Background: Although acute urinary tract infections are common in young women, the associated risk factors have not been defined prospectively. Methods: We recruited sexually active young women who were starting a new method of contraception at a university health center or a health maintenance organization (HMO) and monitored them for six months for symptomatic urinary tract infections. Daily diaries and serial interviews were used to collect data on potential risk factors. Results: Among 796 women, the incidence of urinary tract infections per person-year was 0.7 in the university cohort (mean age, 23 years; n = 348) and 0.5 in the HMO cohort (mean age, 29; n = 448). In both cohorts, there were strong dose-response relations between the risk of infection and both recent use of a diaphragm with spermicide (respective relative risks for one, three, and five days of use in the past week, 1.42, 2.83, and 5.68 in the university cohort, P<0.001; and 1.29, 2.14, and 3.54 in the HMO cohort, P = 0.04) and recent sexual intercourse (respective relative risks for one, three, and five days with intercourse in the past week, 1.37, 2.56, and 4.81 in the university cohort, P<0.001; and 1.24, 1.91, and 2.96 in the HMO cohort, P = 0.002). The risk of acute infection was also associated with a history of recurrent infection (relative risk, 5.58 in the university cohort and 2.10 in the HMO cohort) but not with cervical-cap use, ABO-blood-group nonsecretor phenotype, or delayed postcoital voiding. Conclusions: Among sexually active young women the incidence of symptomatic urinary tract infection is high, and the risk is strongly and independently associated with recent sexual intercourse, recent use of a diaphragm with spermicide, and a history of recurrent urinary tract infections.
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