Everything You Need to Know About UTIs in Women: 8 Tips for Prevention

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Key Takeaways:

  • UTIs affect the urinary system and are common in women due to bacterial proximity to the urethra.
  • Factors like hygiene, sexual activity, and health conditions contribute to UTIs.
  • Hydration, dietary adjustments, and proper hygiene help prevent UTIs.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a pervasive health concern affecting millions of individuals, with women being particularly vulnerable to them.

Understanding the role UTIs play in women’s health and their causes, symptoms, and treatments is crucial for both prevention and prevention.

This article will answer all your questions about UTIs in women and provide you with 8 prevention methods for avoiding them.


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What Are UTIs & Why Are They Prevalent in Women?

A UTI is an infection of any part of the urinary tract.

Women are more prone to these infections because the urethra is very close to the anus, where E. coli and other bacteria like to hang out. This close proximity means the bacteria are closer to your urethral meatus (the hole where urine exits your urethra). 

What Causes UTIs in Women?

There are many causes of UTIs in women, including:

  • Improper hygiene: Improper toileting / wiping can bring bacteria, like E. coli, into the urinary system.
  • Sexual activity: Sexual activity can lead to UTIs secondary to anatomy and the urethra being near the vagina.
  • Urinary incontinence: If urinary leakage occurs on a pad in your underwear, the warm, moist environment can lead to an infection.
  • Dehydration: Concentrated urine that occurs when you’re dehydrated can lead to an infection.
  • Genital hormone changes: Loss of genital hormones can lead to a shift in the urogenital microbiome and infections.
  • Constipation: This leads to difficulty emptying the bladder fully, allowing the bladder to grow more bacteria and lead to infection.
  • Diabetes: Glucose that spills over into the urinary tract can attract bacteria, leading to a UTI.
  • Pregnancy: Changes to the urinary tract during pregnancy can make you more prone to UTIs.
  • Pelvic organ prolapse (POP): POP, specifically cystocele (anterior vaginal prolapse), can make it difficult to empty your bladder completely, leading to bacteria entering the urinary system.

What Are the Symptoms of UTIs in Women?

UTI symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • Dysuria (burning sensation during urination).
  • Urinary urgency.
  • Urinary frequency.
  • Urinary incontinence.
  • Suprapubic discomfort.
  • Pelvic pressure.
  • Fatigue
  • Chills / fever.

Because there is an overlap with urogenital symptoms, it is vital to seek medical attention to rule a UTI in or out. Overactive bladder (OAB), pelvic floor dysfunction, interstitial cystitis, your menstrual cycle, fibroids, and constipation are other causes of urinary symptoms that might mimic a UTI.

If UTI symptoms do not resolve, or you start to have symptoms of a more complicated UTI (fever, chills, etc.), seek medical attention immediately. Upper UTIs may require IV antibiotics and a stay in the hospital for observation.

How Are UTIs Diagnosed in Women?

You should speak with your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing symptoms of a UTI. They may perform the following tests.

  • A urinalysis (dipstick or with a machine) is a great first step in assessing the components of the urine.
  • A urine culture will determine if bacteria are present and, if so, what antibiotics the bacteria are susceptible to.

What Are the Potential Complications if a UTI Is Left Untreated?

It’s essential to your health that you recognize UTI symptoms and speak with your healthcare provider about them. If left untreated, UTIs can lead to other potential health complications, including:

  • Detrusor (bladder muscle) damage.
  • Dysfunctional voiding.
  • Urethral scarring / stricture.
  • Urinary incontinence.
  • Vesicoureteral reflux.
  • Renal damage / failure.
  • Pyelonephritis
  • Sepsis / death.
Illustration stating how it is important to speak with your doctor about uti symptoms.Illustration stating how it is important to speak with your doctor about uti symptoms.

Remember that recurrent UTIs are not normal! Seek medical attention to help determine the cause of recurrent UTIs and discuss prevention methods with your healthcare professional. UTIs can have serious health consequences and have been shown to weaken the immune system with each infection.

What Risk Factors Make Some Women More Susceptible to UTIs?

  • Urogenital microbiome.
  • Anatomy
  • Genetics
  • Socioeconomic status.
  • Age and loss of hormones during menopause.

How Does Sexual Activity Cause UTIs in Women?

Sexual activity, whether penis-in-vagina intercourse, cunnilingus, digital penetration, or genital rubbing, causes extra friction on tissues and can push bacteria closer to the urethra and / or into the urethral meatus.

How Can Women Prevent UTIs?

  1. Water, water, water! Hydration dilutes the urine and helps you void every 2 hours, flushing out any urine in the bladder and decreasing bacteria from sitting in the bladder for too long. Drink plenty of fluids to reduce your risk of UTIs. Optimal fluid intake is anywhere between 60-80 oz or even up to 100-120 oz in specific individuals.  
  2. Avoid constipation. Eat enough fiber and a balanced diet to prevent constipation.
  3. Avoid bladder triggers. Decreasing caffeine, sugary foods, alcohol, tobacco, and citrus / spicy foods can help to reduce lower UTI and the risk of a UTI. 
  4. Use probiotics. Probiotic supplements, fermented foods, cranberry concentrate, D-mannose, and vitamin C may help to prevent UTIs.
  5. Be mindful of period products. Feminine products, such as tampons and menstrual cups, may lead to UTIs. The type of contraceptive you might be using can also cause UTIs, so keep these factors in mind.
  6. Practice proper hygiene before and after sex. Practice proper hygiene and genital washing ahead of sexual activity. Use a washcloth and warm water to rinse / wipe away bacteria after sexual activity, and urinate afterward to flush bacteria in the urethra or nearby areas.
  7. Discuss your hormones. It is never too early to talk about vaginal hormones! Older women in menopause may experience a condition called genitourinary syndrome that occurs with loss of hormones, which can increase your risk of UTIs. Find a Certified Menopause Practitioner at www.menopause.org to find a trained professional who uses evidence-based medicine to optimize your urogenital health. If you ask for help, but your provider isn’t listening, find a new provider.
  8. Apply local hormones. For women in menopause experiencing genitourinary syndrome, applying a local hormone can decrease UTIs by over 50%.

What Are Treatments for UTIs In Women?

  • Local hormones. There is increasing awareness about the role local hormones have in the genitals in preventing UTIs. Safety data supports the use of localized urogenital hormones (estrogen / DHEA), even for people with a history of breast cancer. 
  • Medications. Antibiotics are usually used to treat UTIs. A new medication, called Gepotidacin, is also being used to treat uncomplicated UTIs.
  • Intravesical therapy and antibiotics. Intravesical therapy (therapy of the bladder with a catheter) and antibiotics effectively treat UTIs in women.

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Aleece Fosnight

Aleece Fosnight, MSPAS, PA-C, CSC-S, CSE, NCMP, IF, HAES is a Medical Advisor and Writer for Aeroflow Urology and a board-certified physician assistant specializing in sexual medicine, women’s health, and urology. In 2019, she opened up her own private practice, the Fosnight Center for Sexual Health, and implemented the sexual health grand rounds curriculum at her local hospital and residency program.

Aleece is also the founder of the Fosnight Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and training of professionals in the sexual health field and providing funding for access to healthcare services in her local community.


North American Menopause Society (NAMS) - Focused on Providing Physicians, Practitioners & Women Menopause Information, Help & Treatment Insights. (2019). Menopause.org. http://www.menopause.org/


Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.