Why Your UTI Risk Increases in Peri- and Post-menopause and What You Can Do About It
UTIs are one of the most common infections, and unfortunately, you can be more at risk if you’re perimenopausal. The chance of recurrent UTIs increases as a person progresses through menopause—19-36% of those who are premenopausal experience recurrent UTIs, and the rate of recurrence increases to 55% after menopause.
What’s to blame for this?
As you progress through perimenopause, your estrogen levels decrease, which can lead to changes in the lining of the bladder, which can result in a change in the urogenital microbiome. This reduces the natural defense mechanisms against UTIs. We’re about to get all sciencey here, but we promise you’ll be able to keep up.
You’ve probably heard of Lactobacillus, especially if you take probiotics. It’s a type of bacteria that colonizes a healthy vagina before menopause. The walls of the vagina release a type of glucose called glycogen and the Lactobacilli ferment it, producing lactic acid. This helps stop other types of bacteria from inhabiting the area. In other words, the Lactobacilli creates a microbiome in the vagina that can protect against other types of pathogens and bacteria.
This may sound a little strange at first but think about it like the fermentation of alcohol. Yeast eats up the fermentable sugars—whether you’re brewing beer or making wine. The alcohol that is produced, along with the low pH levels, helps to kill off potential bacteria from growing. The pH level and microbiome in your own body act as a defense against infection-causing bacteria, similar to the alcohol and pH levels present in wine and beer.
Lower levels of estrogen lead to lower levels of Lactobacilli and an elevated pH. This is a deadly combination that creates an ideal environment for infection, leaving you vulnerable. This reduction in estrogen can also cause weakening of the bladder and pelvic floor muscles, which can in turn cause urinary incontinence or the uncontrolled leakage of urine from the bladder. Research suggests this affects more than 50% of those in post-menopause, so if that’s you, you are not alone! And it’s a totally normal thing.
Some other risk factors for UTIs:
- History of UTIs
- Sexual intercourse
- Urinary incontinence
Reading that list can be frustrating, but we’ve got good news! There is a lot you can to do prevent your chances of UTIs.
Quick tips for preventing and dealing with UTIs
If you have a UTI and you can’t get to your doctor right away, there are some steps you can take to manage your symptoms and hopefully inhibit further bacterial growth.
- Drink lots of water. Yes, this will mean you have to use the restroom more, but you want to flush out that bacteria, so don’t hold it!
- Test at home. If you're tired or peeing into a cup at the doctor's office, MYUTI offers easy at-home kits that identify pathogens for targeted treatment—an especially good option if you have recurrent UTIs.
- Try NSAIDs. Medication like ibuprofen and Advil can be helpful if your pain is severe. There are also brands like AZO that specifically target urinary tract pain and urgency. They have an NSAID option as well as one that contains phenazopyridine hydrochloride, the latter will change the color of your urine, but it’s not harmful to you.
- Use a heating pad. If you have a sensitive stomach and can’t handle NSAIDs, or just want some extra relief, you can place a heating pad or hot water bottle over your lower abdomen. There are even stick-on options that you can use on the go if you don’t want your UTI to slow you down!
- Take Urinary Tract Cleanse & Protect. If you’re prone to UTIs, taking this daily as a preventative might be right for you. Or you can take it at the first sign of UTI symptoms, before or after sex, etc. Our supplement is formulated with a full spectrum of cranberry polyphenols and our special ingredient, hibiscus, which helps boost your immunity and gently flushes your system.
If you’re hoping to reduce your chances of infection, follow these best practices.
- Stay hydrated. Flush out that unwanted bacteria by drinking loads of water and going when you need to.
- Relive yourself before and after sexual activity. This can help reduce the number of bacteria in the bladder. It’s also not a bad idea to wash up before and after—warm water is really all you need.
- Wipe from front to back. Most people are taught this, but it bears repeating. E. coli are the bacteria most responsible for UTIs and they live in feces. The direction you wipe is key to keeping them out of your bladder.
- Showers over baths. Soaking in baths can be a breeding ground for bacteria and alter your vaginal pH if you’re using bubble baths or oils. We’re not saying you can never have that soak, but choosing showers primarily is best.
- Cut down on the sprays and powders down there. These can irritate the urethra.
- Avoid douching. This can disrupt the normal bacteria and alter the normal pH of the vagina. This can create a more favorable environment for infection-causing organisms.
Prevention is often the best medicine and the more information you can arm yourself with, the better you’ll be at achieving this. Most of the steps you can take in preventing UTIs are inexpensive and just involve changing your habits. Once you have a plan in place—and a bottle of Urinary Tract Cleanse & Protect—you can win the battle against bladder health!