What is a UTI?

What is a UTI?

UTI How-To's

What’s a UTI?

A urinary tract infection is an infection of your urinary system, which can include infection in urethra, bladder, kidney and uterus. Usually infections are in the lower urinary tract, meaning the urethra and bladder. 

People with vaginas and penises can both get UTIs, but people with vaginas are at higher risk and tend to get them more frequently. 

What are common UTI symptoms? 

UTI symptoms can include a burning sensation when peeing, an urge to pee frequently, cloudy urine that might smell off, pink or bloody urine, and pelvic pain. 

What causes UTIs? 

UTIs are caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. This can occur in many ways, but triggers can include sex (sometimes a new partner can increase risk), not completely emptying your bladder or holding your pee for extremely long periods of time, certain types of birth control (diaphragms and spermicide primarily), and menopause. Having a vagina increases your risk since the urethra is shorter and bacteria doesn’t have to travel as far to get to the bladder. 

Are UTIs an STD? 

UTIs are not an STD. 

How are UTIs treated? 

More severe UTIs including blood in urine or burning that won’t go away will likely require medical attention and potentially antibiotics. Less severe UTIs can be cured without antibiotics. If you are concerned about your UTI symptoms please contact your doctor. You can relieve UTI pain with Cheeky Bonsai’s fast-acting tablets while treating the infection with or without antibiotics. 

How can UTIs be avoided?

Symptomatic UTIs can be treated with antibiotics, but other measures can be taken to cure and prevent them:

- Stay hydrated (!!!!)

- Pee after sex

- Wipe front to back

- Wash sex toys after use

- Wear cotton underwear

- Change out of sweaty clothes after exercising

- Use Cheeky Bonsai’s UTI Drink Mix (with D-Mannose, cranberry antioxidants, and electrolytes to support a healthy urinary tract) 

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Cranberry Juice For UTIs?

Cranberry Juice For UTIs?

To cranberry or not to cranberry

If you’ve ever had a UTI chances are that someone on the internet or in real life has recommended chugging cranberry juice to make it go away. But is that actually effective? To get to the bottom of this, we sat down with Cheeky Bonsai medical advisor and Harvard urogynecologist, Dr. Emily Von Bargen, who shed some light on the whole cranberry fixation. 

“It depends on the type of cranberry you’re using,” Dr. Von Bargen says. “We actually recommend avoiding cranberry juice because it’s high in sugar and very low in the amount of cranberry. You want to try to have the purest form of cranberry, which is not found in juices.” OK, so pure cranberry: good, cranberry juice: not so good. Feel free to go cranberry crazy over Thanksgiving, but don’t drop cranberry juice in the cart the next time you feel a UTI coming on. 

So, why cranberries at all though? There’s actually a very good reason. “Cranberry produces this enzyme, this byproduct that prevents bacteria from attaching to the lining of the bladder,” Says Dr. Von Bargen. “It’s similar to D-mannose, which is also in the Cheeky Bonsai UTI Drink Mix.” D-mannose is a type of sugar that similarly prevents bacteria from attaching to the bladder lining. And what’s really great about both cranberry and D-mannose is that they are all natural. “They have some really promising health benefits for the bladder.” Especially if you’re someone who suffers from recurring UTIs, natural remedies can be a lifesaver when repeat rounds of antibiotics are beginning to cause more problems than solutions. 

“UTIs can go away on their own,” Dr. Von Bargen says. “A lot of women’s fear is that it's going to go up and affect the kidneys, but that’s pretty rare. There are cases where women are able to get rid of the UTI on their own so they don’t always need antibiotics.” A study published by the journal of Translational Andrology and Urology states that “by some estimates, 25 - 42 percent of uncomplicated UTI infections clear on their own.” UTIs don’t need to be treated unless they are symptomatic, meaning burning, pain, blood in urine or frequent urination. To curb a mild UTI without antibiotics Dr. Von Bargen recommends drinking lots of fluids. “You’re trying to cleanse the urinary tract,” she says. “The best treatment for a UTI that’s symptomatic is going to be antibiotics, but not all UTIs need to be treated and definitely if a woman is not symptomatic, it doesn’t need to be treated.” 

So, how do you know when it’s time to go to your doctor versus treat the UTI yourself? “Women know their bodies so well,” Dr. Von Bargen says. “Especially women who get recurrent UTIs. They kind of get the sense of whether or not it’s a low grade UTI where they can drink enough liquids to flush out their system and it will go away. But, if you’re having blood in your urine or other significant symptoms, that’s unlikely to go away with just hydration. It will make you feel better to stay really hydrated, but if you’re uncomfortable you’ll probably want to do the quickest thing and that’s going to be an antibiotic.” 

To wrap everything we learned; cranberry in its purest form is good for preventing and helping to treat UTIs, but cranberry juice or cocktail isn’t going to do much. Options such as the Cheeky Bonsai UTI Drink Mix which combines cranberry with D-mannose and electrolytes for hydration is a much better as a preventative measure as well as to help flush out low grade UTIs. If you have severe symptoms you should consult your doctor about whether you need to take antibiotics. The bottom line is that we are the only ones who truly know our bodies, and we need to listen to them. If you struggle with recurrent low grade UTIs there are options and strategies out there that don’t involve constant antibiotics, but as with anything it's a process of trial and error to find what works best for you. It can be extremely frustrating, but as Dr. Von Bargen says, “UTIs are very common.” Lots of women struggle with them and no one needs to feel ashamed or isolated while taking care of their everyday health. 

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Behind Cheeky Bonsai

Behind Cheeky Bonsai

Unapologetic musings

I’m interviewing Cheeky Bonsai founders, Catherine Nguyen and Elise Johnson, over the phone. Although I can’t see them, their closeness not only as colleagues, but as dear friends, is extremely apparent in the way they respond to questions, laugh, and make space for each other’s words. “We’re kind of business married,” Catherine says at one point, “You can’t shy away from problems, you have to learn how to communicate.” Elise chimes in; “Yeah, you really learn how to appreciate each other. And that appreciation deepens with time.” 

The two first met as Stanford undergrads where Catherine studied adolescent health and Elise was focused on product design. Across years of friendship they bonded over common passions surrounding women’s health. Like many (more than 50% of women!), they’d both dealt with UTIs and were sick of the societal shame that comes with literally just having a vagina. So, they decided to do something about it. 

They started developing the concept for a new kind of women's health brand during quarantine. Elise’s mom actually helped them come up with the name. “We were brainstorming over Zoom when my mom chimed in from the kitchen, How about bonsai like the bush?! And we added, Done, but let’s make it cheeky.” 

An unapologetic stance regarding everyday health has always been at the core of what makes Cheeky Bonsai what it is, and Elise and Catherine are no stranger to the difficult process of unlearning shame. “I was raised in a very conservative Catholic family,” Catherine says, “So there were just certain things we never talked about. There were all these taboos surrounding sex, but also just talking about vaginas and vulvas. I carried that shame into my conversations with friends, but after going to college I really came into myself and became more comfortable talking about my health.” Being shameless isn’t a personality trait, Elise adds, “It’s always a process to accept and love yourself. Legacy brands in our space are all about the act of covering things up, but we’re not about being discreet. We’re flipping the embarrassing conversation on its head. Just like your favorite fashion or beauty brand, women’s health should be something that you can actually relate to.” 

Picking a name, cake. Agreeing on what they wanted the brand to stand for, easy. The real hard work came in developing the type of science-backed products they wanted to see widely-available to all people with vaginas. The products they themselves wish they had access to over the past decade. A major step in moving toward that goal was connecting with a trusted medical partner. Dr. Emily Von Bargen, a Harvard urogynecologist (doctor specializing in pelvic floor conditions) and gynecological surgeon, ultimately served as their first medical advisor. And after lots of iterations, trial and error, and hard work in between, Cheeky Bonsai finally launched its first products for UTI care in August 2021. 

