Is It Better to Wear Pads or Tampons When You Have a UTI?

Is it better to wear pads or tampons when you have a UTI? Learn the pros and cons of using pads vs. tampons during a urinary tract infection.

If you’re dealing with a UTI, it’s good to think about what to use during your period. A UTI doesn’t change your period, but some things can be related. These include not keeping clean, not using the bathroom after sexual activities, and getting too stressed.1 About half of all women get a UTI at some point, so they might have one during their period too.2 Luckily, there are steps you can take to lower your UTI risk. Knowing how these two things are connected is important.

This article discusses the best choices for managing a UTI while on your period. It also features advice from Dr. Yanina Barbalat, who is a Board Certified Urologist.

Key Takeaways

  • Women are more susceptible to UTIs due to their shorter urethras compared to men.
  • Hormonal changes, sexual activity, and poor hygiene can increase the risk of developing a UTI during your period.
  • Wearing pads instead of tampons may help prevent further irritation and worsening of UTI symptoms.
  • Staying hydrated and practicing good hygiene, such as urinating after sex, can help reduce the risk of UTIs.
  • Antibiotics are typically prescribed to treat UTIs, but prevention strategies like probiotics may also be helpful.

Understanding Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common in women. They affect a lot of females out there.1 This is because women’s bodies have a short urethra. This shortness means their urine openings are near sources of bacteria. Hence, infections happen more easily.1 After menopause, women face a higher UTI risk. This is because hormonal changes affect the vagina’s flora, causing pH shifts and less protective bacteria.1

Common Symptoms of UTIs

UTIs often start in the bladder in those who have them. Sometimes, they spread to the kidneys.3 Signs of a UTI include smelly urine, pain or a burning feeling when peeing, and needing to pee a lot. You might also feel you never fully empty your bladder and have a rush to pee.3 These symptoms usually get better after starting antibiotics, within 1 to 2 days. They can completely go away in up to a week.3

Types of UTIs

Men have a lower risk of UTIs because their urethras are longer. This makes it harder for bacteria to cause an infection.1 However, as men get older and their prostates get bigger, the risk can go up.1 For both men and women, UTIs can be sparked by sexual acts. This happens when bacteria enter the urethra.1 Using medical tools like catheters can also lead to UTIs.1

The Connection Between UTIs and Periods

Estrogen protects against UTIs. Its level drops during the menstrual period, increasing infection chances.4 Sex can also raise UTI risks. Many women have more sex when less worried about pregnancy. Yet, UTI-causing bacteria from the anus can move to the urethra during sex.
This bacteria can worsen your urethra, which is already sensitive during your period.5 Menstrual discomfort can stress you out. Stress might delay your period and make you more prone to UTIs. This happens because stress increases cortisol, weakening the immune system.4

Hormonal Imbalances

During periods, estrogen levels are at their lowest. This may raise the risk of UTIs for women.4

Sexual Activity

Having sex can increase UTI risks. Some women have more sex during their period since they’re less concerned about pregnancy. Yet, bacteria from the anus can move to the urethra during sex. This can worsen your already sensitive urethra, increasing the risk of infection.5


Period pain and discomfort can lead to stress. Stress not only impacts your period but also increases UTI chances. Bodies find it hard to fight off infections when stressed. This is because stress increases cortisol, weakening the immune system.4

Pads vs. Tampons: The Pros and Cons

When it’s your period time, you might choose between pads or tampons. These products can hold in heat and moisture more than your underwear alone. If not changed often, this warmth and dampness might lead to more bacteria, raising UTI4 risks.

Advantages of Using Pads

Choosing absorbent, chemical-free cotton pads can be good for those prone to UTIs while on their period. If you have a UTI, it’s best to avoid tampons since they could make it worse.3

See also  Why Do Older Women Get UTI? Causes and Prevention Tips

Drawbacks of Using Tampons

Both pads and tampons can keep in heat and moisture, which could cause more bacteria and a higher chance of getting a UTI.4 Some medical experts think that using tampons might also up your risk for infections.3

is it better to wear pads or tampons when you have a uti

If you have a UTI, it’s better to wear pads instead of tampons. Tampons might irritate your urethra and bladder, worsening the symptoms.4 Pads are safer since they cause less irritation and don’t keep in heat and moisture like tampons.4 But, it’s crucial to change your pads often to stop bacteria from growing and reduce UTI risk.

About 50–60% of women will get a UTI at some point in their lives.4 The chance of a UTI increases when estrogen levels are low, like during your period.4 Using cotton, absorbent, chemical-free pads that let your skin breathe can help lower this risk.4

Don’t keep a tampon in for more than six hours.4 Aim to drink 1.5 liters of water daily to prevent UTIs.4 Also, drinking water after sex can wash away bacteria from your urinary tract.4 A supplement with Cranberry PACs like Utiva is a good choice. It’s recommended by doctors and supported by urology Guidelines.4

Preventing UTIs During Your Period

Keeping good feminine hygiene helps not get UTIs during your period.4 Change pads and tampons often to avoid getting an infection. Always remember, never wear a tampon for over six hours.4

A pad works well for four to six hours. You can wear it overnight too. Just change it when it’s full, or it smells bad.

