“You look so tired. Did you sleep well last night?” my boyfriend teased. I laughed it off. How could I tell this wonderfully healthy creature that I spent all night making trips to the toilet every two hours, that every moment awake was overwhelmed by the fear of wetting my pants? How could I tell him that I have an infection?
Many imagine hell as a pit of raging fire. My hell was a shirt soaked with cranberry juice when the 401 bus stopped abruptly and pants dampened with urine when I could not make it to the loo in time.
As a 20-year-old with no control over my bladder, I began internalising feelings of shame. I felt guilty about cancelling social plans. My ignorance of the infection led me to believe that it was sexually transmitted. Talking to anybody was out of the question. I was terrified of being judged for how often I visited the water closet or for my possibly unhygienic sexual practices. Even paranoia about my boyfriend’s fidelity appeared out of nowhere like a wild Pokémon. The trip to the GP effectively lessened my physical pains but did not relieve my mental torments… that is, until I blurted out my worries to a friend.
She confessed to having a urinary tract infection (UTI) as a child from holding pee in for too long. We then shared embarrassing stories and toilet tips. This surge of relief inspired me to then converse with my co-workers, one of whom was experiencing a recurring UTI at the time. The ubiquity of the infection surprised me, more so how it has been avoided in public discussion. Further research left me appalled at how my female guardians and high school sex-and-physical-education™ had collectively ignored one of the most common infections anybody with a vagina could ever encounter their entire life.
Now, fasten your pants, or don’t, for some hard facts on UTIs. UTIs are 400 per cent more likely to occur in females because of the tract’s location between and proximity to the vagina and anus. The symptoms include frequent urination, lack of control of urination, pain while urinating, blood in urine and lower abdominal and/or back pain.
Sexual intercourse is a major of facilitator for UTIs. 80 per cent of women with a UTI report to have had sex (oral, anal, vaginal) in the last 48 hours. Leftover lubrication also enables bacteria to travel from the anus and vagina to the tract. Other causes include long periods of withholding urine, weak immune system caused by high stress levels and unhealthy diet, pregnancy, menopause, diabetes and dehydration.
Benign yet common bacteria Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) contributes to most UTI cases. This bacteria can be found in the anal opening. The tract’s shortness also allows E. Coli to quickly travel, spread and contaminate the area. Once sure of these symptoms, head over to your nearest GP for a dose of antibiotics and professional advice.
Looking for some self-care tips? Urine luck! Here are some ways to look after your tract.
Don’t hesitate to take a day off from work and university when you feel the infection raging down under. Staying in an environment where you can comfortably travel to and from the toilet does wonders to your mental health. Drink plenty of fluids: water, cranberry juice, Ural powder to name a few. They help flushing out the bacteria and lessen the severity of symptoms. Drinking Ural powder and cranberry juice after intercourse is recommended to keep the tract clean. Grab your nearest pair of loose, black pants or skirt, the shinier the better. This will help disguising any patch of accidental dampness.
Prior to sexy time, wash the body parts and toys intended for stimulation. Prevent the transmission of E. Coli bacteria by ensuring that any fingers used for anal do not come in contact with the clitoris and vagina. Urinating after sex helps get rid of foreign agents. Remember that the pill is less effective while you take antibiotics. Other forms of protection will not go amiss up to a week post-antibiotics. With enough fluids and antibiotics, your UTI should be over within two weeks!
Last but not least, remind yourself and those suffering that one in five females have the infection at any given time. 60 per cent of women worldwide report a UTI at some point in their lives. Tell the people you care about that you have an infection. Better yet, inform others of UTIs to stop the stigma. Start a conversation to create a supportive network for yourself and others.
It’s amazing knowing that the people I live and work with understand why I need to rush to the loo. My boyfriend reminds me to take Ural at the completion of our fornication. At work, we even refrigerate a bottle of cranberry juice to share amongst the ladies.
Dampened pants and abdominal pains might be yours to experience alone but shame and guilt for a common infection should never be internalised. At the end of the day, those who matter will remain with you for wetter or for worse.