Girl Talk: I’m Plagued By UTIs

For all the ladies out there who have ever had issues with UTIs, here is my story and experience with treatment. Feel free to weigh in on what you’ve found that works for you (or doesn’t).

I’m beginning to think my vagina is a lemon.

On most fronts, it actually functions quite normally. Yet, there’s one stinging flaw—it’s particularly prone to urinary tract infections. Here’s the deal: no sex, no problem (except for that I’m depressed that I’m not having it). Sex, and I’m often in a world of pain (which I negotiate for a few seconds of ecstasy). I discovered my tendency to get UTIs when I was 21 and started having sex regularly with my first serious boyfriend. When I was hit with my first infection, it was a quick in-and-out visit to the doctor, who hardly said a word before sending me off with a three-day supply of antibiotics. After the second and third incidents, I got the heavy educational lecture:

  1. Pee before and after sex. Always.
  2. Drink lots of water.
  3. Make sure you are lubed up to the max during sex.
  4. Don’t let anything that was near your butt get near your vagina (and wipe from front to back).
  5. Drink pure cranberry juice and take cranberry supplements.

I did all of this. Meticulously. Which isn’t much fun because it’s kind of a buzzkill during foreplay to have to say, “Stop! Wait! I forgot to go pee. Hold on,” as well as post-orgasm to pop up to take yet another tinkle. Still, I was still getting UTIs every four weeks or so. I was so miserable that my doctor put me on Bactrim regularly, a common antibiotic used to treat infections. I was to take one pill post-coitus, and since I was having sex nearly every day, I was popping them like candy. I wasn’t sure if this was good for me, but it didn’t really matter because the boyfriend and I broke up anyhow, and my sex life came to a halt for … well, a long time, let’s just say. And thanks to casual dating and some long-distance relationships, I spent a few years relatively UTI-free.

Then I moved to France and met a French guy. Since he was really good at sex, I decided to let him be my boyfriend, knowing full well that it was only a matter of time before my vagina would fight back. Fight back it did, and one morning I woke up with the most raging infection I’d experienced yet. Crippled over in pain, I managed to get the number of a friend’s gyno and hobble over to his office for an appointment. As I waited in his office, which looked like Coco Chanel’s living room with an examination table in the middle of it, I hoped to God this dude spoke English.

When the doctor, an impeccably well-dressed older gentleman, entered the room, I spat out my dilemma before he could even ask me my name. “I have a really, really bad UTI, and I need antibiotics right now.” He scrunched up his face in confusion. Great. No English.

In quite possibly the worst French I have ever spoken in my life, I somehow managed to communicate to him the history of my problem (this as he examined me in front of a floor-to-ceiling open window, and later handed me my pap smear wrapped in cardboard, explaining I needed to mail it to the lab myself).

“No antibiotics,” he told me as he began scribbling on a prescription pad. What?! No antibiotics? He explained that French medicine doesn’t look kindly upon antibiotics because they destroy the lining of the stomach, and he’d prefer that I eventually rely on holistic techniques to take care of myself. After whimpering and begging, he gave me a prescription for an extremely low dose of antibiotics, but refused my request to have a regular 30-day supply as preventative care. Instead, he told me, I was to begin taking probiotics. Take one a day for four weeks, stop for four weeks, and then continue again with probiotics for four weeks, etc. Of course, all while taking the cranberry pills, lubing up, yadda-yadda.

Surprisingly, this has improved things. I can’t say I’m completely cured, because every so often I can feel an infection coming on, but manage to stave it off with extremely high doses of cranberry extract and the probiotics. Have you tried techniques like this to stay UTI-free? What prescriptions, OTC meds, or organic methods have you used?

Photo: iStockphoto