“Dear Sexpert,” with Heather Florio

By Heather Florio

Heather Florio is the second-generation owner and CEO of Desert Harvest – pioneering natural, effective, and scientifically studied Aloe Vera-focused supplements and skincare products to support IC and other urinary and gynecological issues. For nearly thirty years, Desert Harvest has been an advocate for change in women’s healthcare through medical research and product innovation. Heather’s expertise and passion are rooted in helping to educate and develop solutions for these chronic and debilitating issues and support the underrepresented suffering from these symptoms. In better learning and understanding our own bodies, we can become our own best advocates and experts for healing.

QUESTION:

My boyfriend and I regularly have sex before and after my period is supposed to start. I keep getting what feels like a UTI after every time we have sex, and I believe I have a UTI from not having used the restroom after sex. I always have cramp-like pain, burning when I pee, and have to go the bathroom like a million times. My boyfriend genuinely feels bad because seeing me in that much discomfort makes me feel like it’s his fault. I’ve tried over-the-counter meds to help with what I believe is a UTI and I’ve been keeping myself hydrated. I’m not sure if it is recurrent UTI’s or something else. Any advice or recommendations are definitely appreciated.

I’m so sorry you are experiencing such discomfort! It can be so frustrating to experience these recurring symptoms, despite any effort to prevent UTIs from occurring in the first place.

What’s a UTI and how to prevent them from occurring?

A UTI occurs when bacteria enters the urethra. Because of a woman’s anatomy and a shorter urethra, we may be more prone to infection. We can develop a UTI after a sweaty workout session wearing tight leggings or after sex. This is why we’re taught to urinate before or after sex. Even holding our bladder for long periods of time may contribute to the possibility of infection.

If the body is unable to fight off the infection, a bladder infection may cause more serious symptoms and infection, including pelvic pain and pressure, the urge to urinate, and pain with urination. If the infection is not addressed, it may progress to the kidneys causing more serious symptoms, fever, and the possible need for antibiotics.

No one should have to suffer from the pain associated with a UTI. Those that experience recurring UTIs are often frustrated with their symptoms and may experience them regardless of wearing loose clothes, and peeing before and after sex. If you have recurring symptoms of UTIs that don’t seem to respond to antibiotics, or experience pelvic pain, burning with urination, and don’t test positive for bacteria in the urine, it may be something else.

Is it a UTI or something else?

Often misdiagnosed, UTI and Interstitial Cystitis (IC) symptoms can overlap, often taking years to get to the root of the underlying issue. Pelvic pain, pain with sex, and even burning during urination can all overlap with varying degrees of IC, Bladder Pain Syndrome, and pelvic floor function and structure.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to know the difference between a UTI, Urinary Tract Infection, and IC, Interstitial Cystitis. Though anyone can experience symptoms of a UTI or IC regardless of sex or gender, it is more common for women to experience the often painful and frustrating symptoms associated with recurring UTIs and IC symptoms.

What is Interstitial Cystitis (IC)?

This underdiagnosed and gravely unrepresented disease still lacks understanding and treatment in modern medicine due to its wide spectrum of symptoms, overlap in symptoms mistaken for other chronic conditions, and the often-long process it can take to even diagnose.

That’s because far more is involved and very little is still understood yet about IC and its causes. The immune system, bacterial infections, pelvic floor dysfunction, nerve injuries, and even diet can play a role in developing symptoms of IC, where essentially and depending on how severe, the bladder becomes inflamed, leading to chronic pelvic, urinary and bladder pain, increased frequency, and pain and tenderness with sex. To complicate matters more, those with IC may be prone to recurring UTIs because of lesions and chronic irritation making a prime environment for bacteria to take hold.

But not all cases of IC are as severe, again making it that much harder to diagnose or treat correctly.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and are in question whether you have a UTI or symptoms of IC. Here is our roadmap to find answers.

  • If your urinary test is positive for bacteria, treat the infection under a health practitioner’s supervision. If you experience recurring UTIs, it may be beneficial to look into dietary shifts, or supplements to see if these changes make a difference in severity and/or frequency of symptoms.
  • If your tests come back negative or your UTI does not respond to antibiotics it may be wise to explore further. Tests are usually run to ensure the urinary tract is functioning correctly, and and to rule out other potential issues.
  • Stress and hormonal shifts can play a role in worsening symptoms, and even without a diagnosis, dietary shifts may make a huge difference in reducing and relieving symptoms in UTIs and IC. High-acid foods such as citrus, tomatoes, chocolate, coffee and caffeinated beverages, alcohol, potassium-rich foods, and spicy foods have all been found to exacerbate symptoms in those suffering from IC symptoms. Even removing a couple of these foods when you experience symptoms, or a flare-up may be beneficial.
  • The Interstitial Cystitis Association can also be an great aid in learning more about treatments and resources, and to help expedite a diagnosis.
  • What about sexual intercourse with interstitial cystitis? Painful sex, or dyspareunia, is a common symptom associated with bladder and pelvic floor disorders. Personal lubrication will likely be a welcome addition in the bedroom. Just be sure that it is pH-balanced and iso-osmolar to help prevent any further irritation, like Desert Harvest Aloe Glide.

Submit your question and tune into every issue for all your sexual health-related queries.

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