A urinary tract infection (UTI) can be painful enough to cause a temporary loss of interest in sex. Once the infection starts to clear up, however some people wonder if it is safe to have sex again.
Doctors usually recommend avoiding sex until the infection has cleared up completely. This is because having sex may irritate the urinary tract and can push bacteria into the urethra, worsening the infection.
A UTI is a bacterial infection. They happen when bacteria often from the anus, dirty hands, or skin get into the urethra and travel to the bladder or other parts of the urinary tract.
UTI are not sexually transmitted and are not contagious. This means that people with a UTI will not pass on a UTI to their partner. In most cases, the sexual partners of a person with a UTI will not need treatment.
When someone has a UTI, having sex can cause pain and may irritate a sensitive urethra. In females, pressure on the internal walls of the vagina may also put pressure on the bladder, intensifying the pain of a UTI.
Sex can also force bacteria from other places around the genital area into the urethra. For many people especially females frequent sex is a significant risk factor for developing a UTI. This is because having sex while the infection is still present increases the risk of introducing more bacteria into the urinary tract. This can make the infection worse and slow down healing.
It is a myth that wearing a condom or avoiding penetrative sex in favor of oral or manual sex is safe when a person has a UTI. This is because UTIs are not sexually transmitted, and one partner does not spread the bacteria to the other. Instead, sex increases the risk of UTIs by introducing bacteria into the urethra.
Any genital contact can introduce bacteria into the urethra, with or without a condom or penetration. So, to minimize risks, people should avoid all forms of sex until symptoms are gone.
Sexual activity is one of the most common ways bacteria get into the urinary tract. Ninety percent of UTIs are the result of Escherichia coli bacteria that have found their way into the urethra and beyond.
Escherichia coli bacteria are most often found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or feces. These bacteria may move from the anus or GI tract onto you or your partner’s hands, mouth, genitals, or a sex toy.
Sex can also push bacteria further into your body through penetration, which sets up a higher likelihood of an infection. If you already have a UTI, penetration may reinfect you or introduce a new source of bacteria. This can lead to a longer recovery time.
A UTI isn’t a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and it isn’t considered a contagious condition. However, you can pass the bacteria that causes a UTI between partners.
For example, E. coli bacteria may travel from your anus to the vaginal opening or onto a penis. During vaginal sex, a penis can move the bacteria into the vaginal opening, increasing the risk of developing an infection.
In some cases, the UTI may actually be a side effect of an STI, such as chlamydia or trichomoniasis. These infections can be passed between partners.
UTIs are more common in females than in males. This is because a female’s urinary tract is shorter than a male’s, making it easier for bacteria to travel to the bladder. Additionally, the urethra is closer to the anus, which enables bacteria from the anus to travel up the urinary tract, potentially causing an infection.
Penetrative sex can further increase these risks by forcing bacteria into the urethra.
There is no safe way to have sex with a UTI, but some simple strategies during sexual activity can reduce the risk of future UTIs :
• Urinate before and after sex to flush out bacteria.
• Avoid sexual practices that can spread bacteria from the anus to the vagina or urethra. People who have anal sex should use a condom and should change condoms after penetrating the anus and before penetrating any other body part.
• Wipe front to back after urinating or having a bowel movement since this can prevent the spread of bacteria from the anus.
• Drink plenty of water to help clean the urinary tract. The risk of a UTI is higher when a person is dehydrated.
• Wash hands before manually stimulating a partner. This will not prevent UTIs entirely but can reduce the risk of accidentally introducing bacteria into the urethra.
• Wash hands after touching a partner’s anus or other body parts.
Try slowing down sexual activity for a few days after recovering from a UTI. If having sex with a new partner, gradually increase the rate of sexual activity, especially if there is a history of recurrent or severe UTIs.
UTIs usually go away quickly with treatment. Sex can slow the healing process, though and potentially even cause another infection. Ask a doctor how long to wait before having intercourse, then wait at least that long. If there is still pain, wait until the pain has completely disappeared before having sex.
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