If you’re struggling with Urinary Tract Infections that keep coming back, you’re not alone. UTIs are one of the most common bacterial infections in women. Doctors report a recurrence for up to 55% of women after menopause. Factors that increase the risk of UTIs in older women include lack of estrogen, loss of vaginal flora, pelvic organ prolapse, diabetes, and an increase in E.coli colonization in vaginal tissue.
So, why do UTIs keep coming back even if you are healthy and keep things clean down there? Many types of bacteria live in the vagina and happily coexist. They maintain a lovely ecosystem, for the most part. Estrogen plays a crucial role in how “good” bacteria called Lactobacillus thrives. These bacteria produce a pH-lowering acid inside the vagina, keeping ‘bad’ bacteria at bay.
Read on to learn why you may get recurrent UTIs and how to manage them.
What Causes UTIs?
A big culprit for UTIs is sexual intercourse. All that hanky-panky can cause the bacteria in the vagina and rectum to get into the urinary tract. Once you reach menopause, the physical changes that happen to your body can also trigger bacterial imbalances in the urinary tract.
These changes include:
- Thinning of vaginal tissue
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Trouble emptying the bladder all the way
- Lower estrogen levels
Menopausal changes won’t doom you to endless UTIs, so don’t fret. There are effective prevention strategies for healthy women at midlife who are struggling with recurrent UTIs.
Healthy Habits To Manage and Prevent UTIs
The best way to begin managing the risk of UTIs is to adopt good bathroom habits. Here are a few pointers to help you make the adjustments needed in the loo.
Don’t rush to the bathroom as soon as you need to pee. This suggestion sounds like the opposite of what you should do, but hear us out. The bladder is a muscle. It works better when it is allowed to expand and contract fully. If you persistently urinate when the bladder isn’t full, it will not be able to contract hard enough to empty. Allow the bladder to fill up, and then go.
Sit on the toilet in a relaxed seated position. Avoid squatting in public facilities—you can always use a toilet seat liner to prevent skin contact.
Relax the pelvic floor muscles. Begin the flow in a state of relaxation rather than straining to push urine out.
Allow enough time for your bladder to empty. This practice helps to wash away any lingering bacteria. It’s also important to empty your bladder after intercourse.
Take a cranberry supplement. Studies show this decreases the ability of bacteria to stick around. We recommend a cranberry pill over high-sugar juices.
- Drink plenty of water. The more fluid you have flowing through your urinary system, the better. It also helps to avoid sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol.
Other Measures To Help Manage UTIs
Ask your doctor about vaginal estrogen creams or rings to help restore the normal bacterial balance of the vagina. Also, discuss the benefits and risks of taking antibiotics preventively, either after sex or regularly at a low dose.
Your doctor can also assess you for pelvic organ prolapse or any other physical indications that may prevent you from fully emptying your bladder.
As always, we recommend visiting your doctor for a thorough check-up. You may have other issues going on that contribute to your recurrent UTIs.