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Urinary Tract Infections

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused when bacteria invades the urinary tract system, including the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra. They are not often serious, however they can be painful, causing burning or a pinching sensation during urination. Many women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime, although some women are prone to recurring infections, which can be frustrating.

Urinary Tract Infections

A urinary tract infection is usually caused when bacteria from the bowel that live on the skin in the vagina or near the rectum spread and enter the urinary tract through the urethra. The bacteria then move up through the urethra causing infection in other parts of the urinary tract, such as the bladder. Sexual intercourse is a common cause of these infections because during intercourse the bacteria in the vaginal area can be pushed into the urethra. It is very rare, but some women get a urinary tract infection every time they have sex.

Another cause of UTI is waiting too long to urinate. If you wait too long you can stretch and weaken the bladder, which may cause it not to empty completely. When urine is left in the bladder it increases your risk of contracting an infection.

Women have an increased risk of developing a UTI when they are pregnant, during menopause, or when they have diabetes.


The symptoms of a UTI are hard to miss. They can include a compelling and immediate urge to urinate, as well a sharp, pinching pain or burning sensation during urination. Often very little urine is released, and you may experience an aching back or sides. If the infection worsens it can move to the kidneys and you may experience increased back pain, chills, fever, and nausea along with the earlier symptoms connected to the lower urinary tract.

Proper diagnosis of a UTI is very important. If you experience any of the symptoms described above, you should visit your AOA doctor and have him or her take a urine sample to check for bacteria and white blood cells.

UTIs are cured through taking a course of antibiotics. It is important to continue to take the antibiotics for the full course of treatment and not to stop simply because your symptoms have eased. If the antibiotics are stopped early, the infection may still be present and can flare up again. Also, abusing antibiotics by not taking the full course may necessitate the use of stronger antibiotics for the next round, which can impact your body in other ways.

Preventing a UTI

  • Practice good personal hygiene, including wiping from front to back after a bowel movement, and washing the skin between the rectum and vagina daily.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Empty your bladder when the urge to urinate occurs, without waiting too long.
  • Urinating before and after sex can flush out bacteria.
  • Wear cotton crotched panties that allow moisture to escape.
  • Drinking cranberry juice after sex can reduce the frequency of infection, however you shouldn’t consider it an actual treatment if you are experiencing symptoms.
  • Using sexual positions that cause less friction on the urethra can be helpful.
  • For women who have frequent UTIs, there AOA physician may prescribe an antibiotic to take immediately after sex.

Learn more about how you can prevent a urinary tract infection and how your AOA healthcare professional can help.