Many of us are familiar with the feeling of a urinary tract infection (UTI). It can be uncomfortable, annoying, and painful, and often recurs time and time again. Many are also familiar with the unfortunate experience of getting a UTI after having sex. This can easily interfere with your sex life, especially if it becomes a chronic problem.
Here’s what you need to know about UTIs and why they’re fairly common after intercourse.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection that occurs anywhere in your urinary system. It could be in your urethra or bladder (these are the most common locations), or in your kidneys or ureters. Typically, microbes travel from your urethra into your bladder and cause an infection within the urethra or bladder. Sometimes the bacteria can travel higher up into the urinary system, especially if left untreated.
UTIs are far more common among women than men, which is probably why you don’t hear men talking about them very much. This can be partly attributed to female anatomy—women have a shorter urethra, which means bacteria doesn’t have to travel as far before reaching the bladder. Other risk factors include sexual activity, changes in hormone levels after menopause, an impaired immune system, or abnormalities in the urinary tract. This could cause a backup of urine in the urethra, or blockages somewhere within the urinary tract.
What are Some Common Symptoms of a UTI?
- A burning or painful sensation when you urinate
- A strong urge to urinate
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Urine that smells different than usual
- Nausea and vomiting
- Feeling shaky or fatigued
- Pressure or bloating in the abdomen
- Abdominal pain and muscle aches
- Fever and chills
- Pain or pressure in your back
Why are UTIs Common after Sex?
When you have sex (this includes oral sex, too), bacteria can get into your urethra and bladder. Women have a shorter urethra than men, which makes it easier for bacteria to make its way to your bladder. A woman’s urethra is also close to the anus, which makes it easy for bacteria to get to the urethra.
How Long Does It Take For a UTI to Show Up After Sex?
Studies show that UTI symptoms typically appear within 24-48 hours after having sex. However, it is possible for symptoms to show up as late as a few days after intercourse. If you experience any symptoms such as a burning sensation during urination, frequent urination, or lower abdominal pain, it is important to seek medical advice from your provider as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment of a UTI can prevent complications and ensure a quick and full recovery.
How to Prevent a UTI After Sex
You can’t completely avoid getting a UTI, but there are a few things you can do to lessen your chances. One is to make sure to urinate after sex—this may help remove bacteria from the bladder. Urinating and/or washing your genital area with warm water before having sex can be helpful, too. Both of these may reduce the chances of bacteria making its way to your urethra and bladder. If UTIs after sex seem to be a recurring problem, some doctors recommend taking prescription antibiotics.
Additional tips on how to prevent a UTI after sex:
- Drinking lots of water
- Wiping front to back to avoid spreading bacteria toward your urethra
- Making sure to use the bathroom when you need to rather than holding it in
- Keeping your genital area clean
- Avoid douching and don’t use scented feminine cleaners and sprays
- Wear cotton underwear
- Change out of damp exercise clothes as soon as you can
Are UTIs Dangerous to Health?
Many UTIs clear up within a few days after being treated with antibiotics. But if a UTI is left untreated you risk running into more serious health complications. Complications include kidney infections and kidney damage, recurring urinary tract infections, and even sepsis.
UTIs are also more dangerous during pregnancy, when there is greater risk for a mother and baby. It’s important to see or get in touch with your doctor right away If you have any symptoms of a UTI while pregnant.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.