A woman standing next to a toilet wearing a white shirt and brown pants with her hands on her pelvic region indicating discomfort

Can Sex Cause a UTI?

By Kathleen Morrison
April 18, 2021

So, you have sex just before bed, and the next day you use the restroom only to find a truly unpleasant burning sensation between your legs. Sound familiar? When this happens, you're probably wondering, "Can sex cause a UTI?" Yes! Sex is one of the most common ways to get a Urinary Tract Infection.

Whether it's your first UTI or your fifth, they never become less unpleasant to deal with. Thankfully, UTIs are easy to treat with prescription medication and over-the-counter remedies and catching them early prevents the most dangerous UTI symptoms.

If you experience frequent UTIs, it's important to figure out the root cause so you can avoid both the unpleasant short-term symptoms and the possible long-term health effects of repeat UTIs. This can be challenging since there are a lot of different factors that may contribute to your recurrent UTIs, and everyone's body is a little different — what works for one person may not work for another. It can take some time, along with some trial and error, to figure out your solution, but in the meantime you can rely on Wisp for easy online treatment.

What Is a UTI?

A UTI is a bacterial infection in your urinary tract system. It can affect your urethra, ureters, bladder, and kidneys, though the severity can vary from one infection to another. The bladder is the part of the urinary tract that is the most commonly affected during an infection. Bladder tissue becomes irritated and inflamed which leads to pain and that constant feeling of having to go, even when your bladder is empty.

What Are the Symptoms of a UTI?

UTI symptoms can range from mildly unpleasant to downright debilitating (though that's less typical). Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling like you need to pee, but not being able to or releasing very little urine
  • Burning sensation when peeing
  • Pressure or pain in the pelvis or abdomen
  • Blood in your urine
  • Unusual urine that smells bad or appears cloudy

If the infection travels to your kidneys, you may experience more intense symptoms (or require hospitalization), like:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Back pain
  • Abdominal pain

Can Sex Cause a UTI?

Yes, sexual intercourse can cause a UTI. Sex of any kind has a tendency to push bacteria into the urethra due to the urethra's proximity to the vagina. The increased friction and irritation can also make it easier for bacteria to take hold and start multiplying. 90% of the time, UTIs are caused by E. coli bacteria, usually from the anal area and perineum (the area between the genitals and the anus). But UTIs aren't necessarily a hygiene issue! Although it doesn't hurt to wash up before and after sex, some people can be more prone to UTIs due to differences in their anatomy and body chemistry, or because of certain health conditions.

Curious as to why you rarely hear men complain about UTIs? It’s a simple matter of anatomy. People with penises are much less prone to them because their urethras are much longer (making it harder for bacteria to travel up to the bladder) and further from the anus (where bacteria likes to hang out).

What Else Causes a UTI?

A UTI can happen any time bacteria gets into the urethra and causes an infection, so there are other causes for UTIs beyond sex. Common non-sex related UTI causes include:

  • Not fully emptying your bladder when you pee
  • Unchanged, or soiled underwear
  • Kidney stones or other blockages in your urinary tract
  • Using a urinary catheter
  • Lots of antibiotics — it may sound counterintuitive, but antibiotics that cause a change in your urinary tract's bacteria can trigger a UTI

Can a UTI Cause an STI?

Leaving a UTI untreated will not cause it to turn into an STI since UTIs and STIs are different kinds of infections. A UTI is caused by bacteria infecting your urinary tract and although sex can sometimes lead to a UTI, UTIs can also happen to people who have never had sex before. By contrast, the viruses and bacteria that cause STIs live in bodily fluids like semen, vaginal fluid, and blood and exposure to these fluids (typically through sex) is what spreads STIs.

A UTI is not an STI, but some STIs do have similar symptoms like painful urination. If you suspect you have a UTI, it's best to seek immediate UTI treatment or see a licensed medical provider to ensure you don't have an STI. Don't worry — UTIs don't cause STIs or make you more susceptible to catching one.