In the process of creating Cheeky Bonsai, one major thing that Elise and Catherine learned was just how much misinformation about vaginal health is circulating on the internet. Stigmas about vaginal scent, UTIs, and sex, bad advice surrounding women’s health...The list goes on. “We thought there should be a trusted, science-backed brand guiding these conversations,” Elise says. Neither Elise or Catherine were TikTok people pre-Cheeky Bonsai, but they saw an opportunity to use the platform for sharing accurate information in a way that was both straightforward and fun. They clearly scratched an itch because their videos addressing basic vaginal health facts and how-to’s quickly went viral. “People on TikTok are open to more real conversations. Things aren’t edited. They aren’t polished,” Catherine says, “Be real. Be weird. Be supportive of each other.” Those are the vibes that Cheeky Bonsai wants to embody. 

I signed off by asking Catherine and Elise what founding Cheeky Bonsai has taught them about themselves and about what it means to live unapologetically. This prompted two contemplative sighs, in unison. “Founding Cheeky Bonsai pushed me out of my comfort zone.” Catherine says. “Telling my own story and having it be broadcast.” I can feel Elise nodding supportively through the phone. “Yeah, we’re not the type of people who are going to yell in your face Vagina! Vagina! Vagina! I think it’s more about being comfortable in your way. Your comfort can manifest in many different ways.” It feels like one of the main reasons why Cheeky Bonsai has already made a poignant mark in the women’s health space, even though it's such a young company, is because of this very stance. They aren’t telling you to be anything. They are providing tools and resources to simply be comfortable being yourself. And that stance is a meaningful one for both the Cheeky Bonsai community and the founders themselves.

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Hairless Vulvas in Art History

Hairless Vulvas in Art History

Did Aphrodite shave or wax?

Yes, I am actively looking for someone to blame for the whole hairless vulva > hairy vulva situation. No thank you for the razor burn, countless dollars thrown to hot wax, and time spent removing pubic hair when I could be thinking about, I don’t know, making an NFT or this TikTok. I am firmly in the camp of all people have the right to body autonomy and if you want to be hairless and slippery from the neck down like a dolphin then that is your goddamn right. I’m actually equally disinterested in any argument that hairy is objectively better. Because, personally, I believe whatever you want is valid. I just don’t like being pressured into thinking that one is better for reasons of perceived hygiene or sexual desirability. There’s a Lolita-ness to the whole fixation with being bare that leaves me deeply uncomfortable. I know that I was not born desiring to have a bare vulva. I know that hair grows there naturally and serves the purpose of protecting my genitals. So, why is the image of the hairless vulva so seemingly ubiquitous and treated with such superiority when it’s not typically natural on an adult and isn’t particularly practical? 

The first culprit that came to mind was mainstream pornography. The fetishization of young women (Pornhub reported that “Teen” was the fifth most searched term in 2019), the image of the hairless vulva (often including a labia of a certain size and shape) is reiterated over and over again, seemingly infinitely. I’d love to blame dear old Pornhub for my woes, but that would be a grave oversimplification of what is actually a long (very long) and winding history dating back to the earliest known depictions of the human body in art. We’re talking 35,000 BCE (what does that even mean, cannot compute). Early humans carved a vulva on a cave wall in what is now Vézère Valley, France. It’s a rather crude rendition, but clearly sans hair. Of course, the question is; was that intentional? Or is it just really hard to carve tiny hairs into rock? I’m no expert in Paleolithic art (not that anyone thought I was), but my initial reaction was, yeah, it’s obviously just very hard to create detail with a blunt object in a dark cave…However, my pet theory was immediately challenged when I learned that starting in 29,000 BCE little Venus statues began to show up all over Europe and Russia, depicting women with huge boobs, curvy butts, and hairless vulvas. Not even the slightest etching of public hair. These Venus statues walked so that Bratz dolls could run. And later on, all around the world, there are more examples still of the ever persistent hairless vulva. “The Dancing girl of Mohenjo-Daro” from modern day northern India, depictions of the goddess Hathor in ancient Egypt, The “Burney Relief” in what is now Iraq. The list goes on. 

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Vulvas on the Runway

Vulvas on the Runway

I’m couturgasming

There’s nothing more meta than wearing your own body as clothing...over your body. We’re not talking Silence of the Lambs, we’re talking fashion inspired by the body, and of course, being that this is The Cheeky, we’re specifically talking about the representation of vulvas and vaginas on the runway.

