sex and utis

Sex & UTIs: The Uncomfortable Truth

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While sex is meant to be a pleasurable experience, there are some uncomfortable truths that need to be addressed. 

And while we won’t necessarily be touching on the subject of sex in all its amazing glory, but rather the tips on keeping safe and healthy, we want you to know one thing. That is, sex is a basic need. 

Sex is something that, when done in a safe, sane, and consensual manner, can be transcendent and beautiful. So, as we go on to our little sex ed lesson about sex and UTIs, we hope that you’ll bear that in mind.

Sex and UTIs

First off, what exactly is a UTI? UTI stands for urinary tract infection. 

It is a common infection that can come about when bacteria enter any part of the urinary system (the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra). Most UTIs often involve the lower urinary tract, which is the bladder and the urethra. 

The uncomfortable truth of UTIs, however, is that, most of the time, it’s caused by the bacteria from faeces (E.coli) entering the urinary tract. 

And if you’re thinking what we’re thinking, then yes, you’re absolutely right: having anal sex then vaginal sex in one event, without protection or without changing your condom, can most definitely lead to a UTI.

But this isn’t the only way to get a UTI… 

7 Ways You Can Get a UTI

  1. Eating too much sugar, which could end up in your urine, irritating your urinary tract
  2. Wiping from back to front, which can transport the aforementioned E.coli into the vagina
  3. Sex, as bacteria may move to the urethra from the vagina via the perineum (the space between the vulva and the anus in women)
  4. Using sex toys, like sharing toys, using them both vaginally and anally without washing them in between, or not properly washing them before and after use
  5. Not peeing after sex, which can cause bacteria to stay inside the urinary tract
  6. Not drinking enough water, which means that you won’t pee as often, leaving more time for bacteria to grab ahold of you
  7. Being pregnant, as hormonal changes can cause the bladder muscle to relax, delaying emptying.

Who is More Affected by UTIs, Men or Women?

In the case of UTIs, the fairer sex are more affected by UTIs. This is because a woman’s urethra (the tube from the bladder to where the urine comes out of the body) is shorter than a man’s. In fact, it’s been said that women are up to 30 times more susceptible to getting a UTI than men. 

A woman’s urethra is about 2.5 cm to 5 cm in length, while a man’s urethra is about 15 cm. A woman also has her vaginal opening close to her anus, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the vagina and the urethral opening, travelling to the bladder. 

Not just that, but a review revealed that at least 50 to 60 percent of women experience the dreaded effects of a UTI at least once during their lifetime. 

What Are the Symptoms of Having a UTI?

Having a UTI is no walk in the park. It can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. However, it is curable, which is good news.

Some of the common symptoms of having a UTI include:

  • A desperate feeling of needing to pee frequently, yet little or no urine passes 
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Pain in the abdomen area
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy-looking or smelly urine
  • Rectal pain, in men 

It’s important to seek professional treatment if you notice any of the above. If left untreated, your UTI could travel to your kidneys, possibly leading to a kidney infection. This can actually be life threatening (sepsis) and/or result in kidney damage.

If you are experiencing chills, a fever, lower back or side pain, nausea, or vomiting, this could be a sign that you have a kidney infection. 

Treatment for a UTI

As we mentioned, a UTI is treatable. On the other hand, if it has progressed to the kidneys, the treatment will differ. This is why it’s so important to be mindful of your body, and to seek treatment for any unusual symptoms. 

For a simple UTI, a three to five-day course of antibiotics is usually enough to clear the infection. For a kidney infection, it may require a 7 to 14-day course of antibiotics. 

There are other ways to help speed up the healing process, however, in addition to your course of antibiotics:

  • Drink lots of fluids to flush out the bacteria
  • Use over-the-counter medication to help alleviate pain
  • Place a heating pad on your abdomen, back, or side to relieve pain
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or soda, as it can irritate your bladder

The Age-Old Question: Are Cranberry Juice or Cranberry Supplements Good for a UTI?

People all over the world believe that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills is a legitimate way in which to treat a UTI. This, in itself, is incorrect. Cranberry juice could possibly be used as a way to prevent getting a UTI, but does not treat an already-existing UTI. 

Regardless, there is not much scientific data to back up this claim.

Some scientists have reached the conclusion that cranberries protect one against UTIs because it makes the urine more acidic. When urine is more acidic, it is less friendly to bacteria such as E.coli.

Other scientists say that cranberries make it harder for infection-causing bacteria to stick to the urinary tract walls. Whether this is because they change bacteria or they create a slippery coating on the urinary tract walls is uncertain.

On the other hand, other researchers have found that cranberry juice isn’t effective for everyone. They’ve also found, as we’ve mentioned, that cranberry juice or supplements don’t treat UTIs, but they could be used as preventive measures.

As per the American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, they say that unsweetened cranberry juice and cranberry supplements could reduce the likelihood of getting a UTI, but they’re not entirely sure on how much needs to be taken or for how long.

In other words, it can’t hurt. But, discussing it with a professional would be the best idea.

Your Burning Questions About Sex and UTIs, Answered

How soon after sex can you get a UTI?

On average, it is a few days after sex that you can get a UTI. It takes time for the bacteria to multiply, causing inflammation in the urethra and bladder.

Can you have sex with a UTI?

You can have sex with a UTI, but it may be uncomfortable and possibly even worsen your symptoms. You could also pass the bacteria to your partner. For that reason, it’s better to wait until your symptoms have subsided before you have sex. 

What happens if you keep getting UTIs?

It’s best to consult your physician, OB/GYN or urologist if you have recurrent UTIs. They will be able to specialise your treatment.

Is there a sex position that’s more likely to cause a UTI?

If a woman has her legs over her partner’s shoulders, this could bring greater contact with the penis to the urethra, and thus could be more likely to cause a UTI.

Are some people more prone to UTIs than others?

Yes. As we’ve mentioned, women are more likely to get UTIs than men. Other than that, those experiencing menopause, have more frequent sex, have had a previous UTI, are obsese, have a weakened immune system, or diabetes are more prone to getting a UTI.

We hope you’ve learned a thing or two about sex and UTIs, as well as some tips and tricks for prevention and treatment. Ultimately, however, we suggest visiting your doctor or specialist when you notice any abnormal changes in your body.