Urinary Tract Infections are right up there with surprise visits from in-laws and finding fleas on your dog as some events that can derail all of your plans and ruin everything. If you’ve ever been traveling while you got a UTI, then you know how that burning and frequent urination can make it nearly impossible to enjoy yourself. You fear long car rides or any situation that will have you far from a bathroom, and worry people can see you squirming around in discomfort. It’s a nightmare.
Unfortunately, we can’t banish UTIs from existence. Well, we almost can’t. There are some things you can do, which we cover here. And here. But even when you’re really careful, you may still suffer some UTIs throughout your life. When it happens, you have to trudge to the doctor and obtain antibiotics and go through that sad walk through the pharmacy to find relief. One company aims to minimize some of the misery surrounding UTIs, though. Stix makes and delivers doctor-approved, discreet items that address some of women’s needs, including pregnancy tests, ovulation test kits, and most recently, UTI diagnostic and treatment products. We spoke to representatives from the company about what they’ve learned about UTIs while working with doctors and developing their products.
What’s in the box for your box?
Stix offers three products for UTIs that can be ordered individually or together. They offer a test and wipe kit that includes three UTI tests that measure white blood cells, leukocytes (part of your body’s immune system), and nitrites. When nitrites are detected in urine, that’s usually the sign of an infection. The test comes with pH-balanced wipes. Stix also offers daily supplements to help prevent future UTIs that were developed by urologists and contain turmeric, cranberry extract, vitamin C, and D-mannose. And should a UTI already be in full swing, causing painful symptoms, they offer fast-acting pain-relieving tablets that address the burning and discomfort that comes from an infection of the urinary tract.
UTIs are normal
Or perhaps we should use the word “common” instead of “normal.” Normal signals the idea that something is okay, and nothing feels okay about having a UTI. But those who get them often can feel like they are abnormal, so there is some merit in the word. If you get them often, you’re “normal,” per se, because they’re common. In fact, Cynthia Plotch, one of Stix’s co-founders, informs us that, “Sixty percent of women get them at some point and up to a quarter get recurring UTIs. It affects most women, but despite that, the market hasn’t had much for it.”
The pandemic is making it harder to diagnose and treat them
Have you tried getting a pap smear via Zoom? Or handing a urine sample through your computer screen? It’s not happening, and if it were to, it would probably make doctors super uncomfortable. But Plotch mentioned that, due to the pandemic and most non-urgent medical visits being moved to the virtual space, there’s an issue of women being over-diagnosed or misdiagnosed with a UTI. You may be one of the many individuals who is just going for a self-diagnosis right now because you don’t want to go anywhere near a potentially COVID-infested hospital. Because of this pandemic problem, the Stix founders knew that a safer, at-home diagnostic product was important.
What are the dangers of over-diagnosing?
When you call your doctor and tell her that you can’t stop peeing and it burns when you pee, she wants to make you feel better as soon as possible. So she puts in that order for your antibiotics. Maybe you need it. Maybe you don’t. But if you feel better when you’re done with the course, what’s the harm? Well, there is some. “Too many antibiotics can lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria,” warns Plotch. We cover issues like those and other facts about antibiotics here, like the importance of taking probiotics if you’ll be taking antibiotics.
What causes UTIs?
“UTIs can happen for no reason at all. That’s important for everybody to know,” Plotch says. “But there are a couple things that can be correlated or make one more susceptible. Having sex frequently introduces more bacteria into the area. The old adage to pee after sex is important.” For further clarification as to why it’s necessary to urinate after sex, doctors say that the urethra sits very close to the vaginal canal and sometimes bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract can find its way into the vagina, and then over to the urethra, causing an infection. The idea behind peeing quickly after sex is to flush out any bacteria that may have gotten in there.
Pregnancy and UTIs
“Another time you’re more likely to get UTI is while you’re pregnant,” Plotch informs us. “With pregnancy, the baby puts pressure on the bladder and that can trap bacteria in the urinary tract.” There are a few other reasons pregnancy can cause UTIs, such as the muscle-relaxing hormones running through the system, a decreased bladder capacity, and the general difficulty of keeping the downstairs area clean when you have a massive baby bump standing in the way of your view – and reach. It’s important to note that kidney infection, which can be the result of a UTI, is one of the most common serious conditions found in pregnant women.
Menopause and UTIs
“Menopause can relate to UTIs as well. When estrogen is lower, there’s less protection against infection,” Plotch states. A few other factors that put you at risk for UTIs during menopause? The vaginal tissue becomes thinner, making infection more likely. There is also a bacterial change that can make one vulnerable to infection. Plus, there is the issue of struggling to fully empty one’s bladder, which makes it harder to flush out bacteria in a timely manner. Some menopausal women, unfortunately, experience chronic UTIs, which can make daily life – and sex, which can already suffer during menopause – quite uncomfortable. Keeping preventative products on hand during this time of life can make a big difference.
You (might have) got it from your mama
If your mom, sisters, and cousins all complain of frequent UTIs, you may joke that they “run in the family,” but you’re actually onto something. While many UTIs are caused by behavioral factors (the use of spermicide is actually one of them), some are genetic. That’s one thing you don’t want to get from your mama – but might. Having UTIs as a child is also a predictor of having many as an adult, as does suffering from diabetic fecal incontinence. Women who have two UTIs in a six-month period or three in a year are considered those with “recurrent” UTIs and are often referred to a urologist to see if more advanced preventative care is necessary.
Can they clear up on their own?
When you get that burning, frequent-urination sensation that happens, you might assume you have a UTI. And, you are, statistically, probably right. About 90 percent of UTIs can be predicted through symptoms, according to research. In some cases (around a quarter), non-complicated UTIs can clear themselves up on their own. But you should always speak to your doctor about your symptoms and defer to her for the best course of treatment. One mistake to avoid when self-treating is drinking sugary cranberry juice, according to Plotch. If you want to drink cranberry juice to fortify your urinary tract, stick to the unsweetened stuff, even if it isn’t very tasty. Sugar spikes can weaken the immune system, making it harder for your body to fight UTIs.
This bacteria is mostly to blame
The majority of UTIs are caused by E. coli bacteria. That could be why many women report feeling shame or guilt around getting them – there can be this idea that you are “dirty” or did something wrong. But it’s not your fault that whoever created women’s bodies put our anuses so damn close to our vaginas. That’s a major design flaw, if you ask me. It’s all too easy for bacteria from one end to move to the other, especially when you’re very sexually active. There is no shame in a UTI, but that doesn’t change the fact that walking down the aisle of the pharmacy with the UTI treatments is no party. In fact, Plotch got the idea of Stix after running into her boyfriend’s mom while she was buying a pregnancy test at the drug store. She felt there just had to be a better, more discreet way for women to get products related to pregnancy, ovulation, and UTIs.