Preventing Recurring UTIs

What is a UTI?

female urinary tract

female urinary tract

A UTI is a Urinary Tract Infection.

These often occur in the lower part of the urinary tract, which includes the urethra and the bladder. UTIs happen when bacteria enters the urethra and travels up to the bladder. Bacteria can also travel to the upper urinary tract to the kidneys. However, upper urinary tract infections are less common.

Women are more prone to UTIs because they have shorter urethras than men, which means that bacteria can reach women’s bladders more easily.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are Very Common

We frequently see UTIs in our practice – it’s extremely common for women – so I’d like to take a moment to talk about UTIs and share some tips for preventing recurring UTIs.

UTI Symptoms

Symptoms that commonly bring women into our practice for UTIs include:

  • Urgency – needing to go to the bathroom more frequently.
  • Needing to get up more frequently at night to go to the bathroom.
  • Burning or pain during urination or just in general.

What does it mean to have a recurring UTI?

The definition of recurring varies. However, most healthcare professionals agree that you may have a recurring UTI problem if, within a year, we’ve treated you for two or more UTIs.  Essentially, that means that UTIs every 6 months or at greater frequency is not normal.

Causes of UTIs

Women are more likely to have a UTI than men. In fact, 10% of women will have a UTI in any given year, and 50% will experience a UTI at least once in their lifetime. Of these women, 25% will have a recurrence within 6 months of their first UTI. You are more likely to have a UTI if you:

  • Begin to have sexual intercourse or have intercourse more frequently
  • Have had a UTI before
  • Had your first UTI at a young age
  • Use contraception like diaphragms or spermicides
  • Have had several children
  • Are overweight or have diabetes
  • Have a new sexual partner
  • Are going through or have gone through menopause

There are also certain habits that can increase your risk of getting UTIs. These habits include:

  • Frequent use of certain hygiene products, like douches or wipes
  • Taking frequent antibiotics
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Incomplete bladder emptying
  • Chronically delayed voiding, i.e., holding in urine
  • Low fluid intake

Diagnosis and treatment of UTIs

UTI Diagnosis

85-95% of the time, a UTI is something that women self-diagnose. If you are unsure what your symptoms mean, how to treat them, or if you are having recurring UTIs, the best bet is to call our office to schedule an appointment with one of the health care providers at Northern Colorado Women’s Wellness.

In the office, UTI diagnoses are usually made with urine samples. If bacteria and/or blood cells appear in your urine, you may have a UTI. A culture can also diagnose an infection. This will show us what bacteria are present and be helpful in creating the best treatment plan for more complex or recurring cases.

UTI Treatment

Antibiotics are the only way to treat UTIs.

The best antibiotic for treating UTIs depends on the type of bacteria and any previous medical history. Most antibiotics for UTIs are taken for about a week. Symptoms usually lessen within 1-2 days, but it is important to continue taking the antibiotics until they are gone. Cutting your treatment short can make bacteria resistant to drugs, and your UTI may not go away completely.

Preventing recurring UTIs

Even though UTIs are very common in women, there are ways to prevent them. You can help to prevent a UTI if you:

  • Void immediately before and after sexual activity
  • Use contraception methods other than diaphragms or spermicides
  • Wipe from front to back
  • Wash the skin around the genital area
  • Avoid using douches, wipes, powder and deodorant sprays
  • Drink plenty of fluid and empty your bladder as soon as you feel the urge/every 2-3 hours
  • Limit your use of pads
  • Wear underwear with a cotton crotch

Antibiotic Use for Preventing Recurring UTIs

UTI prevention has also been shown with prophylactic antibiotics. These antibiotics can be taken continuously or after sexual intercourse.

Continuous prophylactics are usually taken once daily or every other day. They are often used on a 6-month course of treatment, but 50% of women have recurrences within 3 months of ending their treatment.

Postcoital antibiotics are usually prescribed to women who have recurring UTIs from sexual activity. These antibiotics are single dose, and they are taken before or after sexual activity.

Does drinking cranberry juice prevent UTIs?

avoiding UTIs - woman with cranberry juice

All the time – on a weekly basis, I see women in our practice who ask if drinking cranberry juice will help to prevent UTIs.  This is a common question, so if you’re wondering if cranberry juice will help to prevent or treat UTIs, you’re not alone!

UTI treatment sometimes includes cranberry products, and there have been a number of studies that looked at whether or not cranberry can help to prevent or treat UTIs. Unfortunately, the results have been mixed.  While some studies have found that cranberry pills or unsweetened cranberry juice may reduce chronic UTIs or reduce inflammation, others have found that cranberry has no measurable effect. While there’s no guarantee that cranberry will help to prevent or treat UTIs, using cranberry products has little to no harm, so you can certainly give it a try alongside any treatment we may have prescribed.

Learn More About UTI Prevention & Treatment

If you have questions about UTI prevention and treatment, or are concerned that you might have a UTI, please call our office at to schedule an appointment.