Choosing the Right Feminine Care Products

Choose pads made from cotton that are chemical-free and let your skin breathe.4 These are better for preventing UTIs if you’re likely to get them during your period. If you have a UTI, don’t use tampons. They can make your symptoms worse.4

Changing Feminine Care Products Regularly

Change your pads and tampons often to lower your UTI risk.4 They keep heat and moisture close, which UTIs love. Using a tampon for too long, more than six hours, can make things worse. It can grow bacteria and bother your UTI more.4

Hygiene Practices for UTI Prevention

To avoid UTIs during your period, follow good hygiene. First, always pee after sex. This helps get rid of any bacteria that got in the urinary tract.3

It’s key for women to drink lots of water during their period. Studies show that drinking 1.5 L of water daily cuts UTI risk.3 So, if you get UTIs often, drink plenty of water.

Urinating After Sexual Activity

Keep your genital and anal areas clean before and after sex to prevent UTIs.3 After sex, drink water to pee more, lowering UTI chances.3

Staying Hydrated

Drinking 2 to 4 quarts (2-4 liters) of fluids daily helps avoid UTIs.3 But don’t drink a lot of alcohol or caffeine. They can irritate your bladder.3

The Role of Antibiotics in UTI Treatment

When you have a urinary tract infection (UTI), your doctor will usually give you antibiotics. You take these antibiotics by mouth at home. The time for how long you need to take them can change. Some may just need 3 days, but others might take them for 7 to 14 days.3 Always finish all the antibiotics, even if you feel better early. Not finishing can make the infection come back and harder to treat.3

Antibiotics work best for UTIs. They clear up the infection caused by bacteria.1 But, they might cause side effects like stomach issues.3 If this happens, tell your doctor. Don’t stop taking them unless your doctor tells you to. Stopping early can make things worse.3

Antibiotics usually work well for UTIs. Yet, it’s really important to take them exactly as your doctor says. This makes sure the infection goes away fully. It also helps lower the chance of the UTI coming back.13

See also  How Long Does Sulfamethoxazole Take to Work for a UTI?

Dietary Considerations for UTI Prevention

Keeping your diet healthy and drinking enough water are key to prevent UTIs.1 It’s important to drink lots of fluids to fight off urinary bacteria.1 Aim for 2 to 4 quarts (2 to 4 liters) of water a day. This helps clear your urinary tract and stops infections.6

Drinking Plenty of Fluids

To lower your UTI chances, stay hydrated.6 Drinking water keeps your urinary system active. This makes you pee more, removing bacteria.6 If your urine is very light yellow, you’re drinking enough. This means you’re hydrating well and UTIs are less likely.6

Avoiding Bladder Irritants

Avoiding certain drinks can also help prevent UTIs.1 Cut back on alcohol and caffeine as they can bother your bladder and worsen UTI symptoms.1 With smart drink choices and staying hydrated, you can lower your UTI risks and keep your urinary tract healthy.

Recurring UTIs and Prevention Strategies

Some women keep getting bladder infections, called recurrent UTIs.1 This means they have 3 or more infections in 12 months, or over 2 in 6 months.1 Doctors offer different ways to stop these frequent and annoying infections.

Vaginal Estrogen Cream

If menopause causes you to have dryness, your doctor might suggest using a vaginal estrogen cream.1 Estrogen helps keep your vagina healthy and lessens the UTI risk.

Prophylactic Antibiotics

Taking an antibiotic after sex or having a 3-day antibiotic supply at home can prevent some UTIs.3 Your doctor might also recommend a small daily antibiotic to avoid more infections.1

Cranberry Supplements

Many people try cranberry pills to prevent UTIs.1 Yet, it’s not clear if they work.1 Your doctor will know if these supplements are good for you.

By teaming up with your doctor, you can find the top ways to avoid recurrent UTIs. Keeping your urinary tract healthy is the goal.13

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you think you have a1 urinary tract infection (UTI) and start feeling sick, get help fast. Symptoms like a fever, pain in your back or side, or feeling like you have the flu need immediate attention. They might mean more than a simple UTI is at play.1 Also, contact your doctor right away if you face side or back pain, fever, chills, or throwing up, as these signs could mean a kidney infection.1 And, don’t forget to call your doctor again if your UTI comes back soon after taking antibiotics.

