms often develop at a rapid speed. Unfortunately, by the time we make it to the doctor and receive antibiotics to fight the infection, we are likely already experiencing a great deal of discomfort, and sometimes a great amount of pain. What can we do?

Woman with UTI

Although men can also develop these infections, women are more susceptible because of our anatomical make-up. Our habits, genetics, health conditions and other factors make some of us even more susceptible than others. Fortunately, there are precautions that all women can take to prevent urinary tract infections from developing. Dr. Laura M. Rosch of the American Osteopathic Association shared some of her expert medical advice on how women can take control of their urinary health.

Women more at risk for urinary tract infections

The main culprit of UTIs in women is bacteria, and the way our bodies are built makes it that much easier for it to thrive and become a huge pain (literally and figuratively). Rosch explains how the urethra — the small tube that urine passes through from the bladder to outside the body — is much shorter than the same organ in men, making it much easier for bacteria to get into the bladder and for an infection to ensue.

Some women more at risk for urinary tract infections

Rosch notes that there are multiple reasons some women are more likely to get an infection than are others, but she specifically points out the following:

  • Holding it in past the urge to urinate: When the urine is in the bladder for too long or the bladder is not completely emptied, you can become more susceptible to infection. Drinking plenty of fluids and urinating more frequently can help.
  • Not peeing after sex: As bacteria already doesn’t have far to travel in women’s smaller urethras, intercourse makes the distance to the bladder even shorter. Urination is one way to prevent infection by reducing the bacterial load near the area, making infection less likely. In addition, Rosch also mentions that some women who use diaphragms may be more susceptible to infection.
  • Genetics: Sometimes your genes are to blame when the physical structure of the bladder, urethra or pelvic floor interferes with the proper functioning of the urinary system. However, this can also be brought on by our style choices. previously reported, for example, that wearing high heels can also be a contributing factor; some medical experts found that the tilted torso puts the hips and spine out of alignment, which can lead to lordosis, which leads to inefficient urination, leading to UTIs.
  • Being pregnant: Just as genetics or wearing heels can make you prone to infections, being pregnant can do the same, due to alterations in the anatomy of the pelvic floor. Rosch also points out that becoming dehydrated during pregnancy is much easier, making decreased frequency of urination a factor in the development of UTIs.
  • Other causes: Neurologic disorders that control bladder function may contribute to infection, as can some medications. Also, women with diabetes, particularly those women with uncontrolled diabetes, are more likely to develop infections.

Up next: Tips to prevent urinary tract infections >>

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