Can a urinary tract infection (UTI) affect your period?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) can’t directly affect your menstrual period. It won’t worsen it or cause you to miss a period.
But periods and UTIs may share a symptom and risk factor.
- During a UTI or period, you might notice blood mixed with urine, also called hematuria.
- Stress can make you more susceptible to a UTI, and it can also cause your period to be late.
UTIs and periods can occur at the same time, or separately.
While UTIs and periods don’t impact each other directly, certain behaviors surrounding your
period might increase the chance of developing a UTI.
- Women may have more sex while on their period because they are less likely to become pregnant during this time.
- Sexual intercourse increases the risk for a UTI, as it can move infection-causing bacteria from the anus or vagina to the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body).
Other factors such as your choice of feminine hygiene products during your period could potentially affect your risk for developing a UTI.
- Sanitary napkins may promote the growth of bacteria, which can lead to a UTI.
- Using unscented tampons or making sure to change sanitary pads frequently may help lower this risk.
In addition, douching or using feminine sprays or powders to reduce period odor increases your risk of a UTI and other infections. These products can upset the balance of healthy bacteria in
your genital area.
Your vagina naturally cleanses itself by making mucus that carries away blood, semen and vaginal discharge. If you are concerned about odor, washing gently with warm water and mild
soap is the best way to clean your genitals.
Understanding urinary tract infection risks
- Women who use diaphragms may be at increased risk of UTIs because they can slow the flow of urine, which can encourage bacterial growth.
- Condoms with spermicidal foam may also increase the chances of developing a UTI because they can offset the bacterial balance in the vagina.
- Certain conditions including pregnancy, diabetes, kidney stones and the hormonal changes of menopause also increase the risk of developing a UTI.
- Risk is also elevated after a catheter is placed in the urethra and bladder to drain urine as part of a surgical procedure.
To lower your risk, drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and fully empty the bladder when urinating. Some evidence suggests that cranberry juice or tablets may help prevent UTIs, but the evidence is mixed.
What is a urinary tract infection?
A UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urethra and begins to grow. It can spread to any other part of the urinary tract, including the bladder, ureters or kidneys. As many as 60% of women and 12% of men will have at least one UTI during the course of their lifetime.
These infections are more common in women than men because the female urethra is shorter and closer to the anus, where UTI-causing E. coli bacteria can be found. The female urethra is also close to the vagina, which can introduce bacteria into the urethra.
UTI symptoms include:
- Burning pain in the urethra when peeing
- A strong urge to urinate that returns frequently
- Cloudy and/or blood-tinged urine
- A strong odor from the urine if bacteria is present
Signs that a UTI has spread to the kidneys may include:
- Soreness in the lower abdomen, back or sides
Kidney infections are serious and require urgent medical attention.
UTIs can be diagnosed by analyzing a urine sample under a microscope for signs of infection such as bacteria or white blood cells.
- National Health Service (NHS). Stopped or missed periods. August 2, 2019. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stopped-or-missed-periods/. [Accessed September 30, 2020].
- Urology Care Foundation. What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in Adults? April 2019. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/urinary-tract-infections-in-adults#CausesSources. [Accessed September 30, 2020].
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Urinary Tract Infections.February 2019. Available at: https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/gynecologic-problems/urinary-tract-infections. [Accessed September 30, 2020].
- Urology Care Foundation. Hematuria. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/educational-materials/hematuria. [Accessed September 30, 2020].
- MedlinePlus. Urinary tract infection in women — self-care. March 28, 2019. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000391.htm. [Accessed October 5, 2020].
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office on Women’s Health. Douching. April 1, 2019. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/douching#4. [Accessed October 5, 2020].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Urinary Tract Infection. August 27, 2019. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/uti.html [Accessed September 30, 2020].