What increases my risk for a bladder infection?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
Women in their reproductive years are at greatest risk for developing bladder infections. Due to the short length of a woman’s urethra, it is easy for fecal contamination to happen and the simple act of sexual intercourse sets up an environment for the infections to occur.

Frequent sexual activity or a burst of activity after abstaining increases a woman’s risk for infection. In addition, use of a diaphragm or spermicide that contains nonoxynol-9 for birth control also increases the risk.

Women are susceptible to bladder infections after menopause as well. With estrogen loss the urinary tract is more vulnerable to infection. There is less resistance to bacteria such as E. Coli, one of the major causes of infection.

For men, the risk of bladder infection occurs after the age of 50 when they develop prostate problems. An enlarged prostate can block the urinary tract and increase the chance of infection. In addition, an infected prostate can result in a bladder infection as well.  

Your risk for bladder infection is highest if you are a woman in your reproductive years. Women's urethras are near the vagina and the rectum where bacteria reside. With this close proximity, and the shortness of the urethra, bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder. Sexual intercourse may push bacteria towards the urethra. If you are pregnant, you may have difficulty emptying the bladder completely. If you are postmenopausal, the tissues of your vaginal and vulvar may thin, leading to more frequent bladder infections.

If you are a man, your risk of bladder infection increases if you have a bacterial infection in the prostate. Obstruction from a kidney stone, or a physical abnormality that allows fecal matter to flow into the bladder from the intestine, may all cause a bladder infection. The insertion of a catheter or another medical instrument may also increase the risk of bacterial infection.