How Can You Reduce Your Chance of Infection?

Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to help prevent UTIs if you're sexually active.

  • Pee after you have sex. Some evidence suggests that clearing the urethra can help flush out any bad bacteria that might have made their way into your urinary tract system during sex. Make sure to go right after if you can!
  • Pee before sex. The same principle applies here—clear your urethra and bladder of any bacteria before you get down to it. Stay hydrated!
  • Wash up before sex. Washing your genitals (no douching—just the outside) can help eliminate any external bacteria that could make their way into your urethra during sex.
  • Consider your contraceptive. Some contraceptives, particularly those that sit inside your vagina, like spermicides or diaphragms, can increase the likelihood of contracting a UTI. If you’re experiencing recurring UTIs, it may be worth talking to your provider about switching up your birth control method.

Taking D-Mannose when you know you may be at higher risk for a UTI is another way you can stop UTI-causing bacteria from taking hold. This natural remedy helps flush E. coli bacteria from your urinary tract to keep it from multiplying and causing those painful, uncomfortable symptoms. Taking it before a romantic vacation, spring break trip, or even just a hot date can provide your body with a little extra defense against UTIs caused by sex. Pair it with lots of water for extra flushing power!

If you're regularly getting UTIs, it might be worth asking your medical provider about an antibiotic you can take after symptoms first appear to limit the progress of the UTI spreading to your kidneys.

What Other Preventive Measures Can You Take?

Beyond sex, here are some other tips to consider once your UTI clears up to prevent it from coming back:

  • Drink lots of water. Fluids, especially water, cause you to pee, which helps flush out your urinary tract frequently.
  • Don't hold your pee. Go to the bathroom as soon as you get the urge. Holding urine in your bladder can lead to infection.
  • Wipe front to back. Fecal bacteria can cause UTIs, so ensure you're wiping front to back after you pee to keep any bacteria from getting into your urethra.
  • Wash your privates. Keep your genitals clean by washing with warm water once a day.
  • Skip the douche. You don't need to clean out your vagina—it does that all by itself. Douching can cause a bacterial imbalance, which can lead to a UTI.
  • Keep it comfy. Make sure your underwear and pants aren't too tight. Constriction and lack of airflow can cause a breeding ground for bacteria. Cotton underwear is always a good option to keep it "unrestricted" down there.

Are Some People More Likely To Get a UTI?

Anyone can get a UTI, but there are some humans who are far more likely to contract them. Having a vulva and vagina, especially combined with being menopausal, are big risk factors for contracting UTIs. Other factors include:

  • Having frequent sex
  • Having sex with a new partner
  • A past UTI or history of UTIs
  • Having multiple pregnancies
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • A lowered immune system from a cold, bacterial infection or virus
  • Genital or urinary abnormalities

If you have any of these risk factors, take preventive measures to keep your urinary tract clear of bacteria, and talk with a licensed medical provider about your specific situation if needed.

What's the Treatment for a UTI?

UTIs are usually very easy to treat. Most providers prescribe a round of antibiotics to clear up the infection. Although the length of the antibiotic course will depend on the severity of your symptoms, most people experience relief from the discomfort in a day or two. UTIs are super common, so there's no need to feel embarrassed about seeking treatment. If you prefer a quick and discreet treatment plan, Wisp can send a prescription to your local pharmacy ASAP so you can get on your way to feeling better without taking off work to go to urgent care.

Can You Have Sex While You Have a UTI?

You should avoid sex while you have an active infection since it could prolong your recovery time. Once your symptoms clear up, and you've finished your course of antibiotics, you should be good to go.

UTIs are annoying, but they're totally manageable. Once it clears up, you'll be back to your normal life in no time at all. Get fast online treatment for your UTIs any time from Wisp! Remember to keep yourself protected from potential infections by taking some simple precautions.

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