By BitMED Provider: Komal Hanif; MD; Family Medicine

Ladies, you can take these steps to reduce your risk of urinary tract infections:

1. Drink plenty of water. Drinking water helps dilute your urine and ensures that you'll urinate more frequently. This allows the bacteria to be expelled from your urinary tract before an infection can begin.

2. Wipe from front to back. Doing this will help prevent bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.

3. Empty your bladder soon after intercourse, even if you don’t have to go. Urinating after sex flushes out any bacteria that could have migrated to the bladder during intercourse.

4. Avoid potentially irritating feminine products. Deodorant sprays, douches and/or powders can irritate the urethra. Also, douching washes away the good bacteria, disrupting the natural balance in your vagina and allowing more bad bacteria to grow along the neighboring urethra.

5. Consider your choice of birth control. Diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth.

6. Adjust clothing by wearing cotton underwear, avoid tight-fitting pants and switch out of sweaty clothing soon after a workout.

7. Take showers and avoid prolonged baths. Bacteria can easily contaminate bath water. Sitting in a tub allows these bacteria to reach the urethra.

8. Don't hold it in!  When you feel the need to empty your bladder, do so immediately rather than waiting for later. Holding in urine for prolonged periods of time perpetuates bacteria to infect the bladder.

9. Consider using tampons instead of sanitary napkins or pads during your menstrual cycle. Using tampons keep the bladder opening area clear, thereby limiting bacterial overgrowth.

10. Take cranberry supplements, more so if you are prone to UTIs. Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, which are thought to prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder. However, be aware that cranberry supplement products are unregulated and don't all contain the same amount of proanthocyanidins.