Can You Have Sex With a UTI?

Having sex with a UTI may introduce an additional set of concerns.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when unwelcome bacteria enter and infect the urinary system, which includes the urethra, bladder, and kidneys. Per the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, UTIs are a widespread occurrence. They cause pelvic pain and a strong, constant urge to pee (as well as a burning feeling when you do so).

Given the uncomfortable symptoms of a UTI, some people may wonder whether it is safe—or even enjoyable—to have vaginal sex while treating an infection. Although it is not necessarily unsafe to have sex with a UTI, it may irritate your symptoms.

Timing is everything. Some healthcare providers suggest you may want to hold off until your symptoms subside and you complete a full course of antibiotics before having sex. Here's what you need to know before making that decision.

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Sex With a UTI May Worsen Symptoms

It is possible to have vaginal sex with a UTI. But you may not want to, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

"I don't think one is concerned about safety. It's more about comfort," said Patricia A. Wallace, MD, a gynecologist and urologist at Providence Mission Hospital in Orange County, Calif.

"If you have an active bladder infection, you're not very comfortable most of the time in that area, so avoiding intercourse is probably the best bet until things quiet down and you're feeling better," added Dr. Wallace. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a bladder infection is one of the most common types of UTIs.

Sometimes, sex may even aggravate your symptoms, added Felice Gersh, MD, OB-GYN, founder and director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine in Irvine, Calif., and author of PCOS SOS Fertility Fast Track.

"Heavy thrusting or sexual intercourse are more likely to create more irritation," Dr. Gersh told Health.

Penetration can put pressure on the parts of your body that bacteria infects, namely your urethra or bladder. That can be a recipe for increased pain and a potentially longer recovery period than usual. Those risk factors are part of why some healthcare providers often recommend waiting a week or so after starting treatment before you have sex.

New Bacteria Can Cause a Second Infection

However, there is another reason why you might want to think twice before having sex with a UTI: bacteria. UTIs develop when bacteria, often the kind hanging around your anus, make their way into your urethra and colonize somewhere along your urinary tract, per the National Library of Medicine.

And while there are several different ways for bacteria to enter the body, sexual activity increases the risk of developing a UTI, according to the CDC. That means there is a chance, albeit a small one, that new bacteria could make their way into your urethra while having sex and cause a second UTI before your first one is gone.

"You can have two UTIs at once," said Dr. Gersh. "I've seen urine cultures that have grown multiple organisms at once, so it is possible. That goes into why it's best not to engage in sex so close to having a UTI or during a UTI."

The good news is that UTIs are not contagious. So, you cannot give a UTI to your partner should you decide to have sex.

"Certain bacteria that get into the urethra can be passed back and forth, but those are not true UTI bacteria—they're STI [sexually transmitted infection] bacteria," acknowledged Dr. Wallace.

Still, even though your partner might not be at risk, the potential for sex to introduce new bacteria into your urethra and create another UTI means you might want to wait to have sex until you are fully recovered.

When Can You Have Sex After a UTI?

Healthcare providers say you are clear to have sex after a UTI once you finish your antibiotics.

"A good rule of thumb would be to wait until you're done with antibiotics, but there's no rule that says you have to wait," said Dr. Wallace. "Most women will wait until they're done with antibiotics because it sometimes takes three or four days to feel better, though."

How long you should wait depends on how long your healthcare provider wants you to take antibiotics. Healthcare providers may treat uncomplicated cystitis, an ordinary bladder infection, with antibiotics for one to five days, depending on the exact medication you need. If you have a complicated UTI—like a kidney infection—or if you are pregnant, you may need to take antibiotics for up to 14 days.

Your symptoms may even subside before you finish your antibiotics, but that does not mean you should stop taking the medication, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Otherwise, the medication might not eliminate all the bacteria, and lingering organisms could become resistant to antibiotics. That can make future infections more challenging to treat than usual.

Can Antibiotics for UTIs Interfere With Birth Control?

Luckily, the antibiotics that healthcare providers often prescribe to treat a UTI will not interfere with your birth control, according to the CDC.

However, per the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, spermicide (or diaphragms used with spermicide) can make you susceptible to UTIs. Also, healthcare providers may not recommend the birth control gel Phexxi for people with a history of recurrent UTIs. If you frequently come down with UTIs, it might be a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider about whether switching birth control could help stop infections from developing.

How Can You Prevent a UTI From Sex?

While having sex may increase your risk of developing a UTI, that does not mean you need to avoid it to prevent another infection. The National Library of Medicine indicated some ways to prevent a UTI from sex:

  • Peeing after having sex. The urine will help flush away bacteria that entered the urethra during intercourse.
  • Drinking lots of water. Staying hydrated dilutes your urine and makes you frequently pee, allowing your body to eliminate bacteria before they colonize near your urinary tract.
  • Avoiding douching. Douching can alter the healthy bacteria in the vaginal area, increasing the risk of infection. Healthcare providers also link douching to various health problems, including bacterial vaginosis and STIs, per the Office on Women's Health. You should also avoid sprays and powders that can irritate the vaginal area.
  • Making anal intercourse the final act. Switching from anal to vaginal intercourse may allow bacteria to create a UTI. So, be sure also to keep any sex toys clean.
  • Wiping from front to back. If you clean up after having sex or using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back. Otherwise, you may drag bacteria where it does not belong.

Summary

Beyond uncomfortable symptoms making vaginal sex unenjoyable, there is nothing about a UTI that can stop you from having sex. However, it is still a good idea to hold off until you feel better and finish a complete course of antibiotics. Having sex with a UTI could lead to increased pain and potentially place you at risk of developing a second infection.

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