Did you take a lot of bubble baths in the '60s, '70s, or '80s? Did you suffer from UTIs long before you ever had sex? You might be a member of the Mr. Bubble Generation.
As a child, I repeatedly experienced burning and irritation when I urinated, along with a constant urge to pee, way before I ever knew what a UTI was... or that it even had a name. I'm not sure that I even complained about it to my mother, thinking it was just a way of life. I was big into bubble baths, and was partial to the pretty pink packaging of Mr. Bubble.
Right after I lost my virginity to my boyfriend, Anthony, at the age 17, that familiar feeling of fiery pee and the feeling of having to go but nothing coming out returned. It got so bad — including peeing blood — that I finally told my mother, who freaked out, saying, "I know what you've been doing! It's called honeymooners disease." She told me that she was going to put me on birth control, but for some reason, took me to the pediatrician instead of the gyno. Because I was afraid of what my mom would do, I swore up and down to the doctor that I didn't have sex. Before prescribing me antibiotics, she asked me if I took bubble baths. I told her I did, and she said that's what was causing the problem. Even though I knew that this particular UTI was the result of my relationship with Anthony, it finally clicked that the previous ones had come from my relationship with Mr. Bubble.
I stopped taking bubble baths, but I've still suffered from chronic urinary tract infections in my adult life, from sex. I recently told all of this to sexpert Susie Bright, and she said, "Oh! You're part of the Mr. Bubble Generation. I've heard of this!"
Many of the women I know have similar stories of chronic UTIs that might be linked to frequent childhood bubble baths. Ironically, until 2005, Mr. Bubble had been manufactured by Playtex, which specializes in baby products, lingerie and feminine hygiene. In 1987, the FDA required that all children's bubble bath products carry a warning label about the risk of irritation to the skin and urinary tract from prolonged exposure. (In March 2009, Mr. Bubble introduced a new "pediatrician approved" formula.) However, it doesn't seem as though any studies have been conducted about the women who grew up using these products, and how it affects their sexual health as adults.
While many doctors would advise against bubble baths after a little girl or an adult woman has been diagnosed with a UTI to reduce or prevent further irritation, there still is not sufficient evidence that bubble baths actually cause these infections. (What is known is that the fragrances in bubble bath and similar products can cause dysuria - discomfort during urination - but not a bacterial infection.) However, one study, conducted in 2006, found online, said that "it is still plausible that irritation may increase the frequency of urinary tract infections." It went on to say, "We believe that the enjoyment of bubble baths outweighs the limited evidence of their proposed harm." Tell that to my aching urethra!