Could UTIs Be the Cause of Why Your Period Is Delayed?

Being prepared for your period is challenging when its arrival is unpredictable. Irregular periods can lead to health concerns, especially when it comes to pregnancy or difficulties conceiving. When frequent UTIs share similar symptoms, distinguishing the cause of cramps becomes even more complex. Could UTIs be influencing your irregular periods? Continue reading to find out more.


Here's what to expect today:

UTIs and period: explore the link between the two

UTI treatment: take control of UTIs so they don't take control of you

Symptoms untangled: compare UTI vs. period pain

Beyond the calendar: find out why periods don’t always show up


Can a UTI or bladder infection delay your period?

Many things can throw off your hormone balance and delay your period, including stress. While UTIs can be stressful and uncomfortable, to say the least, it usually takes a major stressor or life change to delay your period. In general, UTIs are not considered to be a primary factor for irregular periods.

Reasons why UTIs are common when your period comes

So, why do UTIs tag along with periods for so many women?

There are multiple reasons. Menstrual blood is not dirty or a source of infection. However, the moist environment created by bleeding can encourage bacterial growth. More factors that make you susceptible include:

  • Hormones. During a period, low estrogen makes vaginal secretions less acidic, and lowers numbers of healthy bacteria. Having low estrogen over a long time — such as in menopause — also leads to more frequent UTIs due to fragile and dry vaginal skin.
  • Stress. Apart from everyday life stressors, periods can further intensify the challenge. Up to 90% of women under the age of 24 report painful periods. Stress can activate the fight or flight response, potentially weakening the immune system and making one more prone to infections.
  • Sex. When the chances of getting pregnant are lower during a period, some women might have an increase in sexual activity. During sexual intercourse, more bacteria can enter the urinary tract and increase your UTI risk.
  • Hygiene products. Tampons and menstrual cups can carry bacteria into your vagina, leaving a short trip into your urinary system. Menstrual pads can hold moisture against your vulva and the opening of your urinary tract, making a great environment for bacteria to grow.

Treatment of UTIs

If you suspect you have a UTI, the first step is to talk with your doctor. They will test your urine for signs of infection and may perform a urine culture to determine the specific bacteria causing your infection. It is critical to get tested before starting treatment. Taking antibiotics before testing could cause an inaccurate test result and lead to the wrong treatment.

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat your urinary tract infection. While you are waiting for antibiotics to work, you can get relief from your UTI symptoms from over-the-counter medications, including phenazopyridine and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

To lower your risk of getting a UTI during your period, try these tips:

  • Drink plenty of water to keep urine moving. Stagnant urine that sits in your bladder can let bacteria grow.
  • Try cranberry supplements or juice, which may prevent bacteria from adhering to your urinary tract.
  • Use good hygiene and change pads regularly to keep bacteria from growing in a moist environment.

UTI vs. period symptoms

When you have irregular periods and frequent UTIs, telling the difference between the two can be hard. Bloating and lower belly cramping can come with both. A light period like the one you may have with an intrauterine device (IUD) in place could be mistaken for bloody urine from a UTI, sending you to urgent care to pee in a cup when what you need is a heating pad, some chocolate, and a cup of tea.

Compare the frequency of some common symptoms:

SymptomFrequency with UTIFrequency with period
Pain with urinationCommon
Rarely
Frequent urinationCommonSometimes
BleedingSometimesAlways
CrampsSometimesCommon
Pain after urination (bladder spasms)CommonRarely
Lower back painSometimesCommon
Constipation or diarrheaSometimesSometimes
Gas and bloatingSometimesCommon
HeadacheRarelySometimes
Mood changesSometimesCommon
Breast tendernessRarelyCommon

If you suspect you may have a UTI, it is better to be safe than sorry and get tested. UTIs can lead to bigger problems if they are left untreated.

Reasons why your period is delayed

Some potential causes of an irregular or late period include:

  • Pregnancy. Early pregnancy tests can be falsely negative. If your period is late, and you have a negative home pregnancy test, wait a few days and test again. You can also make an appointment with your doctor for a more sensitive blood test, or to check for other causes of a late period.
  • Weight changes. Extreme weight changes — either loss or gain — can lead to hormone changes that delay your period.
  • Over-exercising. Exercise is a good thing, but getting too much on a consistent basis can trigger a stress response that changes your hormones.
  • Medications. Birth control pills directly impact your hormone levels and period. Other medications can affect your hormones as a side effect, including chemotherapy, some blood pressure and allergy medication, and medication to treat mood disorders.
  • Health conditions. Some health conditions interfere with your hormone balance, including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and thyroid disorders.
  • Menopause. If your periods are getting irregular, you may be in the beginning stages of menopause — perimenopause. Ask your doctor if this could apply to you.

If you struggle with irregular periods, start with a doctor's visit. Your doctor may be able to treat the underlying cause and help you have regular cycles. This may include treating conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, or thyroid imbalances. Your doctor may also prescribe medications.

Some medications that help regulate your period include oral contraceptives (birth control pills) and progestin.

Try these tips to regulate your period naturally:

  • Manage stress. If you are under stress, try yoga, meditation, or other relaxation techniques to turn off the fight or flight response.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Having excess body weight can affect the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle.
  • Check your diet. Eat a well-balanced diet with carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins. Your body needs these nutrients to make and regulate hormones.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can lead to hormone imbalances and make you more prone to UTIs.
  • Exercise moderately. Extreme exercise may delay your period, so keep this in mind if you are struggling with irregularity. Regular moderate exercise may help with regular cycles.

A UTI may share symptoms with your period, but it does not affect it directly. Inform yourself, and explore other potential causes of irregular cycles with your doctor. Listen to your body, and embrace healthy habits for more predictable periods and UTI-free days.

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