Have you been feeling worried as to why you get UTI symptoms before your period? Does your urinary health take a hit around the time of periods leaving you unsure if there is a connection between your symptoms and your periods? You may also be wondering if having UTI can cause changes in the pattern of your menstrual cycle or can UTI make your periods late. Questions like these may shake your brain as to what is happening and why.
Worry no more! We explain your urinary health and the scientific facts about whether or not there is a connection between UTI symptoms and your periods. We will break down our talk into 2 main areas; urinary system and infections, and reproductive symptoms and physiology of your menstrual periods.
Urinary System and Infections
Our Urinary system or tract comprises the left and right kidneys with their respective ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra, the external opening through which you pass urine. The urethra can also be seen as a gateway to introducing infections or germs that can cause infections commonly known as UTIs.
How do you get Urinary Tract Infections?
According to the anatomical distribution, you can either have upper urinary tract infections or lower urinary tract infections. They are commonly called ascending infections as the germs from the skin or rectum gain access to the urinary tract through an external opening; the urethra. Depending upon the extent of exposure to bacteria or germs, you can either get urethritis; an infection of the urethra, cystitis; an infection of the bladder, or pyelonephritis; an infection of the kidneys which is the most severe form of infection.
How Common are Urinary Tract Infections?
Urinary tract infections continue to bear a high incidence of lifetime risk in women where approximately 55% of women will have at least one episode of UTI in their lifetime. In fact, it is one of the most common complaints of women around the world visiting doctors’ offices. Such infections are mostly caused by some bacteria that manage to invade the natural defense systems of our bodies. Once that defense is broken, bacteria get a chance to multiply and cause the infection to spread outwards to inwards (Urethra to kidneys). According to research, about 95% of UTIs occur as a result of infection starting from the urethra. In the rest of the 5% cases, UTIs occur as a result of blood-borne bacterial infection.
Can you get UTI from your Period?
You can get UTI from your period as a consequence of the hormonal changes that occur in our body during the menstrual cycle. The hormones released during the process cause fluctuations in our vaginal pH which further increases our susceptibility to germs and bacteria. Additionally, during the shedding of the uterus lining some tissue may be left behind in your urinary tract which can create a breeding ground for bacteria leading to UTI.
Can a UTI affect your period?
Having a UTI may not cause your period to be delayed or make it come earlier if you have a regular menstrual cycle. It is possible that the symptoms of the UTI like a burning sensation while urinating, fever, etc., can affect your general health and can lead to skipping your periods but cannot directly cause them. In some instances, if you have a UTI that is left untreated for a long time, the infection can spread to the reproductive organs and affect your period. In such cases, it is recommended to seek medical attention as soon as possible to avoid more severe problems.
Bladder Infections and Periods
Having a bladder infection can also cause changes in your period. When you have a bladder infection, it may be painful to urinate and there could be an increase in the amount of urine that is produced. This can cause increased pressure on the uterus which then impacts the menstrual cycle by causing cramps or irregular periods. Additionally, if the bladder infection is severe, it can also lead to hormonal imbalances that may cause changes in your period. If you are experiencing any symptoms of a bladder infection alongside irregular periods, then it is recommended that you visit a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.
Types of UTIs
There are two types of Urinary tract infections; that is Uncomplicated and Complicated.
Uncomplicated Urinary Tract Infections
We can consider a UTI to be uncomplicated when bladder or kidney infection is present with:
- This occurs in women in the age group that still have menstrual periods
- In women who have no anatomical variation of the urinary tract
- In women who are not pregnant
- In women who have no un-controlled co-morbid conditions
These UTIs are usually easy to treat with or without antibiotics depending upon the severity of the infection.
Complicated Urinary Tract Infections
Any UTI that does not fulfil the criteria for uncomplicated UTI is relatively harder to treat and is called a complicated UTI. A UTI is considered complicated if:
- It occurs in pregnant women or children
- There is anatomical variation or abnormality causing urine flow obstruction
- There is an uncontrolled medical conditions such as poorly controlled diabetes, chronic kidney disease
- In the case of recent surgery on the urinary tract
Acute Urethral Syndrome
There is a third variety called Acute Urethral Syndrome that causes the frequency of urination and pain while voiding however, it does not reflect as a full-blown infection on the urine culture results. The causes can be non-infectious such as tightening of the urethral opening, dryness of urethral walls due to post-menopausal state in women or localized trauma.
Risk Factors for developing UTI
The main risk factors for developing UTI in women include:
- Sexual intercourse
- Diaphragm or spermicide product use
- Recent antibiotic use
- New sex partner during the last year
- Personal history of repeated UTIs
- The first episode of UTI occurs at an early age
- Positive history of UTIs in the first-degree female relatives
Is cloudy urine a symptom of UTI?
Cloudy urine is one of the common symptoms of UTI. Cloudy urine may also be accompanied by a strong smell and can be caused by an infection or the presence of white blood cells in the urine sample due to inflammation in the urinary tract. Other causes include kidney stones, dehydration, etc.
