Earlier this year I wrote a post about UTIs and how to avoid them. In it, I repeated much of the standard stuff about wiping front to back and drinking plenty of water. I should have also mentioned wearing cotton underwear and not putting yogurt on your vagina if you’re prone to such infections, but I digress. What I want to talk about in this post is my experience I had with chronic UTIs. And I mean chronic in the sense that almost every time after PiV I would pee straight after intercourse and still get a UTI. Had it not been for my NP, I might’ve just thought I was condemned to a life of filling this or that prescription for different courses of Macrobid or Bactrim. But my NP wanted to get to the bottom of my burning problems, so she had me tested for something I’ve never heard of: ureaplasma.
What is ureaplasma? According to my doctor, they’re part of a group of organisms called mycoplasmas, which are bacteria without cell walls. The ureaplasma in particular usually inhabit the vagina, cervix, and occasionally the urethra of the penis. This bacteria generally doesn’t cause problems, but on some rare incidences, the presence of ureaplasma in the urethra of a vulva can cause chronic UTIs. But how does this happen? The ureaplasma is not the bacteria of the infection, instead, it makes the colonization of infectious bacteria much easier. Ureaplasma is passed sexually, though it isn’t commonly listed as an STI because of its presence in healthy individuals who don’t experience any symptoms. This means that if one partner has an issue with the bacteria, both partners need to be treated to avoid passing the infection back and forth.
Testing for the ureaplasma was a bit difficult for me. I’m more than used to providing samples for urinalysis, but one of the tests for ureaplasma is the ‘clean catch’ test. This test involves collecting the urine sample mid-stream so that you can get a good look at the sample without any interference from the vaginal flora. To further this aim, the doctor provided me with some antibacterial wipes so that there would be as little interference from my vaginal flora as possible. Well, this kind of test required me to have impeccable timing and sadly I did botch it. Luckily, after I washed my hands, the second test was a vaginal swab and I was able to do that no problem. After I turned in my samples, I was given a stop gap prescription of Macrobid in the event that it wasn’t ureaplasma.
About four days later, the doctor confirmed that I did indeed have ureaplasma and was told to discontinue use of the Macrobid. I was prescribed a two week course of doxycycline, which some people know from using it as an anti-malarial. This medication had to be taken twice a day and I was barred from sexual intercourse, which wasn’t an issue since my partner was away for the summer.The medication was rough on my body, and there was one instance of it making me so ill that I vomited and had to call in sick from work. But I persevered and completed the medication course. But because of the nature of the bacteria, my partner also needed to take a round of medication or else he’d risk re-infecting me when we had sex. I cannot tell you what a blessing my partner is. When I was anxious about asking him to go in for this testing, he reassured me that he was more than happy to do this since he had been worried about hurting me and was glad there was a solution.
After the summer, he was finally able to convince the doctor to give him a swab test and a prescription. The swab test indeed confirmed he had the ureaplasma and he was given the go ahead to start his medication. He took doxycycline twice a day, though the nausea that I had experienced was notably absent. During this time, we refrained from what we termed ‘a touching reunion’ for a full month, waiting for the medication. It felt like an eternity waiting for him to finish the medication. But once we had both completed the medication, the satisfaction of being able to be sexually intimate with my partner again sans the persistent fear of infection was absolutely worth it.
Now that we’re nearly a month out from the medication, I’ve been pain and infection free despite having several PiV encounters with my partner. I’m keeping up with my prevention techniques by making sure I’m adequately hydrated and I’ve ditched all my thongs, but I feel noticeably improved. I’m sharing this story in the hopes that it reaches the people who are in a similar chronic UTI situation. While this may not be the case for everyone who has chronic UTIs, it’s something I’ve not seen talked about very often as a possible cause behind chronic infection. I believe that this lack of conversation around it has people buying every cranberry pill, taking lots of unnecessary medication which is contributing to antibiotic resistance and generally feeling broken because of their constant infection. If you’re suffering from chronic UTIs, I would urge you to ask your doctor to test you for this. Insist if you have to, because sometimes getting your best healthcare requires self-advocating. Doxycycline quite literally saved my sex life and it might save yours too.