Oh no. Not again. It only feels like five minutes since you had your last bout of cystitis.
Needing to go every five minutes, and then burning or bleeding when you do. Then there’s the smell… it’s all horrible and you feel like rubbish. Why does this keep happening?
No, you’re not imagining it. There’s more chance of you getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) as you hit your midlife – and contracting them more often.
But why do we get UTIs in the perimenopause? Flipping hormones wobbling around again, that’s why.
Hormonal changes can thin the lining of the urethra, the tube that takes pee from the bladder and out of your body, making it more prone to infection.
You might also have bladder problems, which make it harder for you to get all your wee out at once. This is another frequent infection factor and the reason why you need the loo right now but only do a thimble-full.
Hormonal shifts also muck up the bacterial balance of your vagina. This is known as bacterial vaginosis and yes, you guessed it, this sometimes causes bladder symptoms also – the painful burning sensation when passing urine.
You don’t have to put up with regular cystitis in the perimenopause.
You can get recurrent UTIs to pack their bags, and take all their unpleasant, painful and smelly friends with them. Just practice these bacteria-busting techniques.
If think that you may have a bladder infection, you may need to speak to your GP. Some bladder infections clear up by themselves, but many don’t and may need antibiotics to sort them out.
LET IT OUT
Get two litres of water a day down you – and then go to the loo often. If you’re drinking enough, you won’t be able to hold it in for too long anyway.
The best way to banish a UTI is to flush the little rascal out of your bladder and urinary tract before it can make itself comfortable. So stay hydrated. Don’t worry about combing the supermarket for sugar-free cranberry juice. Good old plain water will do just fine.
GET CLEAN – BEFORE YOU GET DIRTY
Wash your bits before you have sex and go for a wee as soon as you can afterwards.
We know, it doesn’t sound spontaneously sexy but it will keep bothersome bacteria away from your urethra by either cleansing it away or pushing it back out.
STEER CLEAR OF SPERMICIDE
While we’re on this subject, if you are getting frequent UTIs it might be time to try a different method of birth control.
If you’re a diaphragm or spermicide user, or like spermicide-lubricated condoms, you’re more likely to suffer from burning wee. All these family planning products prompt the growth of bacteria, you see.
Try water-based lubricants too if you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, like lots of women going through the change.
WIPE THE RIGHT WAY
Don’t give yourself a bum deal by clogging up your urethra with bacteria from your anus.
Pretty blunt that, but if you wipe from front to back you will avoid spreading infection-causing nasties. Especially focus on doing this properly after a number two.
Avoid scented wipes, douches and harsh soaps which strip away good bacteria and disrupt the delicate PH balance down there.
Just wash with warm water. If this doesn’t feel ‘clean’ enough for you however, there are soap-free, specially-formulated options designed for women in the menopause.
KEEP IT COTTON
Bacteria love breeding in warm and cosy places. That’s why it’s a great idea to keep your lady parts all cool and wafty by wearing breathable fabrics like cotton.
At least chuck away your nylon knickers. Steer clear of extra-tight hot pants too or spray-on skinny jeans if you just can’t shake off cystitis. Give your bits some air and let them recover.
If none of this works, in preventing recurrent urine infections, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and ask about vaginal oestrogens and whether they could be right for you.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
If they keep getting urinary tract infections (UTIs), chances are they are feeling wiped out and fed up. Here’s how you can help.
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
We’ve suggested they drinks plenty of water to flush out bad bacteria, invests in some good quality, breathable knickers and steers clear of extra tight pants and jeans as these can make their UTI worse.
On top of this, we’ve recommended they have a quick wash before and after sex and avoids strongly perfumed body washes and wipes as these strip away good bacteria.
MAKE THEM COMFY
Is there anything you can do to make them more physically comfortable?
It could be as simple as getting them a glass of water or letting them stretch out on the sofa. What do they need?
ASK THEM TO EXPLAIN
Don’t assume you know what they feel like, even if you’ve had UTIs yourself. Gently ask them to explain the effect it is having on them physically and emotionally.
You may not be able to do anything to make them feel better. But they may not want answers, they may just need to talk – and be properly heard. Switch your listening ears on and give them your full attention.
ACCEPT WHEN THEY ARE NOT IN THE MOOD
Although it’s hard, try not to take their rejection of your advances personally. They're probably in pain and the last thing they feel like doing when they have cystitis is having sex.
Instead of feeling disheartened, offer to give them a massage or cuddle instead. Touch is an important tool for keeping intimacy alive in a relationship, especially when sex is off the cards.
SWAP OUT SPERMICIDE
Spermicide and spermicide-lubricated condoms prompt the growth of bacteria, and they might cause your partner to get recurrent UTIs.
If intimacy is on the menu, swap to water-based lubricants or organic lubes, and use an alternate contraceptive if she’s perimenopausal as pregnancy is still possible.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO SPEAK TO A DOCTOR
If their symptoms have been going on a while or seem to be getting worse, gently encourage them to speak to a GP. You could even offer to go to the appointment with them to show your support.
If you'd like more information, we have put some further references below for you: