Vaginal Health and UTIs

We now know that vaginal health and the vaginal microbiome are critical for urinary health and disruptions can increase the risk of UTIs. Bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections, pelvic floor health, menstruation, menopause, and sexual activity all have an impact on vaginal health and, in turn, urinary health. You can read more about these topics here.

UTIs and Periods - why might menstruation influence UTI risk?

Here are the pH-acts

Is my IUD giving me BV?

Can physical therapy help prevent UTIs?

Vaginal Health and UTIs

We now know that vaginal health and the vaginal microbiome are critical for urinary health and disruptions can increase the risk of UTIs. Bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections, pelvic floor health, menstruation, menopause, and sexual activity all have an impact on vaginal health and, in turn, urinary health. You can read more about these topics here.

UTIs and Periods - why might menstruation influence UTI risk?

Here are the pH-acts

Is my IUD giving me BV?

Can physical therapy help prevent UTIs?

When did doctors start recommending antibiotics after sex for UTI prevention?

What is BV and how to stop the cycle

Can a new sex partner cause UTIs and BV?

Beginners Guide to Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

Voiding Dysfunction: Urinary Frequency

What is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?

When did doctors start recommending antibiotics after sex for UTI prevention?

What is BV and how to stop the cycle

Can a new sex partner cause UTIs and BV?

Beginners Guide to Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

Voiding Dysfunction: Urinary Frequency

What is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?

 

Tackling recurrent and chronic UTIs requires a holistic approach. The urinary tract does not exist in a vacuum and its neighbor, the vagina, plays a major role in its health. We now know that the vaginal microbiome needs to be in a healthy balance for optimal urinary health. The vaginal microbiome is a complex ecosystem of microbes. This ecosystem can be disrupted via periods and the use of pads and tampons, through sexual activity, antibiotics, hygiene and cleaning products, and more. In the vaginal health and UTIs section of the UTI Learning Center, we discuss vaginal health and its impact on urinary health and recurrent UTIs. We also make recommendations for how to maintain a healthy vagina.

Vaginal pH is low, around 4.5, meaning it is acidic. Most healthy vaginal ecosystems are dominated by lactobacilli bacteria. There are many different types of lactobacillus and those found in the gut are not the same as those that live naturally in the vagina. These bacteria metabolize sugar to lactic acid. Lactic acid keeps the pH low. They also release hydrogen peroxide, which further decreases pH and oxygenates the vaginal environment. Together, these compounds make the vaginal environment less hospitable to pathogens like yeast and the bacteria responsible for bacterial vaginosis (BV).

BV and UTIs are now understood to be quite connected. BV increases UTI risk up to 13-fold. The bacteria responsible actually travel to the urinary tract and make it more vulnerable to infection. Here, you can read more about how these bacteria can cause recurring UTIs from sex and other activities. Similarly, antibiotic treatment for a UTI increases the risk of BV because the antibiotics can disrupt the vaginal microbiome. BV is also treated with antibiotics and the responsible bacteria can become resistant to those antibiotics quite quickly. These factors can lead to the cycle of vaginal and urinary tract infections experienced by many.

Vaginal health plays a very important role in UTIs that occur during and post menopause. During menopause, estrogen production declines, and this leads to significant changes to the vaginal microbiome. The vagina may become dominated by non-lactobacillus bacteria and pH can rise dramatically. This naturally occurring process can lead to other symptoms like vaginal atrophy and dryness. Estrogen cream therapy is commonly prescribed for postmenopausal women experiencing these symptoms and/or recurring UTIs. Here, you can read more about UTIs in postmenopausal women.

If you are getting recurrent UTIs that have been difficult to get ahead of, it is important to think about what role vaginal health might be playing and what you can do about it. If you have suggestions for topics related to vaginal health, please reach out to us and let us know. The urogenital system is called a system because it is all connected! At Uqora, we believe in sharing educational information not just on the immediate problem of UTIs but also on any factors that might be contributing to them.

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