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The 'not-so-secret' diary of a perimenopausal woman

20 February 2023

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and the menopause

Woke up around 7am today not feeling so great. I couldn't really wake up and didn't want to get out of bed. Ended up dozing on and off for another hour and a half. Went to bed at 10.30pm so no reason I should be feeling like this. Although, hold on, there's more to it. Headache, a bit sneezy and basically feeling a bit bleurgh!


Three years ago when I found myself feeling like this I would reach for the paracetamol and the tissues and reconcile myself to the fact that I had a cold. Each time it turned out not to be a cold. After a while I'd notice an urgent need to pee and then the penny would drop. It was a UTI - urinary tract infection. Not the kind where your kidneys ache and it burns like hell when you pee. For me, it's a constant need to pee, urine that is cloudy and smells a bit fusty, like sugar puffs (the breakfast cereal), pelvic pain and generally feeling tired and a bit under the weather.


I've had a couple of UTI's in the distant past that were more severe and I ended up having to get antibiotics. More recently I've been reluctant to get antibiotics as it's quite mild. What's the problem you ask if they're quite mild? The problem is that I get them really frequently. Every month frequently. Frequently enough to make life quite challenging. For example, yesterday I was in the garden, full of energy, making plans for spring and lugging heavy bags of compost around. Today, my energy levels are through the floor, I don't really want to get out of bed and everything feels too hard. I'm not alone. It's a thing. Lots of women I talk to get UTIs regularly in perimenopause and post menopause.


Why do we get urinary tract infections in menopause?

First things first. I'm not an expert. If you Google it, you will see that a UTI is a bacterial infection that affects the urinary system. They are common for women of child bearing age, but they are more common in women during menopause. There are a couple of scientific reasons for this.

  1. First, the drop in estrogen levels during menopause can thin the lining of the urethra and bladder, making it more susceptible to infection.

  2. Secondly, changes in the natural balance of vaginal bacteria during menopause can make you more vulnerable to UTIs.

How can you reduce the likelihood of urinary tract infections?

Again I'm not an expert, but I have tried lots of things. You should do your own research and find out what works for you. There are natural remedies and medical options. I drink lots of water to keep myself hydrated - about 2 litres a day. This is really good practice anyway, helps reduce the risk of infection and helps me recover quicker. HRT and vaginal estrogen has definitely helped. I get infections less often and they are less severe. Although, as I've said before, HRT is not suitable or available for everyone - you need to speak to a medical professional.


Where can you go for help?

There are lots of new resources emerging on a daily basis. For me, the Balance menopause website has been a reliable source of information and has a useful UTI factsheet and several other resources. Karen Newby is a nutritionist in my home town of Brighton and Hove with a special interest in the menopause and treating its symptoms naturally. I first came across her on Instagram and her nutrition based approaches have helped me along the way. Speak to your local pharmacist about vaginal estrogen, and when and if the time is right, speak to your GP about HRT.


Until next time

I found it hard to write this blog today. You'll agree, it's not a particularly exciting subject but one that I wanted to flag up. Also, I'm very aware I'm not an expert and don't want to give misleading advice, hence the links to people who are the experts. A more likely reason though is the fact that I'm feeling pretty rubbish because of a UTI and my creative juices were not flowing.


I wanted to persevere though as it's important to me to write these blog posts when I am actually experiencing the symptoms I'm writing about. I write them to reassure you that you're not alone if you're already experiencing symptoms, or give you a heads up of what may be coming down the line. When the perimenopause kicked in for me, there was little to no information out there and I struggled on a daily basis to work out what the hell was happening to me.


I'd love to hear from you directly at kirsten.trussell@outlook.com or via the comments section on the blog. To do that you'll need to sign up and become a member - you can do that at the top of the blog page on my website.


Until next time.....Kirsten x


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This is a fascinating blog post. As someone who will be going through perimenopause in the not too distant future, I find these posts very insightful. Thank you for persevering and sharing something so personal.

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