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Sex with UTI: Yes or No?

Can you have sex with a UTI? The short answer? No. The long answer? Yes and no, depending on how much risk you are willing to take. Are you willing to risk getting a second UTI while you’re still combatting the first one? Or are you willing to risk irritating your urethra and feeling worse after sex?   

For the next few minutes, let us weigh the pros and cons of having sex with a UTI, find out more about what caused UTI, and learn about how to prevent UTI. 

What is UTI?

UTI is short for urinary tract infection. It is extremely common and accounts for 25% of all infections. The urinary tract refers to all the body parts involved in urine production and release, which includes, in descending order: 

  1. Kidneys—two bean-shaped organs located below your ribcage that filter blood to produce urine
  2. Ureters—two tubes that connect each kidney to the bladder, allowing urine to drain into the bladder 
  3. Bladder—a muscular sac in the pelvis that relaxes to retain urine, or contracts to void urine
  4. Urethra—the tube that connects the bladder to where urine drains out of the body at either the head of the penis or in front of the vagina between the labia minora

An infection that occurs at any point in the urinary tract is a UTI. The most common form of UTI is the infection of the urethra and bladder. This is considered to be a lower UTI and is usually easily cured by antibiotics. However, if the infection travels up to the kidneys through the ureters, the kidney infection can trigger a life-threatening condition known as sepsis

Symptoms of UTI

Lower UTI (bladder and urethra):

  • Frequent urination
  • Cloudy, bloody, dark, and/or foul-smelling urine
  • Pain and burning during urination
  • Abnormal urethral discharge 
  • Pelvic pain and pressure

Kidney Infection:

  • Pain in the upper back or the sides of the body
  • Fever 
  • Chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you experience the above symptoms, you should see your doctor to get diagnosed and treated. If you have a high fever, and severe pain, chills, and vomiting, you should go to the emergency room. 

What caused UTI, and why are women more at risk?

A UTI is commonly caused by bacteria, but can also be caused by viruses or fungus. Around 50% to 60% of women will get UTIs in their lifetimes.

Compared to men, women are more likely to get a UTI because of their shorter urethras, allowing bacteria to easily travel up to the bladder. A woman’s urethral opening is also close to the vagina and the anus. E. coli from the colon can migrate from the anus to the urethra opening during sexual activities or when a woman wipes from back to front after going to the toilet. 

Other germs can also enter the urethra during sex. Although UTI is not a sexually transmitted infection, other STIs like herpes, gonorrhea, mycoplasma or chlamydia on the person’s or their partner’s genitals can infect the urethra, causing a UTI. 

UTI and sex

Sex is a major risk factor for UTI. All the motions during sexual activity can easily push germs from either partners’ genital or anal areas into the urethra. 

Around 80 percent of premenopausal women have had sex 24 hours before developing a UTI.  

Sexually active women are more likely to get a UTI than nonsexually active women. Frequent intercourse increases the risk of UTI and so does using certain birth control methods like diaphragms, unlubricated condoms, or condoms with spermicide. 

Some women are more predisposed to UTI and can develop a UTI every time they have sex

So should you have sex with a UTI?

During the initial stages of UTI, you may not be in the mood due to uncomfortable symptoms. But after a few days of antibiotic treatment, the symptoms have subsided and you are wondering if you can safely participate in sexual activities. 

Turns out, the answer is not a simple yes or no. Different sources have given different answers, and what kind of sex act you engage in matters too. 

Healthline has recommended people to abstain from sex until all UTI symptoms are cleared for 2 weeks, because:

  1. penetration of the vagina can put pressure on the neighboring urethra and bladder, irritating them and making UTI symptoms worse;
  2. sexual intercourse can introduce new bacteria into the urinary tract, leading to a second UTI and longer recovery time;
  3. the force of penetrative sex can push bacteria further up the urinary tract.

Also, Healthline advises people to not receive oral sex without a dental dam because bacteria can pass into their partner’s mouth. 

Although Healthline gives a firm no, Self gives a tentative yes. They interviewed Lauren Streicher, M.D., who says the chance of getting a second UTI is slim when you’re already on antibiotics, so you don’t need to abstain from sex. Nonetheless, Self still notes that there is a risk of sex agitating UTI symptoms.

At the end of the day, whether or not to have sex with a UTI is your decision. If you want to be absolutely safe, have no penetrative sex or receive oral sex until two weeks after all symptoms are cleared. 

But if you still want to have sex, here are some tips to decrease the risk for UTI, either right after sexual intercourse or in general. 

Ways to Prevent UTI

  • Urinate after sex to push bacteria out
  • Clean both you and your partner’s genital and anal areas before sex and clean your own genitals after sex
  • Do not change orifices (anus to vagina) during sex without proper cleansing
  • Drink plenty of water and don’t hold urine in
  • For women, wipe carefully from front to back after going to the toilet 
  • Avoid douches, scented wipes, and scented feminine products
  • Avoid using diaphragms, pre-lubricated condoms, or spermicide condoms 
  • Avoid prolonged dampness in the groin area by wearing loose-fitting, breathable underpants and pants
  • Treat urinary retention promptly since retained urine increases the chance of bladder infection
  • If you use an intermittent catheter, make sure to practice hygienic self-catheterization techniques. 

If you are a catheter user, is it bad to have sex with a UTI?

If you self-catheterize, your chances of getting a UTI is already higher than others because of your pre-existing condition of urinary retention, and because UTI is already one of the most common catheter complications

If you have severe urinary retention, after sex,  you wouldn’t be able to flush bacteria out by urinating. Instead, when you self-catheterize, you can push the bacteria deeper in.  Additionally, the catheter may further irritate your urethra and bladder after they’ve already been irritated by sex. 

Therefore, if you already use a catheter, you should consider abstaining from sex until your symptoms are fully cleared for two weeks and also consult your doctor on the best course of action to prevent future UTIs. 

If you are concerned about frequent UTIs

If you experience recurrent UTIs and irritation as the result of catheterization, you should check out CompactCath

CompactCath catheters are pre-lubricated with silicone oil which was found by multiple studies (studies 1, 2, 3) to have anti-microbial properties, meaning it kills bacteria, fungus, and viruses. It is the only catheter company on the market that uses silicone oil as a lubricant.

Additionally, CompactCath’s catheters are super-compact, light, and drip-free; they fit discreetly into your back pocket, purse, and carry-on luggage.

Emerged out of Stanford as the brainchild of a team of physicians, mechanical engineers, and MBAs, CompactCath is FDA-cleared in 2014, holds six patents, covered by CNN Money, won two grants (BioDesign Spectrum grant, LPCH Pediatric Innovation grant) and two iF product design awards (2016, 2017).

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Try CompactCath for FREE to see if it helps with your frequent UTI!

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