While science now shows that men have a cycle, much as women do, they don’t menstruate, meaning that women deal with monthly bleeding that men do not. As if that isn’t enough of an issue for women, with cramps in their uterus and ovaries ranging from annoying to debilitating, women are also more prone to urinary tract infections, or UTIs, with about 50 percent of women experiencing at least one UTI in their lifetime. Of course, a UTI can have complications that eventually affect more than just the urinary tract.
A urinary tract infection typically is a result of the bacteria E. coli entering the urinary tract through the urethra, which is open to the exterior of the body. This is why women are more susceptible. First, the urethra is closer to the vagina and anus, where such bacteria thrive. Second, the female urethra is much shorter than a male’s, which makes it easier for the bacteria to reach the destination of the bladder, where they grow easily.
In both men and women, the sexual organs are in close proximity to the urinary tract, and that means that the infection can easily spread from the urinary organs to the sexual organs. This can lead to extreme complications like infertility over time, especially if the UTIs are recurrent. This is only one reason it’s important to see a physician at the first sign of a UTI. In both men and women, this is true. The question, though, is that, if the UTI is able to affect the sexual organs, can it also cause problems with a woman’s period?
Complications caused by UTIs
A UTI can be a problem for more than the urinary tract if left untreated for any amount of time. Some of the problems patients may face include:
- Kidney infections. While the kidneys are part of the urinary tract, once the infection reaches the kidneys, it’s far more serious. With great pain levels and the possibility of the infection moving from the kidneys into the bloodstream, this type of infection is not only more debilitating bur also more dangerous.
- Sepsis. Consider that the bacteria get into the blood from the kidneys and spreads the infection. In addition, the waste that the kidneys are supposed to expel can also leak back into the system because they are not functioning properly due to the infection. All of this can lead to sepsis, which can be fatal.
- Infertility. As discussed, the infection getting into the sexual organs can cause infertility if not caught early.
- Anxiety and stress. If a person continues to experience recurrent infections, it’s much like anything else that doesn’t seem to have a solution. It can cause incredible amounts of stress and anxiety, which can lead to the need for medication.
- Hypertension. The kidneys help control blood pressure, and with a UTI, they don’t function as well. This could cause high blood pressure in patients that eventually results in the need for medication and can even damage the heart and blood vessels.
- Inability to control temperature. The kidneys are also tasked with controlling body temperature, and patients with UTIs may have both hot and cold flashes or difficulty maintaining a level body temperature.
How UTIs might affect menstruation
As mentioned, a urinary tract infection can cause serious stress and anxiety, especially if the patient suffers chronically from the infection. Stress changes the hormonal balance in an individual, and this could potentially have an effect on the way a woman’s cycle happens, leading to delays or even skipped periods.
Other ways that a UTI might seem to be the culprit behind changes to a menstrual cycle are:
- Worsening cramps. Because most women already have menstrual cramps, adding a UTI on top of that, which causes pain in the rest of the pelvis, could be excruciating. This isn’t a change to the cycle, only a complication that may require additional over the counter pain medications to control.
- Actual delays. If a woman with a UTI does see a delay in the onset of menstruation, this is more likely caused by the use of antibiotics and is nothing to panic about. Estrogen, the active hormone that controls the onset and function of a period, is metabolized through the liver, which also metabolizes the antibiotics. This could slow down the metabolizing of the estrogen as the liver has extra work to do, which would lead to a delay in the onset of the cycle.
Ways to avoid all of this include:
- Changing tampons and sanitary napkins frequently
- Wiping from front to back
- Cleaning well (and frequently) but not using deodorants or douches down there
- Taking a shower instead of a bath
- Wear loose fitting clothes and cotton underwear to keep the area dry and breathable
It’s important for women to remember that, even if they are suffering from a UTI while on their period and experiencing the worst of the pain, both conditions will clear up. Seeing a physician at the first signs of a UTI will get fast and effective treatment so that the symptoms remain mild and controllable, and it will avoid complications.
In addition, practicing good hygiene during a cycle will help maintain a woman’s health, especially in the urinary and sexual organs. Most of all, patience is important, and in both cases, staying hydrated will make a difference, easing some of the pain and discomfort each condition causes. And if possible, it’s ideal not to stress too much about it. The body already has excess stress from the infection, and with early diagnosis and treatment, there is no reason to worry about a UTI.