There are a lot of shapes and colors in fashion reminiscent of the vulva, a lot of articles out there with pictures of celebs wearing flowing pink gowns with captions reading “Big Vulva Energy Rocks the Red Carpet.” But, in all honesty, the *essence* of vulva doesn’t really do it for us. We were on the hunt for something a little less...subtle. Finally, we stumbled across the holy grail of labial couture; a spring/summer 2018 collection by a then lesser known brand called Namilia, which now sells through the likes of hyper-ubiquitous, Dolls Kill. Founded by Nan Li and Emilia Pfohl, two designers who met at the University of the Arts in Berlin, they state; “Driven by the revolutionary spirit of youth cultures, Namilia uses clothing not just as an aesthetic tool but more so as a visual platform to proclaim their own beliefs, conflicts and dreams.” Well damn. Sign us up. 

As is customary in patriarchal society, people had a lotttt of opinions after the collection debuted at New York Fashion Week. Some called it bold and transgressive, others said it was tasteless and juvenile. Are these opinions important? Do we even remember them? Not really. What feels important to us, in terms of context, is that this was September 2017. That’s just a month before #MeToo went viral (movement founder, Tarana Burke, actually first used the term a decade earlier, but October 2017 was when the hashtag really caught on) and began a new conversation around communication and action regarding assault, consent and the body which, of course, continues to evolve today. 

With all of that in mind, please enjoy this selection of vulvar lewks from that infamous show.

We would wear these both to a funeral and to the gas station. In our humble opinion, they are everyday shoes because vulvas and vaginal health are for everyday, so why not just keep it consistent. 

We’re not trying to fully live inside of Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, but we’re also not not trying to. In striving to make more space for conversations around everyday vaginal health, we will happily also take up physical space with this skirt, just to get the point across. 

Say it with us: Statement sleeve! Statement sleeve! Statement sleeve! 

This appeals to both the cowboy in us (chaps) and the dancing queen (bell bottoms). Imagine showing up to the club (or corral) in pants covered in vulvas. We actually already own multiple pairs of bell bottoms. And we are now this close to bargaining for a used sewing machine on Craigslist. 

Look, it’s OK, we’re all thinking the same thing; I’m going to need a very large and very feathery vulva tote to fit the vulva blanket I will lay over the restaurant chair to sit on while I dine in my vulva ensemble.

This is our favorite dress in the collection. We’re very interested in anything that allows one to be fully clothed from one angle and fully naked from another. We contain multitudes. Never forget it. 

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The Official Cheeky Playlist

The Official Cheeky Playlist

This is what my vagina sounds like

For us, everyday vaginal health is as much a conversation as it is a practice. With that in mind we’re curating an ongoing playlist of music that captures the vibe of open, honest, and shame-free conversations and expression that we at Cheeky Bonsai strive for. 

I’m sure that you’re familiar with the experience of not being able to narrow down a playlist to a *polite* hour loop, so, for now, here’s two and a half hours of Cheeky magic. Listen while peeing after sex. 

* LISTEN HERE * 

Some artists we’re loving who we’ve included in this iteration of the playlist:

COBRAH

An electro-pop sensation from Sweden, she’s always clad in leather and latex, occasionally with a strap-on. “Good Puss” is a chill, sultry electronic ode to the vagina that we placed at the very end to round out your listening experience.

CAROL ADES

For a vibe change, singer-songwriter, Carol Ades, has written hits for Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez but has since started her own project which includes a brutally honest (yet still tender) ballad called “Crying During Sex.” It's OK to feel your feelings. For real, it is.

DIJON 
Dijon has an extensive catalog of raw and evocative alternative R&B which includes a brand new album, “Absolutely” that is very worth diving into. We’ve included an old favorite “Skin” on this playlist because it’s bodily and beautiful. Dijon’s work is always sensitive, heart-felt, truthful and inspires us to be gentle with ourselves.

