What Really Works To Prevent UTIs? – Here Are the Facts

If you experience UTIs repeatedly (two or more per year), you’ll want to pay attention here. This is what research says could work to put your future UTIs to rest.

1) Drinking lots of fluids

In a study on women averaging 36 years of age who normally drank less than 1.5 L of water per day, those who increased water intake to 2-3 L per day had about half as many episodes of cystitis compared to those who didn’t change. Why does this work? Water helps to dilute the urine and wash out bacteria from the urinary tract.

2) Urinating after intercourse

Peeing after intercourse (also known as postcoital voiding) can be helpful. Rigorous studies on this aren’t available yet, but it doesn’t hurt. Urinating after intercourse can help to clear the urinary tract from any bacteria that may have gotten in there.

3) Avoiding spermicide contraceptives

Your choice of contraceptive could affect your risk for UTIs. In particular, avoid spermicides, especially if you or your partner is using a diaphragm. Spermicides can kill off natural, healthy bacteria in the urinary tract that would normally fight any bad bacteria.

4) Taking antibiotics after sex

If you experience frequent UTIs (more than two in 6 months), and they often occur after sexual intercourse, a single, postcoital (after-intercourse) dose of an antibiotic will help.

Which antibiotic? Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim) 40 mg/200 mg, nitrofurantoin (Macrobid) 50 mg or 100 mg, and ciprofloxacin (Cipro) 125 mg all work for prevention.

5) Taking antibiotics regularly

For women who suffer from at least two to three UTIs per year, taking a daily antibiotic for UTI prevention may decrease UTI recurrences, by up to 95% according to research studies. Daily antibiotic options include trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim) 40 mg/200 mg, nitrofurantoin (Macrobid) 50 mg or 100 mg, cephalexin (Keflex) 125 mg, and ciprofloxacin (Cipro) 125 mg.

6) Applying vaginal estrogen

For postmenopausal women who experience three or more UTIs per year, applying estrogen in the vagina can greatly reduce the risk of experiencing another one. Options include creams like Premarin and Estrace, and inserts like yuvafem (Vagifem). These estrogen hormone applications are used nightly for 2 weeks, then twice weekly for the following 8 months. How do they work? Estrogen supports the growth of good bacteria and suppresses the growth of harmful bacteria.

7) Taking probiotics and cranberry supplements (possibly)

Taking probiotics and cranberry supplements are “maybes”. Studies so far have not shown that taking cranberry supplements can prevent recurrent bladder infections, but many women seem to think it works. There are no real downsides to taking cranberry, so it might be worth a try. Same goes for probiotics—while they certainly don’t hurt, more clinical studies are needed to prove they really work to prevent UTIs.

Dr O.

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