Urinary Tract Infection Prevention: 5 Tips For Women

An estimated 1 out of 5 women will experience a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in life. Symptoms tend to include incontinence, abnormal smell and appearance of urine, pelvic and abdominal pain, etc. Here are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing the infection.

1. Drinking water

The simplest tip may end up being the most effective one. Women prone to UTIs should avoid dehydration by increasing their fluid intake. This is believed to help flush out the bacteria in the bladder by inducing more urine production.

"If a woman has recurrent UTI, she should consider her daily fluid intake and try to increase it to at least two to three liters a day," said Dr. Thomas M. Hooton, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

2. Feminine products

People who are prone to UTIs can consider avoiding scented and perfumed products as they may irritate the vagina. In fact, given that the vagina is self-cleaning, many such feminine products are actually not necessary.

According to a recent survey from Canada, women who used feminine washes, gels or wipes were two and a half times more likely to have a UTI than those who did not. Practices like douching should also be abandoned as they flush out good bacteria along with the bad, and may be tied to other health risks.

3. Using the toilet

To avoid transferring rectal bacteria into the vagina and urethra, the correct way to use toilet paper is by wiping from front to back instead of vice versa. This can significantly lower the risk of infection caused by bacteria like E. coli., particularly after a bowel movement.

Experts like Dr. Sandip Vasavada of the Cleveland Clinic also warn against delaying urination. 

"As urine sits in your bladder it starts to become kind of like mucky pond water—it just stays there and stagnates. And stagnate fluid is an ideal environment for an infection to develop," he said.

4. Birth control 

Certain types of birth control, which involve a contraceptive substance known as spermicide, might promote bacterial growth. In addition, spermicides can also cause alterations to the pH balance of the vagina.

One such method involving spermicide is the diaphragm, a dome-shaped silicone cup which is inserted into the vagina. Condoms specifically treated with spermicide could also increase the risk of UTI.

5. Sexual activity

WebMD stated one should wash up before engaging in sexual intercourse, preferably using just soap and water. This is said to keep bacteria away from the urethra. Urinating immediately after sex is also recommended to flush out bacteria which may have reached the bladder. 

Women who experience vaginal dryness should consider using a water-based lubricant during sex. Unlubricated condoms can lead to friction and inflammation, which can make it easier for bacteria to stick around.