UTIs and sex: everything you need to know

UTIs and sex: everything you need to know

Caity Reverand
5 minute read

Sometimes, UTIs can feel unavoidable. We can take off our wet bathing suits, pee after sex, and drink more water than we thought possible and still end up with a UTI. The fact is, around 40-60% of you will get a urinary tract infection in your lifetime. For something that can be so uncomfortable, this is not a statistic that we like to see. To reduce the likelihood of getting a UTI we’ve laid out everything we know about what causes them and how to prevent them.

How do you get a urinary tract infection?

Unfortunately, there are a number of things that can cause a UTI. UTIs happen when bacteria enter the urethra, travel up the urinary tract, and multiply. As the bacteria spread, your urinary tract becomes inflamed and infected. 90% of the time, this bacteria is E. coli. E. coli normally lives without harm in our intestinal tract but becomes harmful once it enters the urinary tract. 

The most common cause of a UTI is improper wiping after going to the bathroom and sexual intercourse. It’s important to always wipe front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the urethra. During sex, bacteria from either partner can be introduced to the other’s body and travel up the urethra into the bladder. Peeing right before and after sex helps eliminate bacteria in the urinary tract and reduces its spread. 

UTIs are most common in the summertime for a few reasons. First, swimming pools and hot tubs allow germs and bacteria to float around and reach your body. Additionally, wearing a wet bathing suit or clothing creates moisture near your urethra and breeds bacteria. Similarly, if you’re sweating more near your underwear during the summer, you’re more likely to develop a UTI. Finally, dehydration in the summer leads to less urination and makes it harder for your body to fight off an infection in the urethra.  

Can you get a UTI from sex?

Sex can play a big part in contracting a UTI. The physical thrusting that occurs during sexual intercourse makes it easy for bacteria to travel up the urinary system and cause infection. The easiest way to prevent a UTI caused by sex is to pee before and after intercourse, flush out any bacteria that may have entered by drinking lots of water, and use condoms.

Most doctors recommend waiting to have sex until after your UTI is healed. While you can still have vaginal sex with a UTI, it can cause further irritation and make the infection worse. Depending on how severe the infection is, you might not feel up for sex either. Listen to your body and try to refrain from sex until symptoms are gone. If you are someone who gets UTIs frequently, there are plenty of safe and effective prevention supplements you can buy to lower your chances of getting a UTI and relieve your symptoms.

Are UTIs contagious?

UTIs are more common in women than in men because a woman’s urethra (the tube from your bladder to where you pee from) is shorter, making it easier for bacteria to multiply. This being said, it’s still possible for men to get urinary tract infections. Infections from the prostate can travel up to a man’s bladder and cause a UTI.

UTIs are not a sexually transmitted disease and are not considered to be directly contagious. The bacteria that cause a UTI can be passed from your body to your partners, but not the UTI itself. In other words, your partner won’t get a UTI if you have one but could obtain some of the bacteria associated with a UTI. Remember to use condoms, pee before and after sex, and drink lots of water to avoid this bacteria progressing into an infection.

Difference between UTI and bladder infection

A bladder infection is the most common type of UTI, but not all UTIs are bladder infections (kind of like rectangles and squares).  A bladder infection occurs when the bacteria that caused a UTI reaches the bladder. Tending to a bladder infection looks similar to tending to a UTI. Drink lots of water and cranberry juice, pee whenever you have to, use a heating pad to relieve the pain and see your primary care provider for diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of a bladder infection are the same as UTI symptoms, but sometimes more severe. You’ll feel a strong and frequent urge to pee, a burning sensation when you urinate, and pressure in the lower abdomen. Sometimes, bladder infections can lead to hematuria, or blood in the urine. If not treated correctly, a bladder infection can spread to the kidneys causing a kidney infection which can be more serious. 

Like UTIs, bladder infections are most commonly caused by E. coli that enters the urethra and eventually the bladder. If you are someone who gets a lot of UTIs, your chances and frequency of getting a bladder infection are higher. If you suspect you have a UTI, bladder infection, or kidney infection, seek care from a medical professional. Your primary care provider will likely prescribe you a course of antibiotics that should heal the infection. 

UTIs are the second most common infection in the US. While they can be easy to get, they are also easy to prevent. We hope this information helped navigate your next UTI. For all the answers to your most googled questions health, head to the Stix Library.

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