Cystitis, or bladder infections, have plagued my body since I was five years old. Then, i’d curl up in a ball in the garden and stay there until I felt confident I could make it to the toilet without weeing myself, now I just whimper, take 5am baths and constantly Google all the reasons why I might be getting the recurring illness. Naturally, now I have cancer, kidney stones and a generally broken urinary tract. (Disclaimer: I don’t have any of the above).
Call it over sharing to discuss my urethra with you, but the chances are you’ve suffered from this vile infection and you know the distress, agony and discomfort I’m talking about.
Now, because I’m such a self-confessed expert in the field (alongside two friends, one who has interstitial cystitis, and another who may have reflux problems with her bladder), I’m compiled a list of what actually makes you feel better.
I feel like this is so blindingly obvious, but I only came to be aware of how much of a saviour this is recently. I wish I’d known that sitting in a hot bath where you have the ability to just sit and wee yourself repeatedly is the best thing ever all those times I sat crying on the toilet at 2am. Honestly, try it, there’s nothing quite as soothing. I frequently make my boyfriend run me middle-of-the-night baths when my cystitis pangs wake me up.
2. Bicarbonate of soda
Most times I get cystitis now, it requires antibiotics. But when you first feel those niggles coming from your wee hole, drink a pint of water with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in. It almost instantly stops your wee being so acidic and the bacteria stopping to the walls of your urethra. If you’re quick enough, it’ll stop the growth of the evil bacteria ASAP.
3. Distract yourself
It’s easier said than done, but keeping your mind busy will help you stop focusing on the pain. I’ve been known to play Scrabble, but games are definitely better than daytime TV at occupying your mind. Although the pain from a bladder infection hurts, it’s more the discomfort and burning that makes it Hell, which CAN be forgotten about – sort of.
4. Avoid tea, alcohol and sex
I’m rubbish at giving things up – especially alcohol. Because I drink up to 5 times a week, cutting it out for long enough for the antibiotics to actually work is a real struggle, but you’ll instantly notice the symptoms creep back if you relapse. Every morning wee after sex or drinking (when you haven’t cleared the infection) will feel like people are sticking tiny daggers on fire into your private parts. You’ve been warned.
5. No french knickers
I ditched the lace pants in 2011, when I read online that the friction from them can help spread bacteria and cause cystitis, and I have to say, I’ve definitely noticed the difference. YES, my boyfriend has to put up with cotton bloomers from Primark, but at least I haven’t got cheap faux-lace rubbing up my wee hole the wrong wah. Eek.
6. Wee after sex
It just makes sense doesn’t it? Use the force of a good wee to knock out any bacteria that’s entered you during the deed. Sexy.
7. Hot water bottles
On your back, on your vagina, just around your person somewhere – wherever you put a hot water bottle it instantly soothes. It’s half a comfort thing as much as a pain reducer, and it’s particularly handy if you HAVE to be in work and can’t have a nice urine-filled bath.
8. Pyjamas and bed
Because my symptoms often come and go depending on whether I’ve taken painkillers, how much water I’ve drunk and the stage of infection, I’m often plagued with guilt about taking time off work/cancelling plans because i’m not in agony 100 per cent of the time. Treat yourself and stay home. Clean, loose-fitting pyjamas and bed will make you feel more comfortable, despite the, err, discomfort in your lady region. Plus, all the rest will help you fight the nasty bacteria quicker. People call in sick for much less debilitating problems than an angry bladder…
And if anyone else has any amazing tips, tell me now please. My current wee sample says no infection but traces of blood and I still hurt.