Can You Get a UTI After Sex?

Medically Reviewed By Tahirah Redhead MPAS, PA-C, MPH
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You can develop a urinary tract infection (UTI) after sex. Cleaning your genitals before and after sex and urinating after finishing sexual intercourse can play an important role in preventing the development of bacterial infections. This article explains how you can develop a UTI after having sex. It reviews the symptoms of a UTI, risk factors, prevention, and other causes of UTIs. It also suggests when to contact your doctor and mentions how to treat UTIs.

Can you get a UTI from sex?

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You can develop a UTI from engaging in sexual intercourse. People with a vagina can have a significantly higher chance of developing a UTI after sex. This is because a person with a vagina has a shorter urethra — the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body — which means the bacteria can reach the bladder easier compared with people with a penis.

The opening of the urethra also sits closer to the anus in those with vaginas, which can lead to further bacterial contamination of the urinary system.

Read more about urinary tract infections.

How can you reduce your risk of UTI after sex?

There are several ways you can reduce the risk of developing a UTI after sex, including:

  • urinating as soon as possible after sex
  • washing your genitals and their surrounding area with water before and after sexual intercourse
  • avoiding using the same condom for anal and vaginal sex
  • refraining from using spermicidal lube on condoms or diaphragms

If you experience recurrent infections, speak with your doctor. They can recommend the most effective treatment.

What are the symptoms of UTI?

If you have a UTI, you may experience different symptoms, depending on the severity of the infection. When a UTI involves only your bladder, or it is in its early stages, the most common symptoms of UTIs include:

  • pain or burning when you urinate
  • a sudden need to urinate
  • a need to urinate frequently
  • difficulty starting to urinate
  • blood in your urine
  • lower abdominal pain

In more severe cases of UTIs, the infection may also involve the upper urinary tract, including your kidneys. In this case, the symptoms can also involve:

What are the risk factors for UTIs?

Any bacteria that enter your urethra may cause a UTI. However, E. coli are one of the most common bacteria to cause UTIs in the United States.

E. coli bacteria are part of your intestinal flora. In some cases, they can cause diarrhea or other intestinal conditions. When E. coli exit the rectum, they may come in contact with your genitals. If the bacteria enter your urethra, they can cause a UTI.

Other risks of developing UTIs include:

  • using a urinary catheter
  • having atypical anatomical features in your urinary tract
  • getting pelvic exams frequently
  • manipulating the urethra
  • undergoing a kidney transplant
  • lacking an adequate intake of fluids

What are other causes of UTIs?

Your urinary tract naturally contains some generally harmless bacteria that help your urinary system function. However, microbes, bacteria, and fungi can cause the development of UTIs when they reach the bladder.

UTIs are more common in people assigned female at birth than in people assigned male at birth.

Some forms of birth control can increase the risk of getting UTIs:

  • Spermicide products: This can cause skin irritation, which can allow the bacteria to infect the urinary tract system.
  • Unlubricated condoms: Having sex without enough lubrication can cause skin irritation and open a way through your skin for bacteria to enter your body.
  • Diaphragms: This form of birth control may also slow down the natural flow of urine. Bacteria may multiply and spread in presence of urine retention.

Other situations that can increase the risk of UTI development include:

How are UTIs treated?

Around 20% of UTIs in people assigned female at birth will resolve spontaneously without treatment. However, if you believe you may be experiencing a UTI, contact your doctor.

Treatment of UTIs may vary, depending on the severity of the infection. Your doctor can recommend the most effective treatment for you. The treatment your doctor recommends may change, depending on the infection frequency or if you have issues in your urinary tract. Treatment for UTIs often includes antibiotics.

The duration of the treatment can also vary, depending on the cause of the infection and how advanced the UTI is. This can range from 3 days to 6 weeks. If possible, experts also recommend drinking plenty of fluids to increase your hydration.

How can you prevent UTIs?

Other ways to prevent UTIs include the following:

  • Keep your genital area dry and clean.
  • Wipe the front to the back when you use the toilet.
  • Drink plenty of fluids during the day to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid holding your urine.
  • Fully empty your bladder when you urinate.
  • Use unscented soaps in your genital area.
  • If you wear tampons, diapers, or incontinence pads, change them as soon as possible when soiled.

Read about home remedies for urinary tract infections.

Summary

You can develop a UTI after having sex. Cleaning your genitals before and after sex and urinating as soon as possible after sexual intercourse can reduce the risk of infections in your urinary system.

If you have a UTI, you may feel pain when you urinate, your urine may be cloudy or contain traces of blood, and you may also feel the need to urinate more frequently than usual. If you believe you may have a UTI, contact your doctor. They can confirm the diagnosis and recommend the most effective treatment.

Anyone can develop a UTI. However, it is more common in people with a vagina, as the opening to their urethra is shorter, meaning bacteria can reach their bladder more easily.

You may not require medications to treat a UTI. Drinking plenty of liquids during the day to stay hydrated and keeping your genitals clean and dry may be enough for the infection to clear. However, it is a good idea to contact your doctor, who can evaluate if you need antibiotics to treat the infection.

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Medical Reviewer: Tahirah Redhead MPAS, PA-C, MPH
Last Review Date: 2022 Dec 6
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