Does the way I urinate make me more prone to UTIs?

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Ask the doctor

Q. Your recent article on recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) didn't mention much about urination. One of my friends told me that it could influence my chance of getting a UTI. Is that true?

A. Actually, your urination habits are a good place to start if you're trying to prevent UTIs. When sitting on the toilet, make yourself as comfortable as possible in a relaxed seated position—not a squat. Start the stream of urine by relaxing your pelvic floor muscles, rather than straining to urinate. Allow enough time for your bladder to empty completely.

Also, empty your bladder after intercourse. Although it may be difficult to pry yourself out of the bed, you should make it a habit to urinate after sex every time. This can help wash away any bacteria that might have been introduced into the urinary tract during sex.

Although there aren't a lot of data to support the time-honored advice to wipe from front to back, the practice makes a lot of sense, especially after a bowel movement. Doing so is thought to help to keep Escherichia coli—the bacteria responsible for many UTIs—out of your urinary tract.

- Hope Ricciotti, MD and Hye-Chun Hur, MD, MPH
Editors in chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch