There are a few things a woman expects when it comes to an incredibly rigorous round of sex. For example, that tangle of hair on the back of your head. Or the odd mix of liquids found in nooks and crannies. And, for some women, a urinary tract infection. But why does sex cause a urinary tract infection? And is a urinary tract infection inevitable after sex?
What is a urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection, more commonly known as a UTI, is an infection of the urinary system. The urinary system includes the bladder, ureters, urethra, and kidneys, and a UTI can occur in any of these organs. Most times, however, a UTI happens in the lower urinary tract, which consists of the bladder or urethra. A UTI within the bladder is called cystitis. (01)
Although UTIs are the second most common type of bacterial infection in the body, urine itself doesn’t typically contain any bacteria. It’s the bacteria from the genital area that makes its way to the urinary tract, resulting in an infection.
Who can get a UTI?
Both men and women can come down with a UTI, but women are at a higher risk. Men have a longer urethra than women, which makes it less likely that they will develop an infection. The shorter urethras in women mean external microorganisms have less to travel, therefore resulting in a higher rate of infections than in men. (01) According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 40 to 60% of women will experience a urinary tract infection at least once in their lifetime. (02)
Although women, in general, have a higher risk of developing a UTI, some groups of women have an even higher risk than others. UTIs are more common in postmenopausal women, as their low estrogen levels change the tissue in their reproductive tract. People with chronic illnesses such as diabetes also have a higher risk. Genetics may also play a role, making some women more genetically inclined toward developing UTIs than others. (02)
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
Most women know the telltale signs of a UTI, like pain during urination. Other symptoms are:
- Frequent urination
- Pressure in the lower abdomen
- Foul-smelling urine
- Cloudy or red-tinged urine
- Pain in the lower back
- Tenderness below the ribs
Urinary tract infections are treatable, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with them. It’s always better to prevent a UTI than to treat it. After all, UTIs are uncomfortable. But they also require antibiotics to resolve, and too many antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance in the long run.
Sex and UTIs
One word explains why sex can cause a UTI, and that word is “friction.” The friction from sexual activity pushes bacteria to the urethra and upwards deeper into the urinary tract. Any activity that encourages bacteria into the urinary tract can cause a UTI.
Sex Spreads Bacteria
The bacteria that are responsible for UTIs live near the anal area. Sexual activity can propel this bacteria toward the urethral opening. E. coli bacteria account for more than almost 90% of all UTIs. (03) This bacteria lives within the intestine, where they help with digestion. If they proliferate in other areas of the body, however, they can make you sick.
Other bacteria that cause UTIs are:
- Enterobacter species
- Staphylococcus saprophyticus
These bacteria are why you should maintain safe hygiene practices before, during, and after sex. Despite how well you maintain cleanliness, bacteria can still find their way to the urinary tract after sex. Research indicates that UTI symptoms start about 2 days after sexual activity. (04) Some women experience symptoms earlier.
Contraceptives May Increase the Risk
Some types of contraceptives increase the risk of developing a UTI. Spermicides, for example, can affect skin cells and make it easier for bacteria to adhere inside the urethra. Diaphragms can also press against the urethra, preventing urine from washing out bacteria after sex. (04)
Some Types of Sexual Activities Can Lead to a UTI
By all means, have sex the way you want. But aware that some activities lead to a higher risk for UTIs than others. Sex from behind, otherwise known as “doggy” position or “reverse cowgirl,” tends to push bacteria up the urethra more quickly than in other positions. Long, strenuous bouts of sexual activity or repeated bouts in a short period (vacation, anyone?) can also lead to UTIs. (04)
Skin Condition Can Lead to UTIs
Drier skin increases the likelihood of friction and chafing. When skin becomes chafed, there’s a higher risk of bacteria becoming trapped on the skin. What’s more, dry skin is more prone to injury, increasing the probability of all kinds of infections. (04)
What You Can Do to Prevent a UTI
There’s no way to guarantee that you’ll never get a UTI. But you can reduce the likelihood that a UTI will occur by:
- Use a high-quality personal lubricant to reduce friction and skin injuries during sex.
- Drinking plenty of water keeps skin hydrated and helps flush out bacteria from the urinary tract. Consuming at least 50 ounces of fluids a day helps prevent infections (05)
- Don’t hold your urine, and empty your bladder often. Emptying your bladder keeps bacteria from growing and helps flush them out.
- Urinate and wash after sex. Voiding removes bacteria before an infection occurs. (05)
- Drink cranberry juice or take cranberry supplements. Research indicates that cranberries may keep bacteria from sticking to skin tissues, helping to reduce the risk of infection. (06)
- Wipe from front to back to prevent intestinal bacteria from getting near the urethra.
- Opt for showers instead of baths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), baths may increase the risk of a urinary tract infection. (07)
Lubrication Makes Difference
Lubrication decreases friction is a fact that applies to both physics and sex. Incorporating personal lubricants into sexual activity may help reduce the chances of developing a UTI because with less friction comes less movement of unwanted bacteria up into the urethra.
Lubricants also prevent skin tissue injury, which can reduce bacterial infections. Women who are prone to vaginal dryness and recurrent UTIs may see their infections decline by using personal lubricants, as well as taking other preventive measures.
Choosing the Right Lubricant
When it comes to preventing urinary tract infections, the type of lubrication used is essential. For example, utilizing lubricants with spermicides can damage skin tissue, defeating the purpose of using a lubricant to prevent UTIs. Additionally, using lubricants that aren’t approved for sexual activity can increase the chances of bacterial infections like UTIs. When choosing a lubricant to prevent urinary tract infections, it’s essential to use a lubricant made of high-quality ingredients that are soothing and healing to offset the friction and damage to tissue that can happen during sexual activity.
It Feels Good to Fight UTIs
Playground’s selection of personal lubricants makes the battle against urinary tract infections feel good. It’s not often that infection prevention methods feel pleasurable. Research indicates that incorporating personal lubricants into sex increases sexual arousal, improves sexual satisfaction, and boosts general well-being (05,07)
The slick, silky feeling our products offer occurs because they reduce friction – and friction is a key reason UTIs occur with sex. Whether you choose our unscented Love Sesh or our Vanilla Date Night, you know you’re choosing a safe, water-based, clinically tested product. Choose your personal lubricant on Playground our website and discover all the ways pleasure can be good for you.