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Cheeky Weekly #1

Cheeky Weekly #1

We're in the pink and the pink's in us

Welcome to The Cheeky Weekly! This is our space for sharing interesting reads, views and listens exploring bodies, lived experiences, and everyday health without shame. 

This week’s picks include an old favorite from Alie Ward’s Ologies podcast, a short film about endometriosis, and a poem where a child asks about her vagina.

READ

After Reading Mickey in the Night Kitchen for the Third Time Before Bed” By Rita Dove 

Rita Dove is an acclaimed poet, essayist, and former Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. This small but mighty poem tells the story of a little girl asking, without shame, about vaginas while a mother reflects on the ways in which we discuss our own bodies. It's poignant, direct, and honest. The ending is a stunner:

How to tell her that it's what makes us–

black mother, cream child.

That we're in the pink

and the pink's in us.

WATCH 

End-O directed by Alice Seabright 

Filmmaker, Alice Seabright, might be best known for writing and directing episodes of the Netflix hit, Sex Education, and well as showrunning her own upcoming BBC project, Chloe, but she’s also directed a number of smaller projects about little discussed realities of women’s vaginal and reproductive health. 

End-O is a short film about a woman with endometriosis who is literally just trying to have sex, something that can be extremely difficult when you deal with chronic pain and bleeding. The film is funny and entertaining but feels groundbreaking for its depiction of an everyday women’s health issue that’s almost never portrayed in media.

LISTEN

“Gynecology with Philippa Ribbink” on the Ologies podcast.

Ologies host, Alie Ward, is a wiz at the long-form interview format. Each episode of the podcast is driven by a scientific expert and while there are surely many great women’s health audio resources out there (see future Cheeky Weeklies), this one is a great place to start. They cover a ton of topics, it’s shame-free, and the tone is open and engaging.

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Rachel Moranis of Stardust

Rachel Moranis of Stardust

The wildly creative artist and founder of period tracking app, Stardust

Where are you based?

New York City

How did you get into period tracking? 

I was on birth control pills for over a decade and I wanted to see what my body was like free of synthetic hormones. I was always having side effects from the pill and was constantly switching brands. So I finally switched to an IUD and without the pill pack reminding me when I’d get my period, I wanted to know when it was coming.

What’s your best vagina story?

In college I started dating this guy and I don’t know if it was our different body biomes, but for some reason I would always get UTIs. We were together for just over two years. The first year I would get a UTI almost every month and go on antibiotics. The antibiotics would often give me a yeast infection and it would repeat the next month. I eventually became resistant to so many of the antibiotics. My doctor told me to go on a low dose of antibiotics every day and it really screwed up my health. During my summer abroad in Prague, my ex came to visit me, I got a UTI and started peeing blood. I went to the emergency room and they didn’t speak English. He said they didn't have an antibiotic I could take in the Czech Republic. So my friend had a brilliant idea to go to the Four Seasons and ask for their doctor. Their doctor (I’ll never forget her name — Dr. Mikuleska) visited me the next morning carrying this Louis Vuitton bag and I thought, “What’s in that fancy bag of yours? Maybe some amazing international antibiotics!” Unfortunately not. She told me she could order the right ones from London, but I was in so much pain that I actually had to fly home to the US to get the one antibiotic I could take. It was such a horror and I had to break up with the guy saying “My body doesn’t like you, I’m sorry!”

How would society be different if people were more comfortable tracking and talking about their periods?

It’s happening in real time. Menstrual health and wellness is far less taboo than ever. We never thought people would share their period tracking on social media but people are doing it, especially Gen Z. I wonder when we’ll see things like paid menstrual leave when you get the first two days of your period off.

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A very vaginal halloween

A very vaginal halloween

Shockingly unapologetic get-ups

It’s that time of the year again, when you struggle between looking hot but also being funny and relatable. Halloween falls on a weekend this year, so we’re basically committed for not one, but three days. If you need some inspiration, we've pulled together some cheeky vagina-themed Halloween costume ideas. Because what's hotter and more relatable than vaginas? 

Ghost but make it a tampon

Take the classic bedsheet ghost costume, but tell people you’re a tampon instead. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, dab on some blood for some spooky period vibes (spooky to the male gaze).

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