I’ve had cystitis so many times that I can remember episodes like holidays. I’ll chuckle to myself as I’m walking to work, like I’m reminiscing over a nice cocktail or sandy beach… Ahh, the time I got it at my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding… that was a good one.
The best by far was after a weeklong camping trip in the Scottish Highlands which had resulted in some sweaty sex in a tent and me not wanting to go all the way to the loo at 3am. I was mercifully fine the whole holiday, until arriving home to discover that our electricity had completely gone at some point during the week. Not just fused, it was done for. After a 9-hour drive, we had to fork out £50 for a hotel a few hundred yards from our house just so that I didn’t have to sit on the toilet and cry in the dark.
Cystitis is an unfortunate reality for many women – some because of sex, and others from birth. It is up there with Norovirus as one of the shittest things you need a day off work for. And if sex is the main culprit not only does this absolute dreamboat cripple you from the inside out, it also makes you genuinely scared to have sex. Or at the very least, look at your other half, calculate how many things you’ve got to do in the next 48 hours, and wonder if getting jiggy is really worth it.
How is cystitis caused?
Cystitis is characterised by abdominal pain and burning, frequent urination. It’s typically caused by germs that naturally and harmlessly occur on the skin or in the bowel making their way into your urethra. It’s much more common in women than men, probably because the distance between bowel and urethra is so much smaller.
The most common reason for women to get cystitis is sex – friction during sex can cause those germs to move closer and ultimately inside the urethra. Other reasons include perfumed soaps and bubble baths, damage caused by a catheter or surgery or as a result of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Some people are just super prone to them long before they’re sexually active. Maybe because their bums and urethras are so close they’re practically BFFs. Sorry about that.
Can you avoid it?
I know, if given the chance, that older wiser people are supposed to pass on some great advice to the younger generation, and mine would be this. PEE. AFTER. SEX. As seen in the image above, peeing flushes out the bad bacteria. I don’t care how unromantic it is, get up, and bloody well pee after sex.
What should I do if I get it?
If you think you have cystitis, get yourself to a walk-in centre or make an appointment with your GP. While cystitis itself isn’t a serious illness, if left untreated it can lead to kidney infections which can result in a hospital stay or worse.
At the clinic, you will have to take a urine test and probably be prescribed a course of antibiotics to treat the infection. Don’t leave it to chance and expect that this will clear up without attention. Just DON’T.
Cranberries have been proven to help prevent cystitis, but stay away from the sugary drinks and get some decent cranberry tablets. Once that shit’s taken hold, though, cranberry ain’t doing nothing. Drink a gallon of water and get yourself to your GP.
Learning to love sex again
Whether it’s body image, cystitis, pain, self esteem or anything else, things that keep you from enjoying sex are straight up hellish.
I’ve been blissfully pain-free since New Year’s Day (another fun time to get it), and although it’s been 5 months the danger of wasting a day in Gateshead’s finest Urgent Care Facility feels like it’s always on the horizon. If like me you seem to get afflicted all the time, getting referred to the gynaecology department at your local hospital is probably a good idea, just to check all is well.
The important thing I remember is to enjoy sex itself, otherwise it’s really not worth it. Keep the pain medication you need in every bag, clutch and pocket you use, take the right precautions (PEE. AFTER. SEX.) and then try to forget about it. Worrying will only make things worse – stress leads to muscle tension, which leads to friction, and you know where that ends up: you getting cystitis anyway.
Getting into a good routine is really important – if like me your month is two parts UTI and one part period pain, overall good health, taking the right vitamins and going easy on yourself is a good idea.
Last but absolutely not least, remember that sex isn’t all about penetration, and intimacy isn’t just about sex. Whether you’ve had a flare up or you’re just tired and grumpy, sometimes there’s nothing more erotic than a takeaway and a cuddle.