Does a UTI Affect Your Period?
- UTIs are infections that commonly occur in women, with elderly women being among those the most at risk.
- Factors that can cause UTIs include stress, menopause, sexual activity, dehydration, and working out vigorously.
- Because periods cause hormonal fluctuations, they may increase the chances of developing a UTI.
- There are several ways to decrease the risk of developing a UTI while on your period, including taking a probiotic, drinking more water, and managing stress.
- UTIs that occur in pregnant women can have serious consequences, such as kidney infections and preterm labor.
It is estimated that most women will have a urinary tract infection (UTI) at least once in their lifetime.
The chance of developing a UTI increases with age but certain risk factors also play a role. UTIs remain the most common outpatient infection, though most UTIs can be treated at home.
In this article, we’ll cover UTIs, their connection to periods, factors that affect the menstrual cycle, how to prevent UTIs and missed periods, and when to seek medical attention.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection of the urinary system that typically occurs in women. Women are primarily affected by UTIs because their urethras are shorter than men’s, making it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder.
Most UTIs occur in the lower urinary tract (the bladder and urethra), but more serious UTIs (those affecting the upper urinary tract) can spread to the kidneys and other organs.
Here are some common UTI symptoms:
- Burning or discomfort when urinating
- An intense urge to urinate, although very little urine is expelled
- Dark, bloody, or cloudy urine
- Urine that smells strange
- Fever and chills
More severe UTIs can cause:
- Persistent pain in the lower abdomen, back, or groin
It’s often easy to self-diagnose a UTI based on the symptoms. However, you can also purchase an over-the-counter dipstick test and use this to test for a UTI.
Although UTIs can be diagnosed at home, you may need prescription medication to treat them, and more serious cases will require medical attention.
Key Point: What are the Different Types of UTIs?
There are three different types of UTIs. Each of them is named based on where they occur.
- Cystitis: Inflammation of the bladder that causes painful urination.
- Pyelonephritis: Inflammation of the kidneys (kidney infection) that may be accompanied by pain in the back or side, as well as fever, nausea, and vomiting.
- Urethritis: Inflammation of the urethra typically characterized by discharge or a burning sensation when urinating.
A urinary tract infection can be treated at home, but in rare instances, complications can happen. If the infection enters the bloodstream, urosepsis can develop.
If you have symptoms such as fever, extreme tiredness, confusion, breathing difficulties, or a rapid heart rate, reach out to a doctor.
Are Periods and UTIs Connected?
Because urinary tract infections and periods sometimes occur at the same time, it’s easy to assume they’re connected. There is indeed a link between your reproductive system and your urinary tract, but it’s an indirect one.
Keep in mind that a urinary tract infection cannot:
- Cause a missed period. (While A UTI can put stress on the body and may result in your period being early, late, or irregular, it usually won’t cause your period to be skipped altogether.)
- Directly affect your reproductive organs
Does the Timing of My Menstrual Cycle Increase the Risk of a UTI?
To an extent, yes. There are particular behaviors and certain risk factors that may make you more prone to a urinary tract infection while on your period, which is why many women experience UTIs during this time.
Here are some risk factors that increase your chances of developing a UTI during your period:
|Risk factor||How does it contribute to the development of a UTI?|
|Stress||The pain and general discomfort that accompany a period can make it more difficult for the body to fend off bacterial infections.|
|Hormone imbalances||Estrogen protects against UTIs and because women have lower estrogen levels during their period, this leaves them more prone to bacterial infections.|
|Sexual activity||The decreased risk of pregnancy may encourage women to have more sex during their period. Sex upsets the vaginal pH, in addition to irritating the already sensitized urethra. Both of these factors increase the risk of a UTI.|
|Feminine hygiene products||Pads, tampons, or menstrual cups can encourage bacterial growth and infections, especially when they’re not changed often enough.|
|Dehydration||Water is lost during your period, therefore drinking lots of water during this time will help keep UTIs at bay by allowing you to flush bacteria from your system.|
How Does a UTI Affect My Period?
As previously mentioned, UTIs don’t have a direct impact on your menstrual cycle, but because UTIs may cause hormonal imbalances due to stress, it’s possible that a UTI can affect your period.
However, if there are obvious changes in your monthly cycle, there’s likely another cause for them. A UTI cannot result in a delayed period, for example.
Visit your healthcare provider or get advice from a board-certified gynecologist if you have concerns regarding a late period, hormonal changes, or if you experience chronic UTIs.
What are Some Factors that Can Cause a UTI or Delay My Period?
Anything that triggers hormonal changes can cause a late period or a UTI. There are a few factors that can result in a UTI or a delayed period. They include:
- Sexual activity and birth control
Key Point: Are Older People More at Risk of Developing a UTI?
UTIs are more common in elderly women due to a number of factors, including:
- A weakened immune system
- More difficulty in taking care of their basic hygiene
- Using catheters
- Urinary surgery or exams
- Kidney damage
- A weakened pelvic floor
How Can I Reduce the Risk of Developing a UTI During My Period?
For the most part, implementing the same measures you'd use to avoid a UTI outside of your menstrual period, will decrease your chances of getting an infection during your period.
Below are some UTI prevention methods that work any time of the month, and those that are especially useful when you have your period.
Everyday preventive measures:
- Consume enough fluids throughout the day. Drinking lots of water helps your body flush harmful bacteria from your system.
- Drink cranberry juice or cranberry supplements.
- Avoid feminine products that cause irritation, like douches, lotions, or scented soaps.
- After a bowel movement, wipe from the front to the back.
- Steer clear of birth control methods, such as diaphragms, which may encourage bacterial growth.
- If you have to urinate, don’t hold it in. Always use the bathroom when the need arises.
- Make urinating immediately after sex a habit.
- Always clean sex toys between uses to avoid transferring bacteria.
Preventative measures that work during menstruation:
- Increase the good bacteria in your urinary tract by taking a probiotic (this can also be done when you don’t have your period).
- Ensure that your pads, tampons, and menstrual cups are changed regularly and that they’re used as indicated.
- To avoid UTI flare-ups during your period, decrease or abstain from sexual contact that could irritate a sensitized urethra and introduce bad bacteria into your vagina.
- Drink extra water during your period to compensate for water loss from bleeding.
- If two women are having sex, it’s very important that neither have conditions like yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or a UTI. All infections should be cleared before engaging in sexual activity.
- If you frequently have UTIs, consider using unscented sanitary pads instead of tampons.
- Women who are sexually active during their period should take special care to urinate after sex. Drinking a glass of water shortly after sex can help speed things up.
- Managing your stress levels can help balance your hormones and boost your immune system.
Do Antibiotics Affect My Menstrual Cycle?
Antibiotics work well for treating UTIs. Some preferred options include trimethoprim, nitrofurantoin, and fosfomycin. These antibiotics kill the bacteria responsible for your UTI and can also affect your menstrual period.
If you're concerned about overusing antibiotics, speak to a doctor about alternative treatments. If you have a mild UTI, you may not need antibiotics to treat it.
What are Some Reasons My Period May Be Delayed?
Just about any hormonal imbalance can delay your period. In most cases, it’s nothing to be overly concerned about.
Your period may be late due to:
- Dietary changes
- Weight changes
- Increased or excessive exercise
- Increased stress
- Changes in your sleeping pattern
- PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
- New medication
- Thyroid dysfunction
If your period is late and you think you may be pregnant, you can take a home pregnancy test. If a few tests are positive, make an appointment with your doctor.
Pregnancy Symptoms vs. UTI Symptoms: What’s the Difference?
There is often an overlap between the symptoms of pregnancy and urinary tract infections, which makes it difficult for pregnant women to determine whether what they’re experiencing is normal or whether they in fact have a UTI.
Women who are expecting may also show no symptoms of a UTI.
The only way to diagnose a UTI during pregnancy is to use a urine test strip or dipstick.
Complications arising from UTIs during pregnancy, such as a kidney infection, for example, can be really dangerous and cause preterm labor.
Where Can I Learn More About UTIs and Menstrual Cycles?
If you suspect you may have a UTI or are having irregular periods, you can speak to a board-certified doctor without leaving home. Head over to LifeMD.com to make a video appointment.