UTI Like Symptoms
UTI can present with signs and symptoms that are milder in nature or can present as full-blown sepsis in severe cases. Common symptoms that may mean you might have UTI are:
- Dysuria; pain while urinating
- Frequency; an urge to urinate frequently
- Burning micturition; burning sensation while voiding small amounts of urine
- Nocturia; waking up at night to pass urine
- Pain in the lower mid-abdomen
- Lower back pain or flank pain
- Low to high-grade fever, chills
- Nausea and vomiting
Reproductive Systems and Menstrual Periods
The female reproductive system consists of two ovaries located on each side of the pelvis, Uterus, and vagina the opening of which lies close to the urethral opening. Each month, women go through a cycle of hormonal changes that prepare the ovaries and uterus for a possible pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, the lining of the uterus sheds off so it can rejuvenate and prepare itself to enter into the next cycle. This shredded lining includes blood vessels that result in bleeding during periods.
In order to understand your urinary and reproductive health and their relation with each other, let us talk about the basic anatomy of the female pelvis.
Figure 1: Female Anatomy 
As you can see, there is close proximity between the vaginal opening; the outlet for blood from periods and the urethral opening; the outlet for urine. Some researchers identify this distance to be around 1 cm. Even though both these openings are lying next to each other, there is no connection between both systems internally. Hence, having a urinary tract infection will have NO role in causing adverse changes to the menstrual cycle.
Relationship Between UTI and Reproductive Health
Considering the close anatomical proximity of the two systems, it is inevitable for someone to have one system affected by the other, however, it has never been reported to affect negatively. It simply means that having UTI is not caused by hormonal changes in the body however; some women might experience UTI symptoms before, during or around their periods.
Periods During UTI
There could be many causes that directly or indirectly cause UTI like symptoms before, during, or right after periods. Let’s explain the causes one by one.
During periods, women’s bodies may be more sensitive to pathogenic bacteria than any other time of the month. Not changing tampons or pads often can be a favorable environment for bacteria to grow to make the pelvic area vulnerable to infections.
Low Immune System
During periods, the natural defense mechanism of our bodies is reduced. This can also mean this is the time when bacteria can attack and your body will not be in a prepared state to defend against bacteria-hence causing Urinary tract infections.
A few days prior to your menstrual periods, energy levels naturally decline to lead to symptoms of PMS. If you are in stress, it is likely to not take care of your health as you normally would. This way, it may also make your body vulnerable to infections like flu or UTIs.
Use of Antibiotics
The use of antibiotics can be looked at from 2 angles.
- If you have taken antibiotics for any other infection in the body in the last few months, it may cause flushing out of normal healthy bacteria that are present in the vagina. These healthy bacteria are responsible for maintaining a healthy and moist environment inside the vagina. In the absence of these defenders, women can develop vaginal infections and due to close proximity of the vaginal opening to the urethra, the infection may enter into urinary symptoms.
- If you experience a urinary tract infection and your doctor prescribes antibiotics for the treatment, this may cause a delay in your periods. Most antibiotics do not interact with your menstrual cycle however one antibiotic (Rifampin) can reduce the effect of hormonal contraception if you are using it. Any hormonal method such as oral contraceptive pills, hormonal IUDs (Mirena), or rings can be affected by this antibiotic. Rifampin is commonly used for the treatment of tuberculosis. 
If you are exhibiting signs of urinary tract infection and have a delay in your periods, pregnancy could be another reason. Some signs of early pregnancy may mimic signs of UTI such as frequency of urination, nausea, vomiting, and lower abdominal pain. If you are sexually active and have missed your periods along with some signs similar to UTI, it is important to reach out to your physician and get checked for pregnancy.
Diabetes is a broad systemic chronic disease that may affect various systems of our bodies. It is also another cause of changing vaginal environment making it favorable for vaginal infections that can in turn cause UTI-like symptoms due to anatomical proximity.
Menopause or Pre-Menopause
Towards the end of reproductive life, women’s bodies undergo a series of changes primarily triggered by insufficient hormones. Estrogen is a hormone that is responsible for keeping the vaginal wall moist. When estrogen levels drop in the body, the vaginal walls may experience dryness that results in itching, and it also irritates the urinary tract causing the frequency of urination.
Can you engage in Sexual Activity?
Engaging in sexual activity with a UTI can be quite uncomfortable. It will increase the chances of further irritation to your urinary tract walls and cause more pain. The risk of spreading infection between partners is also present. If you are experiencing any symptoms associated with UTI, it is advised to abstain from sexual intercourse.
How to Prevent UTI symptoms before your period
Having discussed the possible causes that may be responsible for urinary tract infection symptoms around periods, it is time to talk about the ideas to prevent them. There are a few practices that can be taken into account in order to prevent UTI or UTI-like infections.
Taking care of hygiene practices in general and particularly during the period cycle is fundamental in preventing urinary tract symptoms. Small things such as wiping front to back will prevent fecal contamination of our urinary tract opening, hence preventing infections. Changing tampons or pads frequently also helps prevent harboring of bacteria or UTI-causing organisms. Periods blood itself is not considered unhygienic but the products that we use to absorb the blood can absorb moisture and can become a suitable environment for germs to grow and spread.
