Urinary tract infections are annoying occurrences that happen to many women. Sex, of course, is a big cause: nearly 80 percent of infections in young women occur in the 24 hours after intercourse. But sex isn't the only thing that can bring a UTI into your life—some of us are sabotaging the health of our urinary tracts without even realizing it. Here are some lesser-known habits that could increase your risk.
1. Being dehydrated
When you drink less, you pee less—and that can lead to more UTIs. "Urination is the best way to keep bacteria moving out instead of adhering to your urethra," explains Dr. Payal Bhandari,a physician on Uqora's scientific advisory board. Drinking enough water is especially important in the warmer weather, when UTIs skyrocket due to dehydration.
2. Holding in urine
If you need to go to the bathroom, go—whatever you're doing on can wait. Otherwise, bacteria can get stuck in your urinary tract, says Bhandari. Dr. Koushik Shaw, board-certified urologist and founder of the Austin Urology Institute, recommends peeing every two to three hours. And in case you haven't heard, you should also pee after sex.
3. Wiping from back to front
Toilet paper can push UTI-causing bacteria into the urethra, so make sure to always wipe from front to back, says Dr. Yvonne Bohn, an OB/GYN with the urinary tract health brand Cystex.
4. Wearing too-tight thongs or pants
Anything that irritates the anal or rectal areas can move bacteria toward the urethra, says Bohn. Make sure nothing is uncomfortably tight.
5. Using certain birth control methods
Diaphragms may be back, but they can also prevent you from fully emptying your bladder while inserted, and some spermicides may change your vaginal pH, making it easier for bacteria to grow. If you keep getting UTIs and use one of these methods, Bohn recommends asking your doctor about switching.
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6. Taking bubble baths
Because some bath products contain a lot of synthetic ingredients, "you probably don’t want them lingering in your bath water, where they may cause irritation to the urethral area," says Shaw. If you've like to use bubbles or bath bombs, stick to ones with minimal and organic ingredients.
7. Drinking too much coffee, juice or alcohol
The darker the drink, the more likely it is to act as a diuretic, spurring you to produce more urine, explains Shaw. Alcohol can also irritate your bladder, as can having too much juice—yes, even cranberry juice.
8. Wearing wet clothes
Bathing suits and sweaty workout clothes create the moist type of environment bacteria thrive in (which makes them a culprit for yeast infections, too), so Shaw recommends changing out of them right away if you're done working out or swimming.
9. Using unwashed sex toys
If there is built-up bacteria on one of your toys, " your urethra, which is very (close) to your clitoris, [can] become exposed to a number of infection-causing microbes," says Shaw. So, clean your toys after each use with mild soap and warm water.