Quickly getting help is key when UTI symptoms worsen or spread.3 You should feel better once you start taking antibiotics, and everything should be clear in a week.3 Not curing a UTI or not finishing antibiotics can cause harder-to-fight future infections.3

Taking action early helps make sure your UTI gets the right treatment. This lowers risks and speeds up your healing.1 Keep in mind, UTIs are very common in women,1 so always talk to your doctor if you’re worried or your symptoms get worse.

Dispelling Common UTI Myths

People often have the wrong ideas about UTIs. Many think7 UTIs come from not wiping correctly, using tampons, or not peeing after sex. Tight clothes are also falsely believed to cause UTIs. “Many women worry about this,” says Dr. Dielubanza. Yet,8 recent studies show these things do not lead to UTIs.7 Actually, being female is the main risk for UTIs.

Some say using two tampons can cause TSS and get one stuck.8 The truth is, you should only use one tampon at a time to prevent TSS and avoid problems.8 Using two can raise the TSS risk and should be skipped.

8 TSS is rare, affecting 1 in 100,000.8 The biggest TSS risk is leaving a tampon in too long. Yet, if you use tampons correctly, the TSS risk is very low. Tampon makers have also improved their products to further reduce TSS.

7 Using tampons does not mean losing your virginity, contrary to some. Tampons might stretch the hymen but don’t usually tear it. The hymen, a thin membrane, stretches and does not cover the entire vaginal opening.

7 If heavy periods concern you, see a gynecologist. They can help find solutions. By dispelling UTI myths and talking to experts, women can take better care of their urinary health during periods.

See also  Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Symptoms: Signs & Treatment

Probiotics and Vaginal Health

Doctors recommend probiotics from food like yogurt or through supplements. This helps keep the vagina and bowel healthy.9 Using probiotics alone might not fully prevent UTIs. However, they work well with other methods by improving the microorganisms in your body.10

The vagina hosts a lot of different bacteria that are crucial for health.9 Experts have looked into these bacteria and their effect on health.9 Probiotics help keep the good bacteria in check. They can aid in preventing and handling issues such as UTIs.10

Adding probiotic foods to your diet can help keep your vaginal health in check.10 Although we need more studies to confirm the benefits of probiotics for the vagina, this method, alongside others, is a positive step for overall health.


When having a UTI and on your period, choose pads over tampons. Tampons might irritate your urethra and bladder more. Pads are safer.5 Always wash your hands before and after touching your menstrual items. This can lower your UTI risk.5 Pick cotton-made menstrual products. They’re gentler and keep your vagina healthy.5

Good hygiene, lots of water, and seeing a doctor when needed help UTI management during periods.11 Change your menstrual products often to stop bacteria from growing. It also lowers your UTI risk.11 Drink a lot of water to push out bacteria. Taking all your antibiotics is key to beating the infection.11

Knowing about UTIs and periods helps women protect themselves.11 Sex during your period doesn’t boost UTI chances. But, use condoms to stay safe. It cuts down UTI and infection risks.11


Is it better to wear pads or tampons when you have a UTI?

During a UTI and period, using pads is safer. Tampons might irritate the urethra and bladder more.

What are the common symptoms of UTIs?

UTI symptoms often include strong urine smell and pain during urination. You might feel like you need to pee more than usual.

What are the different types of UTIs?

UTIs can happen in the bladder (cystitis) or kidneys (pyelonephritis). Cystitis is the most usual. Pyelonephritis is more serious.

How are UTIs connected to menstrual periods?

Imbalances in hormones and more sex can increase UTI risks during periods. So can stress.

What are the advantages of using pads over tampons when you have a UTI?

Pads won’t irritate or make UTI symptoms worse. They don’t keep in heat and moisture like tampons can.

What are the drawbacks of using tampons when you have a UTI?

Tampons can make UTI symptoms worse by irritating and trapping heat. This can help bacteria grow.

How can you prevent UTIs during your period?

Switching out products often, picking breathable ones, and staying clean can help stop UTIs during your period.

Why is it important to urinate after sexual activity?

After sex, peeing can wash out bacteria that entered your urinary tract. This lowers UTI risk.

How does staying hydrated help prevent UTIs?

Drinking lots, especially water, keeps urine flowing. This flushes out bacteria and stops UTIs.

What are some strategies for managing recurring UTIs?

Vaginal estrogen cream, daily antibiotics, and cranberry supplements can help with recurring UTIs.

When should you seek medical attention for a UTI?

Go to the doctor right away if you get a fever, flank pain, or feel like you have the flu. These might mean a serious kidney infection.

Are there common myths about the causes of UTIs?

UTIs are not mainly caused by how you clean, tampon use, or not peeing after sex. Having a vagina is the biggest risk factor.

How can probiotics help with vaginal health and UTI prevention?

Probiotics can’t fully stop UTIs but are good with other preventions. They keep your vagina and gut healthy.

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