We’ve grown up witnessing the stigma attached to women’s bod issues. From the chemist wrapping up our sanitary napkins in a newspaper like it’s a bag of shame to watching several women shy away from discussing their period problems—any subject that deals with our hoohaa is supposed to be kept under wraps.  But thanks to recent developments, we’re slowly coming out of our shells and embracing new products like the Menstrual Cup and also discussing at length about what comforts our bodies.

Since we at Be Beautiful see ourselves as a medium towards this change, we thought why not talk about yet another hush-hush topic—Urinary Tract Infections or UTIs as they are popularly known! Well, we know how so many women find it tough to accept and hence, ignore an infection thinking it will pass, but it’s about time we fought it out and fixed our body issues. So we got Dr. Sudeshna Ray, Consultant Gynecologist and Obstetrician at Jaslok, Saifee and Breach Candy hospitals in Mumbai, to tell us all about UTIs from start to finish. Read on.
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Several women often shy away from facing it but Urinary Tract Infections have become an increasing concern today. Tell us what the symptoms of UTIs are.

Yes, I know so many girls who find it tough to even come up to a doctor and discuss a UTI. But it’s high time people started taking this seriously and realized the importance of treatment. A woman with UTI feels like passing urine often. Moreover, she also experiences pain and a burning sensation immediately after passing urine. It’s time to get yourself tested even when you might be experiencing lower abdominal and lower back pain along with a burning feeling inside. Occasionally, you may also have fever with chills and nausea.

How common is this ailment?

It is fairly common in girls and women because anatomically the distance between the front (urinary passage) and the back (stool) passage is quite close to each other. Hence the chances of infection are higher.

What causes UTIs?

UTIs can have many reasons behind it, one of them being improper cleaning of the private parts, especially after bowel movements. Not drinking enough water/fluids is again another reason for it. Many women wear double protection sanitary napkins and that too, can cause bacteria to move around easily causing UTIs. Sometimes, sexual intercourse can also lead to this ailment.

So clearly, hygiene is a major concern when it comes to UTIs…

Yes. As I said, one of the biggest reasons behind UTIs is insufficient hygiene. The process of cleaning should always be from front to back and never from back to front so as to ensure that the bacteria don’t affect the anatomy in the front.

Does the weather also play a major role in causing UTIs?

Yes, summers are a bad time for UTIs. This is when the body has a greater tendency to dehydrate through sweat. During these times, if adequate hydration is not maintained, the concentrated urine in the water bag (bladder) provides a conducive environment for bacteria to grow and cause infection.

You stated that sexual intercourse can also lead to UTIs. How is that?

It’s simple—sexual intercourse or foreplay can sometimes lead to an infection or bacteria in the front and back passages that can lead to UTIs. Also, having sex with a full bladder can lead to a UTI.

If one has the symptoms, how do you get tested for a UTI?

It is very important that one gives the urine sample for culture and sensitivity test as soon as symptoms appear before taking any antibiotics. This will enable your doctor to prescribe the right antibiotics and prevent the UTI from coming back. If one gets recurrent attacks of UTI, an ultrasound of the kidneys should be done to rule out kidney or urinary passage (ureteric) stones.

What is the treatment for UTIs?

Well, the treatment typically consists of antibiotics, urinary analgesics/pain killers. Plenty of water/ fluids is of utmost importance to a person with an infection. Crushed cranberry juice is also prescribed to prevent recurrent UTI.  You can also consume blueberries and yoghurt to ensure that it doesn’t return too.

Lastly, what are the precautions one must take to prevent UTIs?

Besides keeping your genitals clean, you must empty your bladder before and after sexual intercourse. Drink plenty of water and also avoid drinking too much alcohol, tea and coffee that dehydrates the body.