UTIs + Sex: Everything You Need to Know

This is a sponsored feature. All opinions are 100% our own.

This post is sponsored by Cystex.

Let’s face it, collegiettes: There’s a lot of misinformation out there about sexual health. And whether you’re sexually active or not, it’s important to find resources, products, and specialists you can trust to set the record straight.

That’s why we aim to collaborate with brands and experts who can bring you the information you need—in an accurate but unfiltered way. So when we recently had a few—erm—burning questions about the connection between UTIs and sex, we turned to Dr. Allison Hill, an OBGYN at Los Angeles Obstetricians & Gynecologists and Cystex spokesperson, to get answers. Here’s what she had to say.

Does this mean I can’t go to SoulCycle this week?

Her Campus: What are the most common misconceptions you hear surrounding sex and urinary tract infections?
Dr. Allison Hill: A common myth is that you can only get a UTI if you are sexually active. While sex is a risk factor, there are other reasons as well, such as diabetes, immune system problems, and malformations of the bladder. Another myth is that UTIs are contagious and can be passed sexually. While having sex increases the risk, the bacteria that cause UTIs are not STDs.

HC: How can you distinguish between a UTI and a yeast infection?
AH: The symptoms of a UTI and a yeast infection often overlap. They both can manifest with vaginal discomfort, burning, and pain with sex. However, UTIs cause the burning sensation mostly with urination while a yeast infection will burn all the time. In addition, yeast causes a vaginal discharge which isn’t seen in a UTI. If you aren’t sure about your symptoms, you should see your doctor for an exam.

HC: Can engaging in sexual activity while in a hot tub or shower increase the chance of developing a UTI?
AH: Yes, this is true. Soaking or simply being in water for extended periods of time allows bacteria from elsewhere on your body or someone else’s body (or in the water) to enter your urethra. In addition, your natural lubrication can be washed away under water, leading to more friction and vaginal irritation. This irritated tissue is susceptible to infections.

HC: Are first-time sex-havers more likely to develop a UTI?
AH: Unfortunately, when a woman loses her virginity, she is particularly susceptible to UTIs because bacteria is being “introduced” to the urethra and bladder for the first time.

Ana and Christian, we’re not sure that you two thought this part through.

HC: Does frequent sex increase the chance of developing a UTI?
AH:
Yes, frequent sexual activity is the top reason women contract UTIs. In fact, UTIs are referred to as “honeymoon cystitis” because of their regular occurrence after increased sexual activity. When you have sex, bacteria can be pushed into the urethra and spread into the bladder where it multiplies. This doesn’t mean you’re going to get a UTI every time you have sex, but it does increase the chances.

UTIs are more likely if the anatomy of your urethra and bladder make you more susceptible or if your urine stream isn’t strong enough to flush out the bacteria. Also, certain contraceptives like diaphragms or spermicides increase the probability of getting the infection. These methods can irritate the sensitive tissue in the vagina, creating an environment where bacteria thrive

HC: We all know how important it is to pee after sex. How long is OK to wait?
AH: If you can, you should urinate before and immediately after sex to flush bacteria out of your urethra so it can’t travel to the bladder. There’s no specific time requirement that you should follow (in other words, you don’t need to have a timer on). If you feel the urge to pee, don’t be bashful—go to the bathroom! Holding it allows the bacteria to multiply and, if you already have a urinary tract infection (whether you know it or not), it will get worse.

But if you don’t feel any urge, you shouldn’t force yourself because having only two or three drops of urine isn’t going to effectively flush out your bladder. When you urinate, remember to wipe from front to back to keep unnecessary bacteria out of your vaginal region. And, keep baby wipes nearby so you can clean your genital and anal areas before (and after) sex.

UTIs aren’t referred to as “honeymoon cystitis” for nothin’.

HC: When is it OK to have sex again after treating a UTI?
AH:
If you’re thinking of having sex with a UTI, wait until your symptoms subside (about four to seven days) so you’re comfortable. If you can’t wait, think about taking it slow and steady and opting for positions that are angled away from your bladder.

HC: What can happen if someone has sex while still treating their UTI?
AH:
It’s not recommended that you have sex until your UTI symptoms have resolved. You can opt for foreplay or other intimate activities with your partner while you ride out the UTI storm.

[However], you may find it difficult to abstain from sex while you have the infection. Here are some reasons to think twice:

  • It’s going to hurt. Who wants to experience pain while they’re having sex?
  • Your UTI may get worse because sex can introduce more bacteria into your bladder and irritate tissue that has already been infected.
  • It may take longer for your UTI to clear up.

Unfortunately, you may not know that your tissues are irritated, so talk to your doctor if you notice more UTIs while using these methods.

HC: Can UTIs go away without treatment?
AH:
Your immune system has the ability to heal a UTI without antibiotics within a week if the infection is mild. If your symptoms persist for more than a few days or if you have fevers or blood in the urine, you should schedule a doctor’s appointment immediately.

While you wait for that visit and your prescribed antibiotic to take effect, you can use a product like Cystex Plus Urinary Pain Relief Tablets—the only over the counter UTI pain reliever with a dual-action formula that combines a key pain-fighting analgesic (sodium salicylate) that eases the discomfort with an effective antibacterial agent (methenamine) that helps stop the infection from getting worse. And unlike other UTI pain relievers that turn the urine fluorescent orange, Cystex tablets won’t change the color of your urine.

OK yeah… so no SoulCycle this week. (Thanks for this, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”).

HC: Men can develop UTIs as well. What can they do to decrease their chances?
AH:
While many people believe that only women get UTIs, men can contract them as well, especially as they get older. Here are a few things men can do to decrease their chance of developing a UTI (many of which are recommended for females):

  • Stay hydrated so you can flush the bacteria out of urinary tract.
  • Go to the bathroom frequently and never hold your urine.
  • Wear a condom while having sex.
  • Carefully clean your genitals before and after sex with mild soap and water or baby wipes.
  • If you are not circumcised, clean the area beneath the foreskin every time you bathe.
  • See your doctor to make sure you don’t have a kidney stone, enlarged prostate, or diabetes.

HC: How else can young women tend to their urinary health?
AH:
While contracting a UTI is generally out of your control, there are certain measures you can take before and after sex to reduce your risk. In addition, you can focus on your urinary tract health regularly:

  • Add a product like Cystex Urinary Health Maintenance into your daily routine as it’s formulated with multiple powerhouse ingredients to help maintain urinary tract health.
  • Always ensure you’re hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day; this will flush bacteria out of your urinary tract.
  • If possible, opt for other forms of birth control instead of a diaphragm or spermicides.
  • Check out the color of your urine—if it’s pink or red, it may be a sign of a UTI and you should call your doctor.
  • Take a probiotic containing Lactobacillus to replenish your good bacteria so that the bad bacteria can’t flourish.
  • Opt for cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing so your vagina can stay dry. Excessive moisture alters your pH balance and allows bacteria to overgrow.
  • When you go to the bathroom, wipe from front to back so you don’t inadvertently push bacteria into the urethra.

There you have it, collegiettes. Now remember, while the only cure for a UTI is a prescription from your doctor, there are ways to ease the discomfort thanks to Cystex.

Ready to take control of your sexual and urinary health?
Discover how Cystex over-the-counter products can help and get $2 off your purchase.