It is common to develop UTIs following sexual intercourse. However, there are certain steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of developing a urinary tract infection after sex, including post-sex urination (urinating after sex), lubrication, proper hydration, good hygiene, and promoting proactive urogenital health.(1)
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection that can affect your urethra, bladder, kidneys, and ureters. Although UTIs can affect several parts of the urinary system, they are most commonly the result of an infection within the bladder. There are many reasons UTIs can occur, but sex is a common trigger for many females.
Why Do I Get UTIs After Sex?
A UTI develops following the introduction of bacteria into the urethra, after bacteria enters through the urethra – bacteria travel up the urinary tract and cause an infection.
For females, the urethra is located in close proximity to the genitals and anus, so it can be easy for bacteria to enter the urethra during sex. However, it’s important to note that UTIs are not sexually transmitted diseases, so they can not be transferred from one person to another.
This is why peeing after sex is important. Urinating is our first line of defense to flush out any bacteria that may have been introduced to the urinary tract after sex. So, failing to urinate after sex may allow more time for any introduced bacteria to multiply and cause an infection(2). Additionally, holding urine for long periods of time(3), especially following sex, can increase the risk of infection.
Are Females More Likely Than Males to Get a UTI From Sex?
Yes, females are more likely than males to get a UTI after sex. Males are still susceptible to developing UTIs from intercourse, but anatomical differences between the sexes make women more prone to infections. In fact, during reproductive years, females are 50 times more likely than males to have a urinary tract infection.(4)
Here are a few reasons why females more prone to post-sex UTIs:
- Shorter urethra: Females have shorter urethras than males, meaning bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.
- Proximity of urethra to anus: The female urethra is close to the vagina opening and anus, making bacterial contact from these areas more likely.
- Hormonal factors: During the menstrual cycle or pregnancy, hormonal changes can potentially alter the environment of the vaginal microbiome, which can impact the urinary tract and can lead to a higher susceptibility to infection.
Are There Other Reasons UTIs Can Develop?
While sexual activity can result in urinary tract health issues, there are numerous other factors unrelated to sex that can contribute to UTIs. It’s important to remember that although these things can lead to UTI susceptibility, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Some of us are just more prone to UTIs than others, even when it feels like we’re doing everything right.
Here are some other common UTI causes:
- Bacterial entry: Bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) can enter the urethra following poor hygiene practices including wiping from back to front after using the toilet.
- Urinary stagnation: If you don’t empty the bladder completely, you may create a stagnant pool of urine that’s conducive to bacterial growth.
- Catheter use: Using urinary catheters can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract, increasing the risk of infection.
- Suppressed immune system: Certain medical conditions or medications can weaken the immune system, subsequently making individuals more susceptible to infections.
- Certain birth control: Some birth control methods like diaphragms and spermicides, can alter bacterial balance in the vagina, increasing the risk of UTIs.
- Previous UTIs: Individuals with a history of UTIs may experience a higher likelihood of future infections, particularly if they develop antibiotic resistance.
Can I Avoid Getting a UTI After Sex?
Being proactive about urinary health is key. There is no foolproof way to avoid UTIs after sex, but practicing the following habits may help reduce the risk of urinary health problems following intercourse:
- Pee before and after sex: Emptying your bladder both before and after sex helps flush out bacteria. It is especially important to pee after sex to help flush out bacteria that may have entered the urethra during sexual activity.
- Practice healthy hygiene: Wash the genital area using mild, fragrance-free soap. Keeping yourself clean after sex can help reduce the risk of bacterial infections. Make sure to avoid harsh products that may disrupt the natural balance of bacteria.
- Use lubrication: Using lube during sex can help reduce irritation and friction. Choose lubricants wisely by opting for water-based or silicone-based lube which are typically less likely to cause irritation.
- Stay hydrated: Proper hydration is associated with a plethora of health benefits, including promoting urinary tract health.