Beyond merely urinating after sex.
Hell hath no fury like an infected urinary tract. And for those of us susceptible to the wrath of the dreaded UTI, it’s rarely an isolated instance. Once the seal is broken...well, you know the drill.
Now, the most colloquial consensus on UTIs is pretty uniform: the painful, pesky infections arise most frequently in women after neglecting to urinate post-intercourse. But let it be known that this is not the only way one can contract a UTI: The infection is precisely as it sounds—when bacteria (most commonly—90% of the time—E. coli) enter the urinary tract, it becomes infected. And while it makes sense that sex would play a role here, a UTI can just as easily arrive from, say, failing to change out of sweaty workout clothes, or swimming in questionable water. Oh, and men can get them too.
Now, if you’re having trouble identifying your particular malady, UTI symptoms are generally easy to spot. You’ll experience a frequent need to urinate—and a burning sensation when you pee. You may experience cramps, back pain, or fatigue. And if untreated, your UTI can develop into a kidney infection...so, whether or not your initial symptoms feel particularly severe, you’ll certainly want to take care of the problem.
Fortunately, there are a handful of different antibiotics that can help treat UTIs—and if you can’t get to your doctor right away, over the counter options like AZO can be instrumental in managing your pain (be warned, these will typically turn your pee a fluorescent shade of Jolly Rancher orange). But, like with any antibiotic strain, your body can build up a resistance to a number of these prescriptions—so you should do your darndest to keep infections at bay, to begin with.
Vaginal Sex and UTIs
More than half of women get at least one UTI in their life, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and women are more than 30 times more likely to get UTIs than men. This is for anatomical reasons: People with vaginas have shorter urethras, which makes it easier for bacteria to get inside the bladder. During vaginal intercourse—involving a penis, strap-on, or another device—bacteria can enter the urethra, therefore causing the infection.
Pregnancy raises the risk factor for UTIs because changes in hormones make them easier to contract; pregnant people are also at risk of developing kidney problems from UTIs during pregnancy, so it’s critical to talk to your doctor as soon as possible and get proper antibiotics.
Oral Sex and UTIs
You can get a UTI from oral sex (if you’re on the receiving end, that is) the same way you can get one from penetrative sex: bacteria is physically pushed into the urethra, thereby causing infection. You should wait until your UTI clears up before having sex again, and the same is true for receiving oral, as you run the risk of spreading the bacteria to your partner.
Anal Sex and UTIs
UTIs are common in both men and women when unprotected anal sex comes into the picture because of bacteria that live in the anal cavity and intestines. That bacteria may be perfectly harmless (and even helpful) in that part of the body, but when it gets into the urethra, that’s when it becomes a real headache. Avoid having vaginal sex immediately after anal sex; your partner should clean their penis or the toy they’re using to make sure it’s completely free of fecal matter that could cause an infection if it enters your vagina.
How to Prevent UTIs
1. Pee. After. Sex.
That’s the long and the short of it. We know, it sucks. Your partner might have roommates. The bathroom might be far away. A journey to the water closet may require that you both locate your clothing and put it on. But trust us, you’ll be kicking yourself when you’re walking to your local urgent care for pain-relieving antibiotics.
2. Drink Water
Hydration is one of those things that’s taken as gospel in our present-day and age. “Drink water” is our universally agreed-upon wellness mantra. But we assure you, we’re not trying to sell you a chic, reusable water bottle here. Staying hydrated—and, in turn, urinating frequently—will help keep your urinary tract clean and bacteria-free. Oh, and on that note: you can forget the myth about cranberry juice as a UTI preventative. Research hasn’t proven a substantial impact on this one—so just play it safe and double down on the H2O.
3. Avoid Perfumed Bath Products
While it is, of course, the key that you keep things clean, using soaps, bubble bath products, or body washes that are heavily perfumed can certainly irritate the urinary tract. So when it comes to washing your genitals, opt for simple, hypoallergenic, and unscented options whenever possible.
4. Two Words: Clean Underwear
We know, you’re not heathens. But spending too long in sweaty workout clothes or leaving the same pair of underwear on just a little too long can certainly cause infections in the UTI-prone among us. Oh, and on that note, the kind of intimates you’re donning can have an impact, too: Whenever you can, opt for cotton undergarments instead of synthetic materials like nylon.
5. Wipe With Care
Another easy way to inflame the urinary tract is by way of fecal matter—which, naturally, can occur fairly easily while using the bathroom. So here’s your simple solution: wipe from front to back to keep things clean.
6. Consult Your Doctor
If you’re taking the above, simple precautions, and you’re still finding yourself plagued with UTIs, it may be the result of a more persistent problem or an antibiotic-resistant infection. Studies show that 30 to 44% of women who experience a UTI will get another one within six months. There is still a lot of research to be done about recurrent UTIs; some people may be more genetically predisposed to them, and vaginal bacteria can also play a role in how they develop. If you get two UTIs within six months or three in a year, you experience recurrent UTIs, and your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics that can help prevent them. Always talk to a healthcare professional before trying new medications, and consider visiting a urologist if you struggle with chronic UTIs.