Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in Boston who lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. She regularly (and generously!) answers your health questions here on EMandLO.com — this week, it’s on “Can th NuvaRing cause UTIs?” To ask her your own med question, click here.
Dear Dr. Kate,
Does the Nuvaring cause UTIs [urinary tract infections]? Or is it from mistakenly putting it in or taking it out without washing hands. Or from sex? Could the Nuvaring be causing pain that mimics the feeling of a UTI for some reason?
— Pain in the Patootie
The Nuvaring is known to cause an increase in vaginal discharge, and some women feel discomfort during intercourse with the ring in place. But there are no reports of the ring causing urinary tract infections. (Spermicides and diaphragms, on the other hand, can increase your risk of a UTI.) And while you should always wash your hands before placing them anywhere inside your body, inserting or snagging the ring with less than clean hands shouldn’t cause a UTI, either. And if the Nuvaring is properly all the way inside your body, it shouldn’t hurt at all.
The biggest risk factor for UTIs in a young, healthy woman? Sexual activity, specifically intercourse. Our urethra is so short, it’s easy for bacteria to be pushed up into the bladder during sex. The best way to prevent this is to pee both before and after sex. It may not feel sexy to hop out of bed after orgasm to head to the loo, but if you tend to get UTIs often, it’s worth it.
If you’re having multiple UTIs diagnosed by tests and they don’t seem to stay away long, you may actually have a kidney stone. If your doc is sure that you’ve been taking the right antibiotics, ask her about the possibility of a stone — it’s usually diagnosed by an ultrasound or a CT scan.
All of that said, there are rare reports of women placing the ring into their bladder (through the urethra) instead of their vagina (OUCH). So if you’ve had a painful ring insertion, your bladder is very irritated…and you can’t find the ring inside your vagina, get yourself to your gyno pronto for an exam.
— Dr. Kate