Sex gets a bad rap when it comes to urinary tract infections.
While intercourse can be a contributing factor, it isn’t the cause for urinary tract infections (UTIs) in every case. There are other possible causes for this infection that most commonly impacts the lower urinary tract, or the bladder and urethra.1
But even if sex isn’t why you’re now bothered by an infection, can you have sex with a UTI? Let’s take a look.
What is a UTI?
This infection impacts any part of your urinary system, which includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. As mentioned, the bladder and urethra are the most common sites of this annoying condition.
If the infection does spread to your kidneys, it can have serious consequences.1 Otherwise, the sometimes painful symptoms are relatively easy to treat, usually with antibiotics.
What Causes a UTI?
UTIs are common, as between 50% and 60% of adult women will have at least one UTI in their life2, and some women have repeat infections or suffer more often from UTIs. These recurrent infections are defined as when a woman experiences two or more UTIs in a six-month period or four or more within a year.1
Women are at greater risk of developing a UTI than men because we have a shorter urethra. This allows for bacteria to more easily affect us, for instance by entering our body through the vagina, where there is a shorter distance for the bacteria to multiply and reach the bladder.
Symptoms include a strong, persistent urge to urinate, a burning sensation when urinating, and urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-coloured, a sign of blood in the urine.1
Besides our female anatomy, there are other risk factors that can lead to UTIs. Certain types of birth control, such as diaphragms or spermicidal agents may be a risk factor. Post-menopausal women often see a change in the urinary tract caused by a decline in estrogen, and that may open the door to infection.
And, sexual activity has been defined as a risk factor, as well as having a new sexual partner.3 Even with post-menopausal women, studies have shown an increase in risk of UTI after sexual intercourse.4
That doesn’t mean sex is bad. It simply means there could be bacteria introduced during sex that could lead to a UTI. You can help prevent that bacteria from taking hold by emptying your bladder soon after intercourse, and changing your birth control method to avoid diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, as they can contribute to bacterial growth.1
But Can You Have Sex With a UTI?
Once you have been diagnosed with a UTI and you’re undergoing treatment, can you have sex?
First off, UTIs are not sexually transmitted and are not contagious. This means that you will not pass your UTI to your partner if you choose to have sex.5 It is possible, however, to pass the bacteria that causes a UTI, and these bacteria could cause a secondary infection.6
That’s not the main reason that it’s usually recommend to avoid sex until the UTI is completely cleared up. The main reason is that sex may irritate the urinary tract and it could push bacteria into the urethra, which could worsen the infection.5
Here are some other risks of having sex with a UTI:
- It may cause pain or irritate your sensitive urethra.
- Pressure on the internal walls of the vagina may also put pressure on the bladder, making the pain of your UTI worse.
- Sex may force bacteria from other places around the genital area into the urethra. Introducing more bacteria into the urinary tract could make the infection worse and slow down the healing process.
There’s also the risk that your symptoms may actually be a sexually transmitted disease. Some common STDs have similar symptoms to what you might experience if you have a UTI. STDs can be more serious than a UTI and they are more likely to transfer from one person to another.7
Ask Your Doctor
If you think you have a UTI, it’s best to see your doctor to receive a proper diagnosis and receive treatment for your infection. When caught early, UTIs are a common condition that can easily be treated. Your doctor will be able to provide advice on whether you can have sex with a UTI.
Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you and seek treatment for your UTI or other health concerns.