Behavioral measures include increasing fluid intake, avoiding spermicide and diaphragm use, not delaying voiding after having sex, avoiding douching, and avoiding holding urine when there is an urge. Some researchers suggest that cranberry products help prevent and clear urinary tract infections however the data is not strongly supportive of this fact. 
Having a stress-free lifestyle is easier said than done. However, we can still try to incorporate some stress-relieving activities in our lives such as Yoga, meditation, journaling for mental health, and mindfulness exercises. Having coping strategies to reduce levels of stress in our bodies will help keep our bodies in a healthy state, ready to attack the germs causing UTIs.
Periodic Health Check-ups
Taking care of your general health also helps in identifying hidden medical conditions such as diabetes or failed contraceptive use. Anticipating symptoms and conditions before they happen and also identifying them in the early stages help address the concerns more effectively.
Manage UTI Around Periods
CareClinic is a comprehensive platform for all your health needs. It offers multiple options such as symptom tracking, setting reminders, journaling your health, and communicating with healthcare providers. It is a way of managing your health conditions proactively by monitoring your healthcare needs and tracking symptoms if they are bothersome. The platform aims to simplify the lives around healthcare and wellness. Specifically pertaining to urinary tract infection symptoms around menstrual periods, there are many ways you can use the CareClinic platform to make your life easier and get a hold of your wellness.
Some of the ways that you can use this platform to simplify your life and management of your well-being are explained here.
CareClinic can track your symptoms such as urinary frequency, urgency, blood in the urine or pain while voiding. You can also track mucus in stool using the built-in Stool Tracker. You can log the severity of each symptom on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being not severe at all and 10 being the most severe. You can also track symptoms related to your periods such as abdominal cramps, rate of blood flow, and back pain. Based on the symptoms you are tracking, you can generate the report to see the trends and whether there is an association between UTI symptoms and your periods.
CareClinic also has a feature to track your nutrition input. Take water and fluid intake as an example. You can enter fluids you have been taking and types of fluids you have been drinking such as water, cranberry juice, etc.
Using the diary function within the CareClinic app, you can document your days and events. You can also record the evolution of your symptoms over a period of time. You can also record with time any particular event or possible association of your symptoms that may help to identify a link in conjunction with the Symptom tracking feature. It is like an open canvas to journal your days in general or specifically about a symptom or condition. If you are taking any medication for your periods or urinary tract infection, using this feature will help you and your healthcare provider to assess the response to treatment.
“Ask a Doctor Now”
This feature helps you to connect with a community of healthcare providers with broad and extensive experience. Using this, you can ask questions directly from the physicians about your medical issues and concerns. Custom care plans for Urinary tract infections are also available through the premium features.
This is a premium feature that helps you to connect with the other people in the community that are in a similar situation as you are pertaining to your health. The CareClinic app assists people in connecting based on similar conditions, custom care plans, custom reminders, etc.
Using the CareClinic app also helps you set reminders for various things. For example, if you are on a contraceptive pill, it is important to take the medication roughly at the same time always. The CareClinic app can help you set the medication log and remind you to take your pill every day. You can do this with any medication that you are going to be using for a certain number of days as well as for chronic medication such as contraceptive pills. You can also generate tracking reports to see how compliant you have been with the medication intake. Moreover, you can also show the data to your doctor to discuss your progress.
To summarize, going through recurrent urinary tract infections and wondering whether there is a connection between UTI symptoms and your periods, can be stressful. In short, having urinary tract infections will NOT have a direct link to throwing off your periods’ schedule.
However, there are many small things that can be considered to prevent the symptoms of urinary tract infection. By using the platform of CareClinic, you can easily be in control of your well-being and manage your symptoms without any hassle.
Other Treatment Options
Intravenous antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor if you are suffering from recurrent UTIs. This is done to reduce the risk of long-term kidney damage due to recurrent infections. Additionally, there are certain lifestyle changes that can help in preventing recurrent UTIs such as drinking plenty of fluids, frequent urination, and proper hygiene.
Many women also find that using non-absorbable antibiotics called prophylactic antibiotics may help. These antibiotics are taken on a regular basis to prevent bacterial growth in the bladder and urethra. This treatment must be discussed with your doctor. Lastly, drinking cranberry juice can also reduce the risk of recurrent UTIs as it helps flush out bacteria from the bladder.
Managing UTI Symptoms before your period
All in all, CareClinic provides a comprehensive way of tracking and managing urinary tract infections to avoid recurrent issues. With its symptom tracker, you can document your days and events as well as record the evolution of your symptoms over a period of time. The reminder functionality also helps you set reminders for taking medications, drinking plenty of fluids, or other health-related tasks. In addition to the app, some lifestyle changes such as drinking cranberry juice, taking prophylactic antibiotics, and frequent urination can also help in preventing recurrent UTIs. Therefore, with a combination of all these techniques, you will be able to take control of your urinary tract infection and reduce the chances of recurrent infections.
By using CareClinic, you can be in control of your health and manage UTI symptoms without any hassle. CareClinic is now available on Android and iOS, you can get it by tapping here.