Updated: Aug 7
"Why do I get a UTI when I have sex?" is an
age old question with many myths. A lot of women are lead to believe that UTIs occur because of poor hygiene, their partner is dirty, or because of certain sexual positions, but none of these is true which is why showering before, during, and after sex doesn’t consistently prevent infections. Fear of getting a UTI takes the joy out of sexual activity. Unfortunately many women are so worried about getting a UTI that they go so far as to avoid sexual activity all together---and that's not ok. A woman's choice to be sexually active shouldn't be determined because of fear of UTI.
Why do you get UTIs when you have sex?
The basics: first, UTI is short for urinary tract infection. Technically, UTI can include kidney or bladder infections, but generally when the term UTI is used it is referring to a bladder infection. (Kidney infections are a whole other topic and I won't get into it here). Second, I hate to break it to you, but our own vaginas are usually the culprit. On any given day our vaginas normally have a variety of different organisms (our "microbiome") that includes bacteria (“good and bad”) and yeast. When there is an imbalance between the good and the bad bacteria then a woman is more prone to a UTI. For many women, hormonal changes such as certain times of the month, changing birth control or hormone replacement, or menopause can upset the microbiome's balance. And there are some women whose normal bacteria are just more virulent (able to cause infection) than others. Sexual activity can also physically move bad bacteria closer to the opening of the urinary tract (urethra) and cause a UTI.
What can you do to prevent UTIs related to sex? Some easy things to do are emptying your bladder after sexual activity, increasing fluid intake, and taking cranberry supplements. Other supplements that can help some women are d-mannose, uva ursi, and vitamin C. There are many women for whom these things don't work, and they need to take one preventative antibiotic pill at the time they are sexually active. This may sound extreme, but an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Taking one preventative antibiotic usually equates to less antibiotics over time compared to repeatedly taking full courses of antibiotics each time a UTI occurs. Repeated courses of antibiotics not only kill the bad bacteria, but they also eliminate good bacteria both in the vagina and the gut.
Women who are prone to UTIs because of hormonal imbalance often experience vaginal dryness too. Not only do these women avoid sexual activity because of fear of UTI, but they also avoid it simply because vaginal dryness makes sexual activity painful. Using a lubricant with sexual activity seems an obvious solution, but a woman who is already prone to bladder infections will ask herself "can lubricants cause UTI?" The good news is a well chosen lubricant can prevent UTIs by preventing inflammation and tearing of the vagina. Lubricants that contain glycerin should be avoided because this sugar can potentially be food for unwanted bacteria. Lubricants that have a more acidic pH are also preferable as lower pH facilitates growth of good bacteria. For this exact reason, GLISSANT's FDA cleared intimate lubricant does not contain glycerin or other harsh chemicals, it's pH balanced to promote vaginal health, and it's even condom compatible. Ans if that wasn't enough, it has a subtle but delectable sea salt & caramel flavor and comes in a discreet, refillable bottle you won't need to hide.
So now that you know how to prevent UTI related to sex, get back to enjoying yourself.
Dr. Karyn Eilber MD is a physician in Beverly Hills with over 20 years of experience in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.