Can Your Birth Control Increase Your Risk of a UTI?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is typically caused by bacteria that gets into your urinary system. This can result in an infection in your urethra, bladder, ureters, or kidneys.
UTIs are more common in women than in men. In fact, more than half of women will have at least one UTI at some point in their lives.
Many factors can increase your risk of getting a UTI, including some types of birth control.
Keep reading to learn more about the types of birth control that may raise your risk of developing a UTI, and which types likely won’t.
Which types of birth control may increase your risk of a UTI?
Not all forms of birth control can increase your risk of developing a UTI. However, research has shown that some types of birth control may do so. This includes:
- Diaphragms. This is a reusable silicone cup that’s placed inside the vagina. It fits over the cervix (opening of the uterus) and creates a barrier between the uterus and sperm.
- Cervical caps. A cervical cap is similar to a diaphragm and also works by preventing sperm from entering the uterus. The main difference is that it’s smaller than a diaphragm and fits more tightly over the cervix.
- Spermicide. Available as a cream, gel, foam, or suppository, spermicides work by killing sperm and blocking the cervix. Spermicide can be used alone or with diaphragms, cervical caps, or condoms.
- Spermicide condoms. Some condoms are coated with spermicide as an extra layer of protection.
What’s the link between some types of birth control and UTIs?
The vagina naturally contains good bacteria that help keep the vagina healthy and the pH level balanced. However, certain things, like some birth control products, can destroy this good bacteria.
When this happens, it can disrupt the natural balance of the vagina and cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. This, in turn, may increase the risk of a UTI.
Also, diaphragms can put pressure on your urethra, making it harder to completely empty your bladder. When urine stays in the bladder, it may increase the risk of bacteria growth and infection.
Do birth control pills increase the risk of a UTI?
Studies have shown that birth control pills don’t increase your risk of developing a UTI.
Additionally, in 2019, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality stated in a topic briefing that: “Risk factors for recurrent UTI are well-established, and do not include oral contraceptive use.”
Although some women who take birth control pills have reported having more UTIs compared to not taking oral contraceptives, there may be another reason for this. Some experts believe that women who take birth control pills have more sex, and this may be why they develop more UTIs.
Having sex, in general, is a risk factor for a UTI because sexual activity can move bacteria into the urinary tract.
What are your options?
If you’re worried about developing a UTI, talk to your doctor about the birth control options that may be best suited to you.
In addition to birth control pills, the following types of birth control may not increase your risk of a UTI:
- condoms (without spermicide)
- an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Depo-Provera shot
- a contraceptive implant
- birth control patch
- tubal ligation or vasectomy
What else can increase your risk of a UTI?
In addition to some birth control methods and frequent sexual activity, the following may also increase your risk of developing a UTI:
- Scented feminine hygiene products. Products like douches, scented tampons or pads, scented powders, and deodorant sprays can cause a disruption of the natural pH level in the vagina and lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
- Wiping from back to front. Wiping your genitals from back to front can increase the risk of bringing bacteria from the anus into the urethra. Wipe from front to back instead.
- Not urinating after sex. Sexual activity can increase the risk of bacteria getting into the urethra. Urinating after sex can flush the bacteria out of your urinary tract.
- Holding your pee. Holding your pee for too long can encourage bacterial growth.
- Pregnancy. Hormones during pregnancy can change the bacteria in your urinary tract. Also, if you can’t empty your bladder completely during pregnancy, leftover urine can increase the risk of a UTI.
- Menopause. A lower level of estrogen can cause vaginal tissue to become thin and dry, which may make it easier for bacteria to grow.
- A weakened immune system. Anything that weakens your immune system can make it harder to fight off infections.
- Kidney stones. The stones can block the flow of urine between your kidneys and bladder.
- Catheter procedure. Having a catheter placed into your bladder can increase the risk of bacteria being introduced into the urethra.
When to see your doctor
If you have symptoms of a UTI, be sure to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Typical symptoms of a UTI include:
- pain or burning when you urinate
- frequent urination
- an urge to urinate, even if you don’t have to
- bloody or cloudy-looking urine
- abdominal pressure or pain
Treatment for a UTI
Most UTIs are treated with antibiotics. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, antibiotic treatments are usually very effective, and only last a few days.
If a UTI has progressed to a more severe infection, your doctor may prescribe other medications in addition to antibiotics. Although rare, hospitalization may be needed in some cases.
While you’re waiting for your doctor’s appointment, try to:
- Drink plenty of water. This may help to flush out bacteria and prevent the infection from getting worse.
- Steer clear of irritants. Avoid beverages that contain caffeine, alcohol, or citrus.
- Use a heating pad. Applying a warm heating pad to your abdomen may help relieve pressure and pain.
The bottom line
Many factors can increase your risk of getting a UTI, including some types of birth control, such as diaphragms, cervical caps, spermicides, and spermicide condoms.
If you’re concerned about developing a UTI from your form of birth control, talk to your doctor about the options that may be best suited to you and your partner.
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