A UTI develops when bacteria, usually E. coli, travels from the skin or rectum into your urethra.
Under normal circumstances, your immune system can fend off invaders like this, but when those defenses fail, the bacteria multiply, becoming an infection that adversely impacts one or more parts of your urinary tract.
When left untreated, a UTI can develop into a bladder infection or impact your ureters. In rarer, more severe cases, it can become a kidney infection or travel into your bloodstream.
Because women have urinary tracts separate from their reproductive organs, a urinary tract infection will never adversely affect menstruation or ovulation.
There is a relationship between UTIs and sexual health, but a UTI will never directly cause you to develop irregular periods, experience a late period, or miss a period all together.
UTIs can be dangerous if they are left untreated. If you believe you have a urinary tract infection or have questions about your menstrual cycle, seek medical advice from a gynecologist or another health care provider.
They can take a urine sample, discuss your symptoms, and recommend treatment options that will help address your discomfort and improve your health and wellbeing.
In this article, I’ll explain whether UTIs and your period are connected, and if the antibiotics used to treat a UTI can affect your period.
Then I’ll talk about what can actually delay your period, signs you might be pregnant, and when you should talk to a healthcare provider.
Are Periods and UTIs Connected?
There is a connection between reproductive health and urinary tract infections, but a UTI will never directly affect your menstrual period.
Classic UTI symptoms include frequent urination, difficulty urinating, or an urge to urinate even when the bladder is empty.
In addition, some people feel a burning sensation in their genital area when they pee, have bloody or cloudy urine, or feel a cramping sensation in their lower abdomen.
If you are experiencing one or more UTI symptoms and have a late period, there are a few reasons so much might be happening at once.
- Menopause: As women age, their estrogen levels drop and genital muscles atrophy, making them more susceptible to irregular periods and UTIs.
- Pregnancy: Early pregnancy symptoms often mirror UTI symptoms. Many women in their first trimester experience nausea, vomiting, and a frequent urge to urinate.
- Sexual intercourse and birth control: Women who engage in sexual activity are more likely to develop UTIs because sex can introduce bacteria into the urethra. Hormonal birth control does not increase women’s risk for UTIs, but it can delay their period.
- Stress: When you are under emotional pressure, it affects your immune system and reproductive health. Chronic stress can contribute to an irregular or missed period, and it can also suppress your immune functioning, putting you at greater risk of UTI.
If you have concerns about UTI symptoms, a missed period, or another aspect of your reproductive or genital health, talk to an OB-GYN.
They can evaluate your symptoms and talk to you about how to prevent and treat UTIs effectively.
Can Antibiotics Affect Your Period?
To diagnose you with a urinary tract infection, your doctor may ask for a urine sample that they can take to the lab.
If the lab finds indications that you are suffering from a UTI—usually by finding red or white blood cells or bacteria in your urine—your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to help you fight off your infection.
They may also tell you to drink lots of water and make other lifestyle changes to stave off future infections.
The antibiotic your doctor prescribes will often depend on your health history, cost considerations, and the type of bacteria that they find in your urine. Common medications include :
- Cephalexin (Keflex)
- Fosfomycin (Monurol)
- Nitrofurantoin (Furadantin, Macrodantin, Macrobid)
- Sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim (Bactrim, Septra)
In complicated cases or infections the prove difficult to treat, doctors may prescribe amoxicillin and clavulanate potassium (Augmentin), ciprofloxacin (Cipro, Cipro XR), or levofloxacin (Levaquin) to eradicate bacteria and soothe UTI symptoms.
If your infection is advanced, you have a fever, or you are pregnant, you may need antibiotics via an IV.
In that case, your doctor might recommend ceftriaxone, gentamicin, or tobramycin to treat your condition.
Antibiotics work by helping your body’s immune system fight bacteria.
Most do not interact with your reproductive system or affect your period.
Of all the antibiotics doctors prescribe to treat UTIs, only one, rifampin (Rifadin), may impact your hormones or delay your monthly cycle.
