Last month when I put out a survey for men, asking what questions they had about women’s health, I received many fantastic inquiries. Men brought up topics that ranged from PMS to physiology and pleasure to politics. If you assumed your male acquaintances were completely squeamish or simply inclined to tune out when confronted with details about the inner workings of a woman’s reproductive organs, you would be wrong! Not only have many men been paying attention to hype about hormones, publications on clitoral stimulation and health conditions that affect women, but they are also genuinely interested in the reasons a woman’s body behaves in the way it does.
This article is in response to one of the questions raised: Why do women get bladder infections?
Bladder infections, or Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) occur when bacteria from the bowels that live in the rectal or vaginal area (often E.Coli), travel up the urethra and into the bladder. Because the opening of the urethra is located very close to the anus and the vagina, it is not difficult for bacteria to spread from one orifice to the next.
There are a variety of activities/circumstances that can cause a UTI (also called cystitis):
1. Anatomy. Some women are more prone to UTIs than others simply due to their individual anatomy. If a woman's vaginal canal and urethra are especially close together or her urethral passage is especially short, it can make spread of bacteria to the bladder easier. These measurements and positions also explain why women are more likely to contract bladder infections than men - men have a longer passageway between their urethra and their bladder and less chance of spreading fecal matter or other bacteria into the urethral opening.
It is also possible that women who believe they are experiencing repeated UTIs actually have a condition called interstitial cystitis. This is an inflammation of the bladder, rather than an infection, that causes similar symptoms to a UTI - frequent, painful urination and possible blood or discoloration in the urine. Treatment for interstitial cystitis and a UTI are quite different, so you should definitely speak with your doctor if you are prone to bladder infection-like symptoms.
2. Having sex. The motions involved in intercourse can spread harmful bacteria from the vaginal or anal regions to the urethra, putting a woman at risk for infection. Some people have even nicknamed UTIs "honeymoon cystitis" because of the high numbers of women who contract bladder infections during a honeymoon. The increased frequency of sexual intercourse that a honeymoon implies also (inherently) increases a woman's possible exposure bacteria.
To prevent this phenomenon, women should do everything possible to keep all of the areas surrounding their vulva clean and dry, limiting germ growth and dispersal. For example, wiping from front to back after using the bathroom will push harmful bacteria from your vagina or from feces in the opposite direction of your urethra. Staying hydrated is also important, as frequent urination will help to flush any bacteria out the urethra and urinary tract. Similarly, emptying the bladder on a regular basis will ensure that your bladder muscle doesn't stretch too far. An overstretched bladder can weaken and will not be able to expel urine as completely, allowing bacteria to remain in the urinary tract. Finally, experiment with different sex positions that may help prevent the spread of bacteria between orifices: girl-on-top variations are a good bet.
Pregnancy, menopause and certain forms of birth control (mostly diaphragms) can also cause UTIs due to changes in pressure on the bladder and the thinning of vaginal tissues. In rare cases, women can have a vesico-vaginal fissure, or hole between their bladder and their vagina that makes them prone to a variety of infections (usually due to trauma).
The most important thing to note about cystitis, is that unlike a yeast infection, it will not go away on its own. If you are experiencing UTI symptoms, visit a doctor. Untreated bladder infections can spread to your kidneys and become quite serious. However, once diagnosed, UTIs can be treated quickly and effectively.
Thanks for your questions men! I hope this was helpful, and I encourage you to show off your new knowledge often.
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