None of us really looking forward to that time of the month, but it can be even more disorienting to be late or irregular. There are a lot of contributing factors to irregular cycles—can UTIs be one of them?
UTI and period correlation
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most frequent bacterial infections in women, accounting for nearly 25% of all infections. Since UTIs are incredibly common, it might make you wonder if UTIs and periods are correlated? Outside of the fact that both UTIs and periods are common, the answer is no—having a UTI should not directly affect your period. There are other factors that link UTIs and periods, though, like hormonal imbalances, stress, sex, and hygiene.
Sex and UTIs
Sex is a contributing factor to UTIs—one of the most common triggers. One reason why it might seem like there's a link between UTIs and periods is because some women have more sex during their period since they are not worried about getting pregnant. Sex during your period can irritate your already sensitized urethra (from your period) making it more susceptible to bacterial infections. Read more about UTIs from sex.
Tampons and UTIs
While tampons don’t cause UTIs, tampons and pads that are not changed regularly enough promote bacterial growth and can increase your chance of getting a UTI. Additionally using tampons while you have a UTI can cause flare-ups in UTI symptoms. To prevent UTIs in general and especially while you're on your period, good hygiene is key. This means using good quality products that are absorbent and free of parabens and dyes, changing your feminine products regularly (never leave a tampon in for more than 6 hours) and keeping yourself clean and dry.
Can UTIs cause a delayed period?
We know UTIs aren’t the direct cause of your late or missed period, but stress is something both UTIs and periods have in common. The hormones that tell your body to start your period are regulated in the part of your brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is greatly affected by stress, so in times of great emotional or physical stress, it is common to have a late or missed period.
Everybody is slightly different and responds to stress in different ways, but any type of intense stress can affect your menstruation. For example, training for a marathon can put your body in so much physical stress you miss your period. Any chronic disease, especially a chronic diseases left untreated, can cause a build-up of stress that affects your period. It is possible, though unlikely, for a UTI to stress you out to a point where you miss your period.
So, do UTIs impact your period? No, not directly, but there are a lot of external factors that do correlate the two, even if there's no direct causation between getting a UTI and getting (or missing) your period.
Urinary tract infections can bring more than enough problems to your life, but can a uti delay a period? Because a UTI taxes your body’s immune system as it fights the invading pathogens, you can experience much more stress than usual. This has the potential to cause a delay in the arrival of your period, but other causes for being late should not be overlooked.
If you are fighting off a uti while on period time, it’s not unlikely that you are also taking prescribed antibiotics. This can have an effect on your body’s ability to produce the estrogen that’s needed to stimulate an egg release from your ovaries. When there’s no egg produced, there can also be no activation of a menstrual flow. Overall, your hormones are regulated by the hypothalamus portion of your brain, and that’s also one of the areas that can easily be affected by physical or emotional stress.
An additional connection between uti and period timing is that your estrogen levels are lowest during your menstrual flow. In addition to its role in your reproductive cycles, estrogen had been found to have anti-inflammatory characteristics that can help mobilize the body’s ability to fight the inflammatory effect of a UTI. This means you can be more susceptible to the effects of a UTI when you have lower estrogen levels or you may be less capable of preventing one from taking hold.
When you take antibiotics, they become metabolized and broken down in your liver. The liver is also where estrogen is metabolized and the interaction between antibiotics and the liver can speed up the breaking down of estrogen. This can result in a significant change in the amount of the hormone that plays a vital role in regulating menstrual cycles; a disruption of some sort isn’t too surprising.
Coming down with a uti before period start times can result in more than just a few days of prescribed antibiotic intake before your anticipated due date. The problem with most antibiotics is that they’re not too picky about their bacterial targets. They can wipe out quite of few of those helpful gut bacteria that live in your internal microbiome. Some of those bacteria are involved in the final break down of the estrogen metabolites that were supposed to be disposed of. When there’s not enough microbiome bacteria to perform that chore, the estrogen metabolites can revert back to their active forms. This is another scenario that results in estrogen levels that are far from normal, and which has the potential to derail the timely functioning of your menstrual cycle.
It’s been established that sex and UTIs are connected. During sex you can come into contact with bacteria that have the potential to travel from your vagina to your urinary tract where they can develop into a UTI. If you’re sexually active during your period — which can represent a safe-sex time of the month for women not practicing birth control — then this can be the flip-side scenario. Your period can play a role in increasing the chances of contracting a UTI.
The matter of how can a uti affect your period may not be the best area to focus on compared to giving some thought to how you can help prevent urinary tract infections from occurring in the first place. There’s no need to consider either giving up or limiting sex during any time of the month. Invest some time and energy into the consideration of preventive lifestyle adjustments and the available natural approaches. They can help you to remain free of both troublesome infections and the disruptive effects of the antibiotics typically prescribed to treat them.