Can You Have Sex With a UTI? Here's Why You May Want to Avoid It
Taking a break while you're in pain and taking meds makes a lot of sense.
Some people might think that the idea of having sex with a urinary tract infection (UTI) sounds ridiculous. After all, who would want to do the deed when you're dealing with the infamously uncomfortable symptoms of a UTI? A strong, constant urge to pee (and a burning feeling when you do), combined with pelvic pain, can turn off even the strongest of libidos.
But once you're on the mend (usually after a couple days' worth of antibiotics), you might feel well enough for a romp in the sack. Can you have sex with a UTI then?
Timing is everything, and experts say you still might want to hold off a little longer before getting hot and heavy. Here's what you need to know before you have sex with a UTI.
Can You Have Sex With a UTI?
Sure, it's possible to have sex with a UTI. But it's seriously doubtful that you'd want to (at least vaginally), given how uncomfortable you might feel down there.
"I don't think one is concerned about safety, it's more about comfort," Patricia A. Wallace, MD, a gynecologist and urologist at Providence Mission Hospital in Southern California, tells Health. "If you have an active bladder infection [the most common type of UTI], 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."
Plus, a rough romp in the hay may even worsen your symptoms, adds Felice Gersh, MD, OB-GYN, founder and director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine in Irvine, California, and author of PCOS SOS Fertility Fast Track.
"Heavy thrusting or sexual intercourse are more likely to create more irritation," she tells Health.
Penetration can put pressure on the parts of your body infected bacteria (namely your urethra or bladder). That's a recipe for more pain and potentially even a longer recovery period—part of the reason why doctors often recommend waiting a week or so after starting treatment before you have sex with a UTI, according to the Nemours Foundation.
Bacteria Makes Sex with a UTI Risky
However, there's another reason for why you might want to think twice before having sex with a UTI: bacteria. UTIs happen when bacteria, often the kind that hangs out around your anus, make their way into your urethra and set up a colony somewhere along your urinary tract, per the National Library of Medicine.
And while there are a number of different ways for the bacteria to get into areas where they shouldn't be, sexual activity, especially with a new partner, increases the risk of getting a UTI, notes the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means there's a chance, albeit a small one, that new bacteria could make their way into your urethra when having sex and cause a second UTI—before your first one is over!
"You can have two UTIs at once," observes 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 you can't spread the bacteria that causes UTIs to your partner, should you decide to indulge in some afternoon delight.
"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," says Dr. Wallace.
Still, even though your partner might not be at risk, the potential for sex to introduce a new strain of bacteria into your urethra and create another UTI means you might want to sit tight—with your pants on—until you're fully recovered.
When Can You Have Sex After a UTI?
Doctors say you're clear to have sex after a UTI once you've finished 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," says Dr. Wallace. "Most women will wait until they're done with antibiotics because it sometimes takes three or four days to feel better, though."
Exactly how long you should wait depends on how long your doctor wants you to take antibiotics. The American Urological Association (AUA) recommends that doctors treat an uncomplicated cystitis (aka an ordinary bladder infection) with antibiotics for one to five days, depending on the exact medication you need.
If you have a more complicated UTI (such as a kidney infection, or if you're pregnant), you may need to take antibiotics for up to 14 days, says AUA.
Chances are good that you'll feel better long before your orange prescription bottle is empty, but you still need to finish up the full course of antibiotics, explains the US Food and Drug Administration. Otherwise, the medication might not kill all the bacteria, and the organisms that linger could become resistant to antibiotics and even harder to treat down the road.
Can Antibiotics for UTIs Interfere with Birth Control?
Nope, the antibiotics you're taking for a UTI won't interfere with your birth control—phew! The only antibiotics that might impact hormonal contraception (like the pill) are rifampicin and rifabutin, according the UK's National Health Service. Those medications are used to treat certain bacterial infections, like tuberculosis, but not UTIs.
With that said, other medications can make hormonal birth control less effective, per Penn Medicine, so it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor or pharmacist about potential interference with birth control whenever you're taking something new.
Another thing to note is that spermicide (or diaphragms used with spermicide) can make you more susceptible to UTIs, per Mayo Clinic. Also, the new birth control gel Phexxi is not recommended for people with a history of recurrent UTIs, according to the National Women's Health Network. If you're frequently coming down with UTIs, it might be a good idea to talk with your doctor about whether switching birth control could help.
Preventing a UTI from Sex
While having sex puts you at higher risk of a UTI, that doesn't mean you need to go celibate if you want to avoid another infection. Here are some ways to prevent a UTI from sex, according to doctors and public health experts:
- Pee after having sex. The urine will help flush away bacteria that entered the urethra during intercourse.
- Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated dilutes your urine and makes you pee more frequently, allowing your body to eliminate bacteria before it can create a colony in your urinary tract.
- Don't douche. If you're thinking about douching, just...don't. It can mess with your vaginal flora, setting you up for risk of infection, says Loma Linda University Health. Douching has been linked to a range of health problems, including bacterial vaginosis and sexually transmitted infections, according to the federal Office on Women's Health. You should also avoid any other irritating "feminine products," like sprays and powders, per Mayo Clinic.
- Anal intercourse should be the final act. Switching from anal to vaginal intercourse could allow bacteria to create a UTI. Also be sure to keep your sex toys clean.
- Wipe from front to back. If you're cleaning up after sex (or just from using the bathroom), always wipe from front to back. Otherwise, you could be dragging bacteria where it doesn't belong.
The Bottom Line on Sex with UTIs
Beyond uncomfortable symptoms (like a fiery urethra) killing your libido, there's nothing about a UTI that can stop you from having sex. But it's still a good idea to hold off until you're feeling better, and you've finished your antibiotics. Having sex with a UTI could lead to more irritation and even put you at risk of a second infection.
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