Best Ways to Help Prevent UTIs

If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection, you know how painful and frustrating they can be, especially if they keep coming back. While antibiotics generally clear up a UTI within a few days, there are also some simple measures you can take to help prevent getting one in the first place.

To say goodbye to burning, frequent urination, and other unpleasant symptoms, start with these changes today. The key is to keep bacteria out of your system.

  1. Drink plenty of water, and relieve yourself often. The simplest way to prevent a UTI is to flush bacteria out of the bladder and urinary tract before it can set in. If you’re well-hydrated, it will be tough to go too long without urinating.
  2. Wipe from front to back. Bacteria tend to hang around the anus. If you wipe from front to back, especially after a bowel movement, they're less likely to make it to the urethra.
  3. Wash up before sex and urinate after it. Use soap and water before sex. This keeps bacteria away from the urethra. And urinating afterward pushes any bacteria that entered the urinary tract back out.
  4. Steer clear of irritating feminine products. Skip douches, deodorant sprays, scented powders, and other potentially irritating feminine products.
  5. Rethink your birth control. A diaphragm, spermicide, or spermicide-lubricated condom can make you more likely to get a UTI because they all can contribute to bacterial growth. If you often get UTIs and use one of these birth control methods, switch to a water-based lubricant for vaginal dryness, and consider trying another birth control method to see if it helps.

Some doctors also advise women who get a lot of UTIs to wear cotton underwear, take showers instead of baths, and avoid tight clothes that can trap bacteria near the urethra. While these are simple enough to do, none of them are supported by scientific data.

Ideas to Talk to Your Doctor About

If you get a lot of UTIs, your doctor may consider:

  • A daily low dose of antibiotics, taken for 6 months or longer
  • Having you test yourself for a UTI at home when you have symptoms
  • Taking a single dose of antibiotics after having sex

If you’ve gone through menopause, you could ask about estrogen vaginal cream. After menopause, women have less estrogen in their bodies, which can cause vaginal dryness and make the urinary tract more vulnerable to infection. The treatment can help balance the area’s pH factor and allow “good” bacteria to flourish again.

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What About Cranberry Juice?

There’s no harm in trying it. But it’s not a proven fix.

Over the years, a lot of studies have focused on a substance found in cranberries that’s thought to prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract. But none of these studies have shown how much of this substance it would take to help prevent UTIs.

If you still want to give it a try, drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills is probably fine to do. But there are some exceptions, like if you take a blood-thinning medication, a medication that affects the liver, or aspirin. It’s always wise to talk to your doctor first, before you try any supplements.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on February 04, 2019

Sources

SOURCES: 

Cleveland Clinic: “Urinary Tract Infections,” “Can Cranberry Juice Stop Your UTI?”

Urology Care Foundation: “Urinary Tract Infections in Adults: After Treatment,” “Urinary Tract Infections in Adults: How Are UTIs Treated?”

Mayo Clinic: “Urinary Tract Infection (UTIs).”

JAMA Internal Medicine: “Cranberry-Containing Products for Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections in Susceptible Populations: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Urinary Tract Infection in Adults.”

JAMA: “Effect of Cranberry Capsules on Bacteriuria Plus Pyuria Among Older Women in Nursing Homes: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” “Cranberry for Prevention of Urinary Tract Infection? Time to Move On.”

American Family Physician: “Are Cranberry Products Effective for the Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections?”

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