What is the Link Between Urinary Tract Infections and Sex?

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link between uti's

The Link Between Urinary Tract Infections and Sex

Your urinary system helps your body absorb nutrients and produce waste products, but it’s not immune to infection. When infection is localized in your urinary system, it’s called a urinary tract infection (UTI). Tiny microbes travel up the urethra and into the bladder, causing an infection to occur in the lower urinary tract. While easily treatable, UTIs can spread into your upper urinary tract and cause a myriad of problems. That’s why it’s so important to get a proper diagnosis from your urologist or doctor.

Most of us are well aware of the feeling of having a UTI—they’re the 2nd most common type of infection in the body1—but many people don’t fully understand how they happen. There are many things that can increase your risk for developing a UTI, one of them being sex. In this article, we’ll explore the link between urinary tract infections and sex and everything in between.   

Causes of a UTI

A urinary tract infection can happen to anyone of any age, even babies.2 However, the most common victims of UTIs are women. They’re about 10 times more likely than men to get a UTI2 and close to 60% of women will experience one or more UTIs in their lifetime3. One reason for this is due to the anatomical differences in urethra length between men and women. Women have a significantly shorter urethra than men, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. The urethra in women is also much closer to the anus than in men, which makes it easier for bacteria to wind up in the wrong place. 

With that being said, the main cause of urinary tract infections is bacteria.

UTIs occur when bacteria gets into your urinary tract. This can happen due to poor hygiene, certain contraception methods, and increased sexual activity.

Sex and Urinary Tract Infections

The reasons that sex proliferates UTIs is because the physical act causes a woman’s urethra to come in contact with bacteria from the genitals and anus.2 After contact is made, it’s easy for bacteria to travel up into the urinary system and cause an infection. This is one of the reasons that women experience more UTIs than men. In fact, close to 80% of premenopausal women with a UTI had sex within the previous 24 hours.2

This means that any time you engage in sexual activity, you’re at risk for getting a UTI. If you’re using a diaphragm, your risk increases—it restricts the bladder from completely emptying.2 But this shouldn’t limit you from enjoying yourself. There are preventative measures to take to reduce the risks.

Can You Have Sex With a Urinary Tract Infection?

The symptoms associated with UTIs are irritating and at times, uncomfortable. However, that doesn’t mean that sex is absolutely out of the question. It is possible to have sex when you have a UTI, but doing so can contribute to an increase in irritation that your urinary tract is dealing with from the infection.4 Having sex with a UTI will also increase any risk of complications and cause uncomfortable side effects.4

If you opt to have sex with a UTI, it’s not uncommon to feel some degree of pain, have exacerbated symptoms, become re-infected with new bacteria, or pass the infection to your partner.4

  • Pain and Exacerbated Symptoms

    Inflammation of the body is a response that something is wrong. When you ignore inflammation, especially during a UTI, you will put added pressure on your urinary system. Vaginal penetration could thereby cause pain or discomfort that reduces any pleasure that sex brings.4 Since penetration will further irritate your urinary system, your symptoms will likely get worse.

  • New Bacteria

    Most UTIs are from Escherichia coli bacteria, but during an infection, you’re more susceptible to new sources of bacteria.4 Having sex can increase these chances of re-infection with a new bacteria.

  • Passing on the UTI

By no means is a UTI on it’s own considered “contagious.” But that doesn't mean the bacteria won’t spread. It is possible to pass the bacteria that caused the UTI to your partner and vice versa, which is why doctors recommend waiting.4

For these reasons, doctors do not recommend having sex with a UTI. Instead, it’s better to wait until you don’t have any symptoms and you finish your treatment plan or antibiotics.

