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UTIs and Menopause: Causes, Management & Prevention

You'll know by now if you read our blog regularly that our content ideas come from many sources. In this case it was an eye opening read in the Guardian titled 'Millions of women are suffering and don't have to, how to avoid the misery of UTI's'

Here at Cheeky we've been chatting with women about pee, poo and periods for the last 15 years since we launched our 'Simple Reusable' wipes kit, swiftly followed by reusable period pads and pants.

We've had feedback from older women that switching to reusable products, including organic cotton panty liners and our reusable toilet paper can help their vulva feel much more comfortable and improve symptoms including vaginal dryness and soreness.

However we didn't appreciate the impact that Urinary Tract Infections (UTI's) can have on older women, which is really quite shocking.

8 Things You Need To Know About UTI's and Menopause

Here's 8 things you need to know about UTI's and the Menopause:

  • over half of hospital UTI admissions are for people over 65
  • a quarter of all sepsis cases are related to UTIs – that’s more than 50,000 a year in the UK
  • women are 30 times more likely to get a urinary tract infection than men
  • in the past five years, there were 1.8m hospital admissions involving UTIs in England alone
  • the NHS says the death rate for hospital UTIs is 4 in 100, rising to 1 in 10 in those aged 95 and over
  • NHS warned that UTIs “are one of the leading causes of life-threatening E coli bloodstream infections".
  • one in four women have a UTI strain resistant to certain common antibiotics
  • vaginal oestrogen can halve UTIs in older women

You'll probably know that menopause brings about various changes in the body, but you may not have appreciated the impact on your urinary tract. Understanding the connection between UTIs and menopause is crucial for managing and preventing these uncomfortable infections effectively.

What is a UTI?

A UTI, short for Urinary Tract Infection, occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract and multiply, leading to inflammation and discomfort.

Common symptoms of a uti include a frequent urge to urinate, a burning sensation during urination (OUCH), cloudy or strong-smelling urine, and sometimes even pelvic pain.

These symptoms cause physical discomfort but can also impact mental well-being, leading to stress and anxiety. As the Gurdian article explained, they can lead to kidney infections, bladder infections, delirium, sepsis and even death, particularly in older women.

One HUGE risk factor for UTIs is menopause which can cause recurrent UTI's and make life thoroughly miserable.

The Connection Between Menopause and UTIs

Menopause brings significant hormonal changes, particularly a decrease in oestrogen levels.

This decline can cause vaginal atrophy, which weakens the pelvic floor muscles and the lining of the urinary tract, making it easier for bacteria to thrive and cause infections.

Additionally, changes in the acidity of the vagina during menopause can also contribute to an increased risk of UTIs. These factors collectively make UTIs more common during and after menopause.

How to Manage UTIs After Menopause

Treating UTIs during menopause involves various strategies to alleviate symptoms and prevent recurrent infections which can really impact quality of life. Here's some tips on how to manage UTI's after menopause:

1. Vaginal Oestrogen

Vaginal oestrogen applied as a gel or cream or inserted as a pessary or ring can help restore the thickness and elasticity of the vaginal tissues, reducing the risk of UTIs.

These creams, gels or pessaries are cheap and easy to use too, costing the NHS around £5 for the cream. Meanwhile hospital admissions for people with UTIs stand at around £400m a year.

A recent article in 'Contemporary Ob/Gyn' stated that recurring UTI's were decreased by 51.9% in their 10 year study which is really quite incredible.

So, if you suffer with recurring UTI's, a visit to your GP asking for vaginal oestrogen should be your first port of call.

2. Antibiotics

In cases of acute UTIs, antibiotics are often prescribed to eliminate the bacterial infection, however antibiotic resistance is high with one in four women having a UTI strain resistant to certain common antibiotics. Vaginal oestrogen can be a fantastic alternative for these women.

If you're prescribed antibiotics, it's crucial to complete the full course of antibiotics to ensure the infection is completely eradicated and to prevent recurrence.

Shop Reusable Incontinence Pants

3. Reusable Incontinence Pants

Reusable incontinence pants can provide added protection against leakage and accidents, especially for women experiencing urinary incontinence alongside UTIs during menopause.

Cheeky pants are breathable and super absorbent, giving comfort, absorbency, and peace of mind, allowing you to go about your daily activities without worry.

4 Reusable Toilet Paper

Lots of people initially have the 'ick' when they consider reusable loo roll. However, it's just little cloths which are used to wipe from front to back. They're MUCH less drying than using tissue paper which makes it perfect for reducing vaginal dryness. Many of our customers note how much more clean and comfortable you feel after switching.

Excellent! I wouldn't be without it. One of my children gets a sore bottom from loo roll use but these are super for him. I love them too you feel PROPERLY clean after using. Really glad I purchased. Trustpilot Review

Cranberry juice used to be recommended by many for treatment, however there's no evidence to show that it has any positive impact more other than placebo.

How to Prevent UTIs During Menopause

Making a few lifestyle switches can really minimise the risk of bacterial growth in the urinary tract. Here's some tips on how to prevent UTI's during and after menopause:

1. Pee After Sex

Peeing after sexual helps flush out any bacteria that may have entered the urinary tract during intercourse, reducing the risk of UTIs. I've personally found this really helpful!

2. Stay Hydrated

Drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day helps to flush out harmful bacteria from the urinary tract, reducing the likelihood of UTIs.

Aim to drink at least eight glasses of liquid daily to stay hydrated and maintain urinary health.

3. Avoid Douching & Feminine Hygiene Products

Douching and using certain feminine hygiene products are just a BAD idea, disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina, making it more susceptible to infections, including UTIs. We've got a cracking article on 'how to clean your vagina and vulva' if you'd like more details.

4. Switch to reusable incontinence protection

Sweaty plastic filled pads can cause irritation even without a UTI on top. Switch to organic cotton incontinence pads for moderate incontinence and let your vulva breathe!

Shop Reusable Toilet Wipes

5. Switch to reusable toilet wipes

If you got dog poo on your arm you wouldn't just wipe it off with tissue. You'd properly clean yourself! Switching to reusable toilet wipes means you're left thoroughly clean without dragging and pulling your delicate vulva tissue.

6. Empty your bladder completely

Doctors used to tell women looking to improve their pelvic floor control to try and stop peeing mid flow.  However this advice has changed as stopping mid-flow can actually cause UTI's.  Always try to empty your bladder completely each time you wee.

If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to reach out to us, the team all use the products themselves and LOVE to chat pee, poo and periods.

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About the Author: Helen Rankin founded Cheeky Wipes, the original reusable wipes kit back in 2008 after disposable wipes caused her eczema to flare up. 4 kids later, she went on to develop their range of 'Simple Reusables' to include period pants, reusable period kits and reusable sanitary pads.  Both she and the rest of the leadership team are now navigating menopause, with all the joys it brings!

The Cheeky customer services team pride themselves on providing honest, friendly advice and just LOVE to chat pee, poo and periods all day long, helping people make the switch to reusables! The Company was recognised for their hard work in developing environmentally friendly products with the Queens Award in Enterprise for Sustainable Development in 2021.