A honeymoon is supposed to be carefree and full of random, frequent lovemaking but sometimes sex on demand can turn into unintended pain for a woman. It’s not uncommon for a blushing bride to come home from her honeymoon with a full blown urinary tract infection (UTI).
Often referred to as ‘honeymoon cystitis,’ a UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary system which could affect the urethra, bladder or kidneys. Men can develop a UTI also but it is women who are much more likely to experience a UTI at some point in her life – in fact the lifetime risk of getting a UTI is as high as 1 in 2 – and some women can have repeated UTIs over the years. UTIs of course do not just occur on honeymoons but anytime over the course of a woman’s lifetime.
Causes of honeymoon cystitis
Part of the reason why women are at a higher risk for UTIs is because of their anatomical build – the urethra (transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) is short in women (only 1.5 inches compared to a man’s urethra which is 7 to 8 inches long) making it very easy for bacteria to enter the bladder. In addition, bacteria from the anus (especially E. Coli) can be easily transferred into the urinary opening since the anus and urethral are in close proximity to one another.
Other reasons why women are more prone to ‘honeymoon cystitis’ or UTIs than men include the following:
· Sexual intercourse – frequent, prolonged sex can lead to causing the urethra to become irritated and inflamed which can lead to an infection as sex can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract.
· Women who are not wiping after a bowel movement from front to back. If bacteria from the anus are accidently wiped into the urethra, the bacteria can move from the urethra and travel up to the bladder causing a bladder infection. If a bladder infection is not treated, the bacteria could continue traveling on to infect the kidneys causing a kidney infection.
· Older women can also develop UTIs. Menopause can cause thinning out and drying of the mucus membranes lining the vagina and urethra, making a UTI more likely to develop.
Symptoms of honeymoon cystitis
Most women will know something is not right when they are experiencing a UTI. Some common symptoms include:
· Burning or painful sensation during urination
· Urge to urinate frequently even though little comes out
· Cloudy, dark, bloody or strong-smelling urine
· Pain or pressure in the back or lower abdomen
· Fever or chills – this is a sign the infection may be in the kidneys
· Painful intercourse
· Feeling tired or shaky
Testing and treatment for honeymoon cystitis
A woman with a UTI will need to see her physician to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment. A urine sample will be necessary to do a urinalysis or examine it under a microscope. The urine sample needs to be a ‘clean catch’ after the vulva has been wiped clean of secretions and caught midstream.
Treatment involves prescribing a course of antibiotic for several days to clear up the infection. Honeymoon cystitis generally responds quickly to the medication.
Preventing honeymoon cystitis
Once a woman has had a UTI, she quickly learns how to prevent one. There are several simple precautions a woman can do to reduce the risk of having another UTI:
· Drink at least 8 cups of water each day to flush out and prevent proliferation of bacteria keeping the urine from becoming concentrated to begin with.
· If is often recommended to drink cranberry juice, however evidence is not strong for its use but the increased liquid can still be helpful in flushing out bacteria.
· Always wipe after a bowel movement from front to back washing the urethra, vagina and anus in that order. This prevents bacteria from the anus entering the urethra.
· Always urinate after sexual intercourse, even if you don’t feel the need to.
· Avoid using any deodorant vaginal spray, or other feminine products such as douches and powders which can irritate the urethra.