By Juliette "TMI?" Tang
I am a chronic sufferer of urinary tract infections. Luckily I have a great doctor who has my local Walgreens on speed dial for the days when I call her crying into the phone for Cipro, otherwise I'd still be wailing on the floor at the moment, rather than spreading the good word on how you can avoid my predicament.
It helps knowing, in a sick way, that no matter how much pain I'm in, I'm not alone. For women, there's no way around it: more than 50% of us will suffer the agony of a urinary tract infection at some point. And most of the time, this loathsome incursion burrows its way up our urethrae and into our lives, without warning, when we are sexually active. Urinary tract infections are the bane of an active sex life. They are the second most common type of infection in the body, and account for 10 million hospital visits each year (plus 1.5 hospitalizations, and $1 billion in health care costs). Along with unplanned pregnancy, STDs, and shameful flashbacks to what happened last Saturday at the Knock Out, UTIs are another way the universe has of zapping some of the fun out of sex. Luckily, unlike children or other STDs (and it is questionable whether a UTI even counts as an STD), a UTI doesn't last forever -- though when confronted with what feels like someone taking broken glass to the inside of your hoo-ha, forever will feel like a relative term.
Unlike women, men have a much lower chance of contracting a UTI (0.05% of adult males will contract a UTI in a given year, as opposed to a whopping 11% of women). It says a lot about the fortitude, resolve, and tenacity of womenkind that despite our unlucky cards when it comes to getting UTIs and other STDs, we are nonethelessmore promiscuous than our male counterparts! Like the horrible day-long hangover that makes you swear you'll never drink again, a UTI that makes you pee blood might bring on a few days of paranoia and absintance, but won't stop you from continuing to do the thing that got you sick in the first place. And that's what makes life fun. UTIs shouldn't necessarily delete the joy from sex, unless you're one of the luckless few who gets a UTI every single time she has sex (and even if you are that person, you can still have sex -- just take an antibiotic strong enough to cure an entire city of leprosy right after you do it and you'll be fine).
Plus, UTIs aren't entirely unpreventable. There are lots of precautions we can take to prevent getting UTIs from intercourse. The most important thing you can do, boys and girls, is to pee after sex, which can help clear away bacteria and prevent germs from traveling up the urethra. Good post-sex hygeine can be a chore, but as hard as it is to haul yourself out of bed after a drunken Saturday night's foray into kinky animal sex to clean yourself up in the bathroom, your vagina will thank you in the morning if you actually travelled the thirty feet between your bed and the bathtub, even if all you did was splash a little water on your woowoo and then pass out on the floor. Other things you can do: take showers rather than baths, pop cranberry pills or drink cranberry juice (the concentrated stuff, not that Ocean Spray nonsense), drink lots of water everyday, don't hold it in, wear cotton underwear, take Vitamin-C supplements, avoid feminine hygeine sprays or douches. Also, a good rule to follow during sex is: if it goes in the B, do not put it back in the V. This applies to anything and everything.
Unfortunately, you can be the cleanest, most sex-averse person on the planet, and still have creepy phantom UTIs pop up when you least expect them, but that's what Cipro is for, thank-you-modern-medicine. It definitely helps to remember, when faced with the burn of a nasty UTI, that you aren't the lone sufferer. Millions of people get UTIs each year, and many suffer from chronic infections, try as we might to subvert the attack. UTIs are traumatic, but the trauma generally goes away as soon as the pills start to work their magic. Just don't be stupid about your health. If you suspect you have a UTI, go to the doctor. Contrary to what your well-meaning naturalist friend told you, UTIs won't go away on their own, and even an ocean of parsley tea won't banish that army of E. coli from your nethers. Herbal medicine is great as a preventative step, but once you are faced with a full-on UTI, sticking a clove of garlic up your vagina will cause you more harm than good. If you suspect you have a UTI, get on the phone with a doctor. A happy general-vaginal-area makes a happy heart.