What Can Actually Delay Your Period?
Although urinary tract infections don’t affect your period, there are other reasons that you might be experiencing an irregular cycle.
Hormonal changes, medical conditions, and lifestyle factors can all play a part in delaying your period—or keeping it from arriving at all.
- Body weight: If you are overweight or underweight, it can impact how your body produces hormones, making your periods more erratic or unreliable.
- Breastfeeding: When you breastfeed, your body produces prolactin, a hormone that helps you make milk and simultaneously stops you from ovulating or menstruating with regularity.
- Celiac disease: Although researchers are still studying the connection between celiac disease and irregular menstruation, evidence suggests that nearly a quarter of women with gluten intolerances report a history of dysfunctional uterine bleeding.
- Certain medications: Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can impact cycle regularity. Hormone replacement therapies, hormonal birth control, blood thinners, thyroid medicines, antidepressant medications, and aspirin can affect how regularly you menstruate.
- Diabetes: Research suggests that up to 50% of women with diabetes also struggle with dysfunctional, excessive, and unreliable periods.
- Endometriosis: Women with endometriosis often have long, heavy periods with short intervals between cycles. They can also experience pain and bleeding during ovulation, have pain during bowel movements, and pain during sexual intercourse.
- Excessive exercise: Intense physical activity can change how your body produces hormones, affecting your menstrual cycle.
- Fibroids: Uterine fibroids or muscle tumors of the uterus can disrupt your monthly flow by keeping your uterus from shedding its lining as usual.
- Menopause: When women go through menopause, their bodies stop producing hormones that keep them able to reproduce. As a result, their periods become more and more erratic before eventually coming to an end.
- Naturally irregular cycles: For some women, a delayed period is normal. Research suggests that up to 15% of women experience at least some cycle irregularity throughout their lives.
- Other medical conditions: Certain cancers, thyroid disorders, and hormonal conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome can impact, delay, or inhibit a regular menstrual cycle. If you are experiencing an irregular cycle and are worried that it could indicate something more serious, make an appointment to share your concerns with a medical professional.
- Pregnancy: For many women, a missed period is the first indication that they are pregnant. If you have not had your period for more than a week and are experiencing any other signs of pregnancy, take an at-home test or talk to your doctor to confirm whether you are expecting.
Symptoms of Pregnancy
Early pregnancy symptoms mirror those of a urinary tract infection, and some women have difficulty telling the difference.
If your period is more than seven days late and you have any of the following symptoms, you may be pregnant:
- Nausea, vomiting, or stomach upset
- Swollen, tender, or tingling breasts
- Sensitivity to smells or certain foods
- A frequent need to urinate
Less common early pregnancy symptoms include bloating, cramping, constipation, mood swings, and light spotting.
It can be hard to tell if you are pregnant based on symptoms alone.
If you want to confirm that you are expecting, take an at-home pregnancy test or talk to your health care provider.
When to Talk To A Doctor
Urinary tract infections can be dangerous if left untreated.
If you suspect you have a urinary tract infection or have other concerns about your urinary or reproductive health, make an appointment to speak to a doctor. They can diagnose any issues you may have, prescribe the appropriate treatment plan, and help get you back to better health and wellness.
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K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
An introduction to the epidemiology and burden of urinary tract infections https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6502976/
Urinary Tract Infection. (2019). https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html
Urinary Tract Infection in Postmenopausal Women. (2011). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3246510/
How Does Endometriosis Affect My Menstrual Cycle? (2020). https://nwhn.org/endometriosis-affect-menstrual-cycle
Irregular Periods: Why Is My Period Late? (2020). https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/womens-health/2020/november/irregular-periods-why-is-my-period-late
Celiac disease and dysfunctional uterine bleeding; the efficiency of gluten free diet. (2014). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24471897/
Long Menstrual Cycle Is Associated with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Korean Women. (2011). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3178699/