Can lube or condoms cause UTIs? It depends.
It’s no secret that sex is a leading cause of UTIs, but there are ways to minimize your risk without giving up sex. For instance, certain types of condoms and lubes might put you at greater risk and can be worth avoiding if you are prone to recurrent UTIs.
Practicing safe sex is important, and so it’s vital to stress that condoms themselves are not the cause of UTIs. However, certain types of condoms can increase your chances of acquiring a urinary tract infection. These include condoms containing spermicide, as well as unlubricated condoms.
Spermicide-coated condoms: Data has shown that spermicide is harmful to “good bacteria” in the vagina. By killing off this bacteria, spermicide, therefore, makes the vagina more susceptible to the growth of e.coli, the bacteria which cause urinary tract infections. Make sure to check the ingredients list on the condoms that you’re using, and if they contain spermicide-throw them out!
Unlubricated condoms: It is easy to see why unlubricated condoms may be another cause of urinary tract infections. Using unlubricated condoms increases friction during intercourse, which can lead to inflammation of the bladder. This makes it easier for bacteria to stick to the bladder, leading to UTIs.
Unfortunately, the data regarding the use of lube during sex leading to UTIs is less consistent than the data involving the use of condoms, but some people argue that certain types of lubricants can contribute to UTIs.
The argument can go either way. Some experts assert that lube reduces friction, thus leading to less UTIs, whereas others claim that a lot of lubricants contain ingredients that are harmful to the vagina and cause more UTIs. Regardless, it could be worth it to avoid the accused lubes if you struggle with recurrent UTIs.
Lubes containing glycerin: Glycerin increases the osmolality of lube, otherwise known as the ratio of how much of one substance is dissolved into another. According to Prevention.com and womensvoices.org, glycerin is bad for the vagina, as sugar (glycerin) encourages the growth of bacteria which can lead to UTIs. You may want to avoid lubricants which contain glycerin, or any other forms of added sugar.
Oil based lubes: Studies show mixed opinions on oil based lubes. While some argue that natural oils such as coconut oil are a good substitute for lubricants, others say that oils seal bacteria into the vagina, leading to more frequent UTIs. In general, it is safer to stick to water-based lubes to avoid the potential of increasing your odds of getting an infection.
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