If you absolutely can’t wait and you decide to have sex with a UTI, be open and honest with your doctor. Make sure you listen to your body, pee before and after sex, clean up when you’re done, and don’t cross-contaminate by switching between vaginal and anal sex.4 

The Relationship Between UTIs and Sexually Transmitted Infections

A UTI is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI).4 However, it may be an indication that you have an STI. Certain sexually transmitted diseases are known to cause UTIs or produce UTI-like symptoms, so you need to make sure that you understand the cause of your UTI before getting treatment.5 If you notice a UTI after engaging in sexual intercourse with a new partner, go to your doctor to get tested for STIs. Practicing safe sex will reduce your chances of STIs and in turn, UTIs that are related.

How to Reduce the Risks of Getting a UTI After Sex

If you want to reduce the chances of getting a UTI after sex, there are a few things you should do. The more consistent you are with these habits, the less likely you are to develop a UTI after sex.

  • Practice Good Hygiene

    Women are taught from an early age the importance of wiping from front to back for a reason. Doing so is more hygienic and will help you avoid spreading bacteria into your urinary tract and vagina. Always continue with this habit. Practicing good hygiene is essential in UTI prevention.

    You should also wash your hands before any sexual activity and clean up afterwards. This helps reduce the chances of germs getting into the urethra during foreplay and clean any bacteria off after. Finally, if you’re going to be engaging in anal sex, do not switch to vaginal sex without first changing the condom. This is a sure-fire way to get a urinary tract infection and is dangerous for your health.

     

  • Stay Hydrated

    Drink a lot of water, not soda pop or sugary sports drinks. When you drink more water, you’ll urinate more frequently. The more often you empty your bladder, the more your urinary tract and urethra get flushed out. This will help eliminate harmful bacteria before it has a chance to reach your bladder and cause an infection. 

     

  • Pee Before and After Sex

    When you use the bathroom, you’re flushing out the bacteria that are in your bladder and urethra. When done immediately after sex, you will reduce the chances of developing a urinary tract infection. Don’t worry about running off to the bathroom right away, just make sure that you do so in a timely manner to get any bacteria out before it can reach your bladder. 

     

  • Avoid Scented Products

    Scented products are more irritating than unscented ones. Avoid using things with excess chemicals, fragrances, or deodorizers to allow your body to maintain its homeostasis.

     

  • Reevaluate Your Birth Control

As we mentioned before, diaphragms make it nearly impossible to completely empty your bladder, thus increasing the risk of a UTI. Spermicidal lubricants are another option to reconsider as they actually promote bacterial growth. Talk to your doctor about switching to a more UTI-friendly birth control method.

 

Know When It’s Time to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor as soon as you start experiencing any symptoms of a urinary tract infection. For any urologic problems, a proper diagnosis is needed before you can move forward with a treatment plan.

Some signs and symptoms that indicate a urinary tract infection include:

  • Painful urination
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Strong, frequent urge to urinate regardless of output
  • Cloudy urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Urine with a strong odor
  • Pelvic pain

Conclusion

Urinary tract infections are annoying, but unfortunately they’re fairly common. Make sure that you take the proper precaution to reduce your chances of developing a UTI. Practice safe sex and always try to wait until your UTI has cleared up before you start having sex again. If you notice any signs or symptoms of a UTI or other infection, don’t hesitate to call your doctor. When it’s time to order more supplies, or if you need any educational resources, head to Byram Healthcare’s educational support page or product selection guide. Byram is a full-service urological care supplier and offers a wide selection of high quality urological supplies that are discreetly delivered to your home. We also offer a team of knowledgeable urological customer service specialists to help answer questions and offer you personalized, confidential services.

Sources:

1https://www.urologyhealth.org/patient-magazine/magazine-archives/2016/summer-2016/understanding-utis-across-the-lifespan

2https://www.everydayhealth.com/urinary-tract-infections/the-link-between-utis-and-sex.aspx

3https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/urinary-tract-infections-in-adults

4https://www.healthline.com/health/can-you-have-sex-with-a-uti

5https://www.verywellhealth.com/chronic-urinary-tract-infections-and-sex-3300088

 

 

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