Few things are peskier than realizing you've developed a UTI. Aside from being uncomfortable, infections of the urinary tract can also lead to other health issues when untreated. Fortunately, this common health issue is treatable when dealt with swiftly. If you've ever wondered, "Does sex cause UTIs?" the answer is surprisingly straightforward. According to obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Sheila Loanzon, the link between sex and UTIs is particularly relevant for people with anatomy that includes a vagina, vulva, and urethra.
"The anatomy of our vaginal area involves three holes: the urethra, vagina, and the rectum," Dr. Loanzon previously told Elite Daily. "[And] this anatomy creates the perfect condition for sex to cause a UTI." Although this doesn't mean that you shouldn't have sex, understanding how UTIs develop can help you avoid them. "Because these exit points are so closely related in proximity, when sexual activity occurs, it is common [for] the fluids of intercourse and bacteria to be introduced into the urethra," she said.
In a nutshell, the introduction of bacteria into the urethra can lead to UTIs, explained Dr. Loanzon. "Imagine your urethra like a tube or garden hose connected to a spout (your bladder) and ultimately, your kidneys," she said. "With intercourse, bacteria can form at the end of the tube." Although people with male anatomy also have a urethra through which bacteria can travel through, Urologist Dr. Daniel Mazur, explained why having a penis makes it harder to contract a UTI. "Men have a significantly longer urethra which may make it harder for bacteria to enter the bladder," Dr. Mazur previously told Elite Daily.
The good news is that there are some precautions you can take after having sex to help encourage any bacteria that may have been pushed into the urethra to be flushed out before it reaches your bladder. "I recommend urinating an hour or two after sex, because any bacteria that is pushed into the urethra, which drains the bladder, is rinsed out," California-based gynecologist and surgeon Prudence Hall, M.D., previously told Elite Daily. Since everyone's body is different, some people may develop UTIs more frequently than others. "If [someone is] prone to urinary infections after sex, they should drink a glass of water so you urinate and also take 1000 mg of D-mannose."
Although it may be tempting to put non-urgent health concerns on the back burner, if you think you might have a UTI, it's important to seek medical care ASAP so it doesn't develop into a bigger issue. "If a UTI is present and it is not treated, it can lead to an ascending infection from the bladder to the kidneys called pyelonephritis or systemic infections called sepsis," explained Dr. Loanzon. "These may require longer periods of antibiotics as an outpatient, and if severe enough, IV antibiotics administered in the hospital."
Even though UTIs can be extremely unpleasant, they're both common and treatable, so there's no need to abstain from sex out of fear of getting one. If you're urinating after sex, then you're already helping your body flush out the bad bacteria. So, don't fret.