by Rose Mason
Here's what to do & how to prevent it happening again
What is a UTI?
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are very common, particularly among women.
This is partly due to anatomy - women have a shorter urethra than men, meaning there is less of a distance for bacteria to travel and reach the bladder. Due to the proximity between the vagina and the urethra, and having sex can increase the chances of getting a UTI.
Annoyingly, you can get a UTI even after a long sexless lockdown...you don't to be having sex all the time to get one (though that does increase your chances), it can happen as soon as you get back at it, or even after switching soaps!
UTIs can come from bacteria that is already present around the genital area, so anything that could transfer bacteria to the urethra and enter the bladder, can cause Urinary Tract Infections.
Cystitis is a type of UTI, and normally refers to the symptoms - pain, discomfort and/or a burning sensation when you urinate. It can also include an unusual colour, smell or frothiness to your pee.
The phrase ‘burning sensation’ is commonly used with Cystitis, but for many it might feel more like a desperate sensation to pee, only to have a trickle come out.
Sometimes after a meagre drip, people can then feel a deep stinging pain. Symptoms can vary from person to person. Often mild cases of cystitis get better by themselves.
Be sure to drink lots of water, maybe some cranberry juice and cystitis relief sachets, and avoid drinking alcohol for a few days, and symptoms should go away.
However, if the sensation of Cystitis ever persists or new symptoms like back pain develop, the infection could be on its way to your kidneys and that's when you need to think about going to the doctor and potentially being prescribed antibiotics.
My first proper UTI experience was very painful. I’d had cystitis before but it had never turned into a full-blown infection and I’d been able to drink (water) my way out of it. However this time, I had the classic cystitis symptoms and then for a few days, they went away. I thought ‘I’m healthy, I’ve got a strong immune system, this has gone now', but the infection was actually travelling up and resurfaced days later as increasingly intense back pain.
I remember feeling really confused. I thought I'd pulled a muscle or had some weird lower back injury from the gym.
The pain got worse - it was like a dull ache with waves of intense cramps that felt like period pain, but in my lower back and I knew I couldn't just get rid of it by drinking water and cranberry juice. I couldn't sleep with the pain either.
I ended up going to A&E.
As soon as I had antibiotics however, the pain went away rapidly. Since then, I call my doctor when I have symptoms of Cystitis/a UTI, and they’ve been amazingly caring and efficient. They ask for symptoms and send a prescription to the local pharmacy so that I can pick up antibiotics.
How to prevent a UTI
Take precautions in general everyday hygiene and health practices, including your sex life.
- Wipe front to back (pee or poo)
- Do not use soap on your vulva or up your vagina (water will do fine - protect your natural and good bacteria)
- Do not douche (your vagina is self-cleaning - discharge is your body cleaning itself inside out).
- Get cystitis sachets to keep at home, so that so have them to hand
- Wee immediately after having sex (clearing the urethra of bacteria)
- If you find you're particularly prone to urine infections, maybe go a bit further and drink a pint of water after sex
- Use lube to prevent friction, but be careful what chemicals you’re using around your vulva area - some spermicidal agents can be irritants
- Certain contraception or period products can cause irritation - find condoms, moon-cups and diaphragms that feel comfortable and work WITH your body
If you have a UTI
- Always finish the full course of antibiotics that your GP prescribes for you, even if you start to feel better before the pack is finished
- Try not to drink alcohol whilst you're on antibiotics
- Take it easy for the next few days to allow your body to heal and get rid of the infection in the healthiest way possible
- Drink lots of fluids (including those cystitis packets)
- Take paracetamol up to 4 times a day to reduce pain and a high temperature
- Maybe avoid having sex until you feel better, though you cannot pass a UTI on to your sex partner, the sex might be fairly uncomfortable (and who wants uncomfortable sex?!)
You can get a UTI being single, or in any kind of relationship - gay, straight, mono, poly...bacteria have no boundaries.
Post-coital cuddling is sweet and connecting, but do try stumble to the loo first, it takes 2 mins and then you can hop back into bed for a post-sex-post-pee smoosh.
Better to run to the loo and pee, than to say “sorry I can’t drink tonight, I’m on antibiotics”.
Footnote: Rose is not a doctor.
I'm just a person who’s had a number of UTIs and I wanted to say it's totally normal, it's not embarrassing and you're not alone!
For medical advice in the UK, you can go to the NHS website: