Health + Wellness

What is a UTI & What Does it Have to do with Sex?

Urinary tract infection (UTI) graphic.
We usually pee about 6 or 8 times a day and most of the time it feels fine, but if the simple act of going to the bathroom burns your genitals or hurts deep inside your abdomen, you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Learn more about what a UTI is, feels like, and what sex has to do with it.

What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

A UTI is a bacterial infection of the urinary tract, the small tube in your body that carries pee from your bladder to your urethra. They are common, usually treated easily with antibiotics, and can happen to people of any age or gender. An untreated UTI can be more serious as the infection can spread to your bladder or your kidneys. So while they aren’t that big of a deal, they aren’t something to ignore, either.

What does a UTI Feel Like?

The most common symptoms of urinary tract infections are:

a burning or painful sensation in or near the urethra, especially when you pee

a frequent urge to urinate.

feeling like you can’t get that last drop of pee out.

Potentially more serious UTI symptoms include:

pelvic pain

blood in your urine

fever.

If you feel any of these, it’s a good idea to check in with a health care provider.

How do you diagnose a UTI? What Can You Take for a UTI?

Health care providers can diagnose a UTI using a urine sample and give you a prescription for antibiotics. You need to take all of the antibiotics that you’re given, even if you start to feel better after just a few pills.

The frustrating thing is that the same antibiotics that can clear up a UTI can actually cause a yeast infection. If you are someone who has frequent yeast infections, you might want to talk to your health care provider about the possibility of taking anti-fungal medication at the same time as the antibiotic. No one wants to get on the UTI/yeast infection see-saw.

What Causes Urinary Tract Infections? Is it Sex?

If you find yourself with a UTI, you may wonder, “what caused this” in between your trips to the bathroom. UTIs happen when bacteria, most often E-coli, get pushed into the urethra (the hole that pee comes out of). The bacteria usually comes from your anus or somebody’s not-quite-washed hands. UTIs are not sexually transmitted and they are not considered contagious but they can be caused by sex.

UTIs are more common in women and people with vaginas because the urethra and anus are closer together, but they can happen to anyone. Vaginal penetration by a penis, finger, or sex toy is often the way bacteria get introduced to the urinary tract and cause an infection.

Can You Get a UTI from Condoms?

Most condoms don’t cause UTIs. In fact, by putting a barrier between you and your partner they may make it less likely that bacteria gets into the urethra.

There is some research, however, that shows condoms with spermicidal lube already on them can increase the chances of a UTI. If you’re worried about UTIs, make sure to choose a condom without spermicide.

Can you Get a UTI from Oral Sex?

Yes, any kind of sex, including oral sex, can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract, which can lead to a UTI.

Washing before and after oral sex can help rinse away any bacteria.

Can Lube Cause a UTI?

Most lubes don’t cause UTIs. In fact, it’s more likely to get a UTI as a result of the friction and irritation caused by not using enough lube during sex. That said, spermicidal lubes may increase the chances of a UTI so you might want to avoid them.

What Helps a UTI & How Can You Prevent at UTI After Sex?

There are a few things people who get frequent UTIs can do to help keep the burning at bay – without ruining your sex life. These are also good tips to help prevent a urinary tract infection in the first place, especially after you have sex.

Drink a lot of water. The more you drink, the more you pee, and urinating can help flush bacteria out of the urethra. Also, don’t hold your pee – head to the bathroom as soon as you think you have to go so bacteria don’t sit around in your urinary tract. Better out than in.

Pee after sex. Same logic: urinating right after sex can flush out any bacteria that got pushed into the urethra and help prevent a urinary tract infection.

Shower before and/or after sex. A quick shower before sex—with or without your partner—might help prevent UTIs by washing away the bacteria ahead of time. You could also hop back in after sex to rinse off any new bacteria as well. Also, this is what a bidet is for. If you have one, use it. If not, you can add one to any toilet easily.

Go front to back. Your mom probably told you to wipe front to back after you use the bathroom, but this advice applies to sex as well. Never put anything (a finger, a penis, or a toy) that has been in or near the anus in or near the vulva/vagina.

Consider the cranberry. Tell your friends you have a UTI and they are likely to hand you a cranberry spritzer. Opinion is mixed on this one. Some experts think the high vitamin C in the juice makes your urine extra-acidic which keeps bacteria from growing, others point to a chemical in the berry that they say prevents bacteria from sticking to the sides of the bladder. Of course, there are a lot of experts who think it’s all baloney but most agree that there is no harm in drinking cranberry juice (you need one that’s all real juice not the sugary kids’ drink version) or taking a cranberry supplement.

Can you have sex with a UTI?

Here’s the all-important question: If you have a UTI, is it ok to have sex? Your health care provider will probably tell you to wait and here’s why. First and foremost, having sex with a UTI may be unpleasant or even painful because the area is probably already irritated and inflamed. Sex doesn’t always have to be mind-blowing, but it is supposed to feel nice.

It’s not just that sex with a UTI probably won’t feel good, however. Having sex with a UTI may make the symptoms and the infection worse, either by further irritating the area or introducing additional bacteria to the urethra.

In the end (no pun intended), sex and UTIs don’t mix very well. Sex can cause the UTI in the first place and having more sex before your treatment is completed and your symptoms are gone can make it even worse. Only you and your partner can decide what you’re comfortable with, but given how uncomfortable UTIs can be, it may be a week or so of Netflix without the chill.

Learn more about maintaining your sexual health and wellness:

STI symptoms

STIs and condoms

Do condoms prevent HPV?

Sex and yeast infections