UTIs or urinary tract infections are not STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). They are, on the contrary, bacterial infections of the bladder that affect not just sexually active women and men, but also young children, pets etc. That being said; there is a link between sex and UTI. So this guide is all about UTI prevention tips, particularly for sexually active women.
Sex and UTI link: Causes of UTI in sexually active women
Majority of the UTI patients are women in various age groups. UTI occurs when bacteria, generally E.coli, travel from the urine to the bladder and urethra causing intense pain and burning while urinating. Typically, women who are not strong enough to flush out the bacteria from their bladder are at a greater risk for developing recurrent urine infections. Typical causes of UTI in sexually active women are:
- The use of certain contraceptives, typically diaphragms or female condoms that are treated with spermicides-these are likely to cause urine infections during sex. The reason behind this is that the female reproductive system is highly sensitive and the barriers or spermicides used can end up irritating the genital areas.
- Douche gels and scented soaps or bath oils could also lead to irritation of the vagina and uterine walls.
- Women with the habit of wiping their anus from back to front, instead of the other way round, end up spreading the bacteria from anal feces to their vaginas, causing UTIs.
- Women who avoid peeing for long times are at a higher risk of developing bladder infections. It is especially important to pee after sex to remove bacteria from the tract.
- Certain medicines, contraceptive pills, hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause can also lead to UTI.
There are many myths associated with UTI and sex connection. These are:
- Certain sexual positions trigger UTIs. The fact is that there is no link between the type/position of sex and you must only ensure peeing after sex to reduce the possibility. Likewise, the myth that oral sex leads to UTI is just that- a big myth.
- Peeing before sex can prevent UTIs– The converse is true. You should drink lots of water before sex and then produce adequate amounts of urine following the intercourse. This will help you prevent UTI by removing bacteria from the urine.
- Marathon sex leads to such infections– This is a myth since there is no proven record that having sex frequently leads to bacterial infections of the bladder.
- Having sex with a man/woman having UTI can spread the infection to the partner– UTIs are not contagious and you will not contract them through intercourse with an infected partner or by sitting on toilet seats used by them. That being said; person having a UTI must avoid sex until s/he has fully recovered.
UTI prevention tips for sexually active couples
- Drink a lot of water every day. This will help you urinate more which will remove bacteria frequently from the system. Sexually active women must drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day and pee right after intercourse.
- As stated before, wiping, after a bowel movement, from front to back can limit bacteria from anus coming towards the vagina. This is an important UTI prevention tip for women and girls.
- Drink Cranberry juice or take cranberry substances. Several compounds present in cranberries can prevent UTIs by limiting their spread and adherence of bacteria from the urine to the walls of urethra.
- Avoid the use of female condoms, spermicide-treated diaphragms etc.
- Avoid having sex when suffering from UTIs. This will help you system heal completely.
- Consider using low dose antibiotics, particularly if you are prone to recurrent UTIs.
- Eat probiotic foods. This is not really a proven UTI prevention tip, but it certainly will help increase your immunity and have an overall positive effect by increasing percentage of good bacteria in the gut.
- Wear cotton pants and comfortable pantyhose. Avoid wearing tight thongs, jeans etc as these can irritate the vagina and urinary system.
- Avoid using harsh soaps, scents, lubrication, douches and other feminine products that irritate the urinary passage.
- Wash underclothing frequently and bathe regularly.
When to see a doctor?
If your UTI symptoms are exceedingly painful accompanied by vomiting, high fever, blood in urine, stomach/back cramps etc, then do see your doctor immediately. Some UTIs could spread to the kidneys causing a severe disease called Pyelonephritis. This is a serious condition that may require hospitalization. Typical milder UTIs can all be prevented using antibiotics. Naturally, you must complete the full dosage of medicine as prescribed by your doctor and not stop just because you start feeling better. If however, despite using antibiotics, your symptoms do not get better, chances are that the bacterial strain might be immune to the particular antibiotic. In such cases, your doctor might change the dosage or medicine for better results. A urine culture test may also be recommended to determine the exact strain of bacterium causing the UTI.
These UTI prevention tips can help prevent these infections in sexually active women.