Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a fairly common health problem, especially among women. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 1 in every 5 women develop a UTI at least once in their lifetime, although it’s not uncommon to have this type of infection more than once. If you’ve ever had signs and symptoms of a UTI, you may have asked yourself whether it was safe to have sex before the infection was cleared.
Keep reading to find out if you can have sex with a urinary tract infection.
Can you have sex with a UTI?
Although there’s no hard recommendation that says that you can’t have sex while you have a UTI, it may be a good idea to wait until the infection has cleared. That’s because, just like other infections that affect various parts of the body, UTIs can cause significant inflammation of the urinary tract. Friction during sex can make this inflammation worse, which can exacerbate your symptoms.
This doesn’t just apply to penetrative penis-in-vagina sex. Any penetrative objects, including toys and fingers, can increase inflammation if you have a UTI. Penetration and thrusting can also increase pressure on your bladder and urethra, which can lead to even more discomfort.
And although females are more prone to developing UTIs than males, it’s important to keep in mind that men can also suffer from these infections. In men, urinary infections can cause inflammation of the urethral opening (the opening at the tip of the penis), which can also feel worse after having sex.
You should also avoid oral sex if you have a UTI, unless you’re using a dental dam or condom. Oral sex can spread the bacteria that is causing the UTI, which could potentially lead to secondary bacterial infections.
If you’re going to engage in sexual activity while you have a urinary tract infection, it’s important to find a position where you feel comfortable and go at your own pace. However, you should also know that you can stop at any time you feel pain or discomfort, even if you have already started having intercourse.
What causes a UTI?
As their name suggests, urinary tract infections are infections that affect the urinary system, which includes your urethra (urethritis), bladder, ureters, and kidneys. Symptoms of a UTI can vary in presentation and severity depending on which organs of the urinary system have become infected.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most UTIs are limited to the bladder and cause symptoms that are uncomfortable but mild. But the infection can spread to your kidneys, causing a condition called acute pyelonephritis which can have more serious consequences.
Women typically have a higher risk of developing UTIs, since their urethra is much shorter than the male urethra. This means that the bacteria that cause UTIs have to travel a shorter distance before reaching the bladder and causing an infection (cystitis). However, men can also develop UTIs.
According to the NHS, most UTIs are caused by the bacteria that typically live in your anorectal area, such as E. coli. Risk factors for urinary tract infections can include:
- Anatomical abnormalities
- Female gender
- Sexual activity
- Extreme ages (children and seniors)
- Inadequate hygiene
- Underlying diseases
- Certain birth control methods, including diaphragms and spermicides
- Enlarged prostate (men)
- Bladder prolapse
Symptoms of a UTI
Urinary tract infections cause symptoms that can range depending on the location and severity of the disease. According to the Urology Care Foundation, symptoms of a UTI can include:
- Burning or painful sensation when you urinate
- Foul smelling urine
- Cloudy urine
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Feeling of incomplete bladder emptying after you urinate
- Urinary incontinence
- Lower back pain
Keep in mind that in most cases, cystitis only causes local symptoms such as painful and frequent urination. If you develop systemic symptoms, such as fever or vomiting, it could be a sign that the infection has spread to your kidneys. It’s very important to seek medical assistance so your UTI can be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.
You should also remember that in many cases, symptoms of a UTI can be easily confused with symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Several STDs can also cause frequent and painful urination, which makes it even more important to get an accurate diagnosis. If you have an active sexual life, you should get tested for STDs regularly to rule out conditions such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis, among others.
UTIs are quite uncomfortable, but the good news is that they typically respond very well to a course of antibiotics. Despite the fact that you can’t spread a UTI through sexual contact, it’s probably a good idea to hold off on sex until you have finished your treatment and the infection clears. Having sex can further irritate your urinary system, which can worsen your symptoms. But if you follow your treatment correctly, odds are that you’ll be feeling back to normal in no time. You can learn more about other sexual health topics at STDWatch.com.
Urinary Tract Infections - my.clevelandclinic.org
Urinary tract infection (UTI) - mayoclinic.org
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) - nhs.uk
Urinary Tract Infections in Adults - urologyhealth.org