Am I getting a UTI...or is it just my period?
If you’ve had a urinary tract infection (UTI) before, you know a few of the telltale signs: burning sensation when you pee, pain in the bladder or lower abdomen. Ugh. But, have you ever noticed these similar symptoms occurring around the same time as your period?
You are not alone.
Many women report UTIs in conjunction with or immediately following their menstrual cycle. The correlation that UTIs might be linked to periods is not completely understood. However, there are a few biological changes during the menstrual cycle that are likely factors:
Typically, vaginal pH is low (acidic). The acidic pH is maintained by lactobacilli bacteria (the good bacteria!). As blood and tissue from the uterus travels through the vagina during your period, the vagina becomes much less acidic. The now elevated pH creates a better environment for potential growth of bacteria that can travel to the urinary tract.
Hormonal changes may also play a role. Estrogen promotes the growth of the good lactobacilli bacteria in the vagina. Estrogen production drops in advance of menstruation, leading to the shedding of the lining of the uterus. If estrogen declines, it leads to a loss of this good bacteria which is important to maintain the vaginal pH for a healthy environment.
Increase in fluids:
Increased moisture makes it easier for bacteria to grow and to move around. Bacteria can live on and travel through absorbent material used in feminine hygiene products. It’s important to be mindful and change out your tampons, pads or other menstrual absorbent products frequently to reduce your risk of infection.
The urinary microbiome:
My micro-what? The body has a multitude of microbiomes! A microbiome is essentially all of the microorganisms in a particular environment. So, your urinary microbiome refers to all the various bacteria, fungi and other microbes that live naturally in your urinary tract. A study was conducted in March 2020 at Loyola University Chicago, UC San Diego and UCLA evaluated the changes in the urinary microbiome following both menstruation and sexual intercourse. The study found higher than normal levels of common skin bacteria in the urinary microbiome during menstruation. A possible explanation of this could be the use of feminine hygiene products during your period that could introduce these bacteria into the area from surrounding skin.
So, how do I reduce my risk of a UTI during my period?
While it’s increasingly clear that there seems to be a strong correlation between menstruation and UTI occurrence or UTI symptoms for women with recurrent UTIs, there are still a lot of info gaps that we need more research on. However, here are a few suggestions to help keep your urinary health in check during your period:
- Probiotics: Vaginal probiotics are often recommended to be taken alongside antibiotics for UTIs to help restore vaginal pH. These probiotics contain lactobacilli (the good bacteria we’ve been talking about!), which research has shown can help re-establish a healthy vaginal pH. Taking a vaginal probiotic during and after your period may help restore healthy vaginal bacteria more quickly. Uqora’s vaginal probiotic, Promote, contains 3 specific strains of this lactobacilli to keep the good bacteria in check.
- Proper menstrual hygiene: Frequent changing of absorbent feminine hygiene products could be helpful in reducing the risk of vaginal bacteria traveling to the urinary tract. As the research on microbiomes points out, however, these should be applied with care, as they may introduce more bacteria from the surrounding skin. So, be sure to wash your hands before and after application!
- Decreased sexual activity: Sexual activity can cause further disruption to your vaginal and urinary microbiomes already. It may be beneficial to limit sexual activity during your period to reduce your risk of introducing new bacteria to your urinary tract.
Uqora creates innovative products for urinary tract health. Uqora was created by a chronic UTI sufferer (Jenna Ryan) and her biochemist partner (Spencer Gordon) who were both fed up with a heavy antibiotic rotation that acted as a band-aid for the underlying problem. This experience inspired Jenna and Spencer to start Uqora. Uqora takes an innovative approach to urinary tract health from multiple angles with three different products. (And no, we’re not talking cranberry.)
Try Uqora with code BLUME20 for 20% off your first purchase at uqora.com.