Best Ways to Help Prevent UTIs

A urinary tract infection (UTI) can be painful and frustrating, especially if it keeps 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.

Keep Bacteria Out of Your System

To say goodbye to burning, frequent urination and other unpleasant symptoms, start with these changes today.

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 settle in. If you’re well-hydrated, it will be tough to go too long without going to the bathroom.

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.

Wash up before sex, and pee afterward. Use soap and water before sex. This keeps bacteria away from the urethra. And peeing afterward carries any bacteria that entered the urinary tract back out.

Steer clear of irritating feminine products. Skip douches, deodorant sprays, scented powders, and other feminine products with fragrances or chemicals.

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 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.

Check With Your Doctor

If you get UTIs often, your doctor may want you to:

  • Start antibiotic treatment on your own when you have symptoms
  • Take a daily low dose of antibiotics for a while
  • Take a single dose of antibiotics after having sex

After menopause, women have less estrogen in their bodies, which can cause vaginal dryness and make the urinary tract more vulnerable to infection. A vaginal cream with estrogen can help balance the area’s pH and allow “good” bacteria to flourish again.

Continued

Cranberry Juice and Supplements

There’s probably no harm in trying, but they're 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. None of these studies have shown how much of this substance it would take to help prevent UTIs.

Drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills is usually fine, unless you take a blood-thinning medication, a medication that affects your liver, or aspirin.

Probiotics, especially in a vaginal capsule, and D-mannose, a kind of natural sugar you can buy at health food stores, might help prevent unfriendly bacteria from growing in the urinary tract, but both need to be studied more.

You should talk to your doctor before you try cranberries or any supplements to find out the right dose and to make sure they won't cause other problems.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nazia Q Bandukwala, DO on April 17, 2018

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).”

American Urological University.

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?”

UpToDate: "Recurrent urinary tract infection in women."

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