I Keep Getting UTIs! What Can I Do?

Written by Lindsey Mcilvena, MD, MPH

Find out more about how you can prevent recurrent UTIs, especially those UTIs that happen after sex.

Repeat UTIs are actually pretty common

First, know you aren’t alone. Having urinary tract infections (UTIs) more than once in a year isn’t uncommon. Between 25% and 50% of women who have a UTI caused by E.coli, the bacteria most likely to cause a UTI, have a second UTI the same year.

Simple lifestyle changes could reduce your UTIs

Is there anything I can do to make them go away, forever?

First, take a long, hard look at your fluid intake. Coffee in the morning, wine at night, and nothing in between? This isn’t doing you any favors. If you don’t have much urine in your bladder, you may not be flushing out the bacteria in and near your urethra (where the urine comes out), which can lead to infections. Start carrying around a water bottle to encourage yourself to drink at least 2 to 3 liters (about 70 to 100 ounces) of water a day.

Second, look at your wiping routine. Wiping back to front brings the E.coli closer to your urethra and can lead to infection. Always wipe front to back.

Third, avoid soap in the vaginal area. Wash only with water! Soaps and bubble baths can be very irritating to the vagina and ureter. These won’t necessarily cause an infection, but it can make it feel like you have a UTI: having to pee constantly and right away!

Let’s talk about sex!

If you seem to get a UTI every time you have sex, you may want to think about your birth control. Women who use spermicides are more likely to have infections after sex, even if it’s just a spermicide-coated condom. Consider condoms without spermicide in addition to another birth control method, like the pill, ring, or intrauterine device (IUD).

Peeing after sex can also help flush the bacteria out of your urethra, reducing your risk of getting an infection. The thing is, if you don’t have much urine in your bladder right after sex, it won’t help much with the flushing-out action. So chug 10 to 12 ounces of water before you get frisky to help create urine for that after-sex pee.

Some women find that a quick rinse off in the shower after sex can help, as well as taking in some cranberry juice or supplements after sex and the next day. Remember, though, that cranberry juice may help prevent a UTI, but once you’ve got one, it doesn’t make it go away.

Could I have a drug-resistant bacteria?

Every UTI is caused by a specific bacteria. Most of the time it’s E.coli. Different antibiotics treat different bacteria, which is why you are prescribed one antibiotic for a UTI and a different one for an ear infection.

In some cases, the bacteria may change its structure to escape being killed by an antibiotic. When that happens, the usual antibiotic for a particular infection no longer works, so other medicines are necessary.

This is why having your urine tested is so important with UTIs. Once the urine sample is sent to the lab, your doctor will detect which bacteria is causing it. They can then test 10 to 12 different antibiotics on the bacteria to find out which ones will work and which ones won’t. That part of the test is called “antibiotic sensitivity testing.”

If you have recurrent UTIs, urine testing is the key!

Talk to your primary care provider (PCP)!

Tried all those things and still getting UTIs? Concerned about drug-resistant bacteria? It’s time to see your PCP.

Some additional testing may be needed to make sure your UTIs aren’t being caused by something else. If you don’t get your periods anymore, vaginal dryness can cause more UTIs. An estrogen cream may help you have less UTIs. Sometimes, differences in your body structure (anatomy) can cause recurrent UTIs. Your primary care doctor will let you know if you need more testing to rule these things out.

Other infections, like sexually transmitted infections, can also cause UTI symptoms, so if you have any vaginal discharge or smell along with your UTI, it’s a good idea to go in for an exam. Medical conditions, like endometriosis and painful bladder syndrome, can also cause symptoms similar to a UTI.

Antibiotics, taken daily or after sex, can also help prevent UTIs. If you do get frequent infections (more than 3 to 4 per year), you may want to ask your PCP about this option.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HeyDoctor, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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