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Sex is a common trigger of both urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bacterial vaginosis (BV), so an increase in sexual activity can therefore increase your risk of UTIs. It’s important to note that UTIs are not a sexually transmitted infection (aka you are not passing a UTI from one partner to another).
UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra. During sex, the opening of your urethra (located between the clitoris and vaginal opening) comes into contact with bacteria from the genital areas and anus. This bacteria can come from a myriad of places other than sex (i.e. sweat after exercising, travel, etc.) so it’s important to be mindful of the things that come in close contact with the urethra.
If you are sexually active, there are preventative measures you can take to decrease your risk of UTIs from sex. We know you’ve heard it all before – pee after sex, stay hydrated, and clean up after. And, those are suggestions for good reason — peeing after sex and cleaning up after is our first line of defense to flush bacteria out. However, we know UTIs still happen. Here are four other ways you can prioritize your urinary and sexual health all year round.
Thanks to recent research, we have a new understanding of how the vaginal microbiome plays a role in recurrent UTIs. The things that enter the vagina, like lubes and condoms, can impact the vaginal microbiome and throw it off balance. When the vaginal microbiome is off balance, it can lead to higher risk of infection.
In general, it is safe to stick to water-based lubes when you can and make sure you check the ingredients list before you use them
Other forms of female birth control could also increase the risk of UTIs.
If you’re bringing toys into the mix, it’s important to practice good hygiene with them too. Further research is needed but there could be a link between sex toys and UTIs (3). A precaution would be cleaning toys after and before every use with a mild soap and warm water. Be sure to allow your toy to dry fully before its next use.
Whether it be a finger, a toy, or a penis – be aware of switching from anal or oral to vaginal sex as this increases the likelihood of bacteria entering the urinary tract. To reduce the risk of bringing unwanted bacteria to the vagina, be sure to thoroughly wash anything that was in the anal region before it enters the vagina.
While every body is different, it’s important for everyone to practice good hygiene after sex as a preventative measure. Peeing after sex is our first line of defense against bacteria entering the urinary tract. Be sure to tell your partner you will cuddle them after you pee!
If you suspect you are having UTI symptoms, we recommend visiting a medical professional to seek proper treatment.
Sareena graduated with a B.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Oregon. She manages Uqora’s Digital Content and is responsible for Uqora's social media, newsletters and contributing to the UTI Learning Center.