How to Talk About UTIs | Uqora

How to talk about UTIs

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Written by: Sareena Rama

Scientifically reviewed by: Heather Ott, MS, RDN

You’ve heard all the assumptions about UTIs – they only happen because you wipe back to front, or you don’t drink enough water. Sadly, these common assumptions have created a stigma around UTIs and this stigma can make us feel like we’re doing something wrong.

Unfortunately, the stigma associated with UTIs can also make it feel like we can’t speak freely about them, or that we have to keep our UTIs a secret from the people who are closest to us. Feeling like we can’t talk about our struggles, especially related to our health, can feel alienating and ultimately impact our overall health even more.

You deserve the space to talk about your health, without judgment. That’s why Uqora is here to help break the silence about UTIs.

With the help of anonymous contributors, who shared their experiences with talking about UTIs with various people in their lives – we created the following as a resource to begin the conversation about UTIs with others.

We recognize that everyone’s situation is different, and some of these conversations may be harder for people to open up than others.

With all of that to say, we hope this can be a starting point for starting more conversations. The more we talk about UTIs, the more people can begin to understand our experience, and changes in the UTI assumptions can begin to take place.

Talking to your supervisors, professors, or managers about your UTIs:

We like to think supervisors and colleagues in the professional workplace will be understanding of your health so we wrote out a template you can copy, paste, and edit into your own words:

Hi there! I wanted to share with you that I deal with recurrent UTIs. I’m struggling with a UTI right now and need to go see a doctor today to ensure my infection doesn’t progress. UTIs can be life-threatening if left untreated.

I need to take the day off to take care of my health today. Happy to share more about how recurrent UTIs impact me when I’m back tomorrow. Thank you for understanding!

We know that it’s not possible for everyone to take a day off and this doesn’t encompass every experience you may have in navigating these conversations — especially those working in roles where you may not have a replacement option, like caregivers or essential workers.

Talking to your sex partner about your UTIs:

UTIs can impact every aspect of life – especially your sex life. We asked our community to share their advice on how to talk about their UTIs with their sex partners.

We got a tip from someone who shared how she brought up her UTIs to her boyfriend and we are using this as the blueprint for preparing for this conversation.

“I usually get up to pee after we have sex and bring up why it’s especially important for me to pee right after I have sex. I start by asking them if they know what a UTI is – so be prepared with all the facts that Uqora has.

And then I explain that sex is a common trigger, especially for me! So I always have to be super careful after sex to pee immediately. Then I say, ‘If you could help keep me accountable that would be great!’

Then you will usually get questions so just be prepared to answer like: Why sex is a common trigger? And can I get a UTI from you? And is it like an STD? And what does it feel like?”

Our last tip is what someone learned from a situation she had with her sexual partners:

“I got a UTI twice from two different people I was hooking up with (both were male friends-with-benefits situations) and I felt like I couldn’t talk to them about my UTIs because we weren’t official. My word of advice for folks is to have the conversation!! I wish I had.”

Just to note here as a reminder for you: UTIs are not sexually transmitted diseases and you may feel like you’re doing everything right after sex but still getting UTIs. This could be because some people are just more prone to UTIs than others.  

Talking to your friends or roommates about your UTIs:

If you spend a lot of time with your friends, or roommates, talking about your UTIs can feel daunting. But the advice we got from the community, may give you that extra nudge of confidence to start the conversation.

“Tell your (female) friends you have a UTI, and 50% will respond that they have also had a UTI. It’s statistically proven.”

“I had recurring UTIs for 2 years. My best friend had never had a UTI and I always felt she minimized my experience. One time I was so fed up that I just told her how I felt. I told her I needed support when I had a UTI and that it was a debilitating experience for me. She was so sorry (it actually made me feel bad that she felt bad!) and the next time I had a UTI, she offered to pick up my antibiotics after my appointment because I had to work!!”

Talking to your family about your UTIs:

We heard from someone who was very nervous about starting the conversation with their family, but she did it and we’re so proud of her!

“I’m from a family that doesn’t talk about sex. And I wasn’t sexually active when I got my first UTI but I felt like it was my fault that I got a UTI and thought my mom would get mad at me or assume that the UTI came from sex. I prepared extensively for the conversation before I had it because I had to make sure she knew that this was something normal. I was lucky to have access to a Urologist so I worked with my doctor to understand why I was getting UTIs. My mom still assumed that I had sex and got the UTI but she appreciated the work I did to share my issue with her and was very understanding when I would get UTIs and not be able to come to things because of them.”

Someone else shared this short and sweet message with us to help you prepare for the conversation with your family:

“Total transparency. No shame in UTIs, whatsoever.”

Preparing for the conversation

Talking about your health and your needs can feel overwhelming and vulnerable.. When you start the conversation about UTIs, be prepared to have a conversation about what you need from the people closest to you — that includes answering questions openly and being honest with how they can support you.

You can prepare to answer questions like:

  • How can I support you?

  • What does a UTI feel like?

  • How does a UTI happen?

  • When did you start getting UTIs?

  • Are UTIs contagious?

To get more support on how to start the conversation, tune into our expert-led webinars saved here.

This article is not intended to replace medical advice given to you by your doctor.