Are UTIs Contagious? Sex, UTIs, And Your Urinary Health
Those of us who have ever had a urinary tract infection may wonder if it is safe to have sex while dealing with the infection. Or maybe some of us have even worried we could give the infection to our partner – or perhaps that they gave it to us in the first place.
All of these common concerns stem from one big question: is a UTI contagious?
When you hear so much about the connection between sexual intercourse and UTIs, it can be a confusing topic. I want to set the record straight once and for all.
Do UTIs Spread From Partner To Partner?
Urinary tract infections are not contagious. AKA: you cannot give your partner a UTI simply by touching them and vice versa. They are not a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI).
But that does not mean bacteria responsible for UTIs (often E. coli) cannot be spread from person to person – which means there actually is a real connection between having sex and getting a UTI.
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In other words:
- The urinary tract infection itself does not spread
- The bacteria that can potentially cause a urinary tract infection may spread
Let me explain how this works in more detail.
How Sex Can Bring On UTIs
We already know that the act of sex in and of itself is not what causes a urinary tract infection. But for women, the UTI/sex connection stems from the fact that the urethra and the vagina are two separate areas…that just so happen to be quite close to each other.
Because of that proximity, sometimes “sexual intercourse introduces bacteria into a woman's urinary tract.”
This happens so frequently, UTIs are often referred to as “honeymoon cystitis.”
- If the person you are having sex with happens to have bacteria near his or her genital area, that bacteria can now be on your body. Then the movement, along with the fluids, can allow that bacteria to enter your urethra easily…simply because it’s nearby.
- Likewise, if you already have some bacteria in the area, the action of sexual intercourse can lead to it ending up in your urethra as well.
This is not normally considered a problem for men to be concerned with because their urethra is much longer. The bacteria must travel further to create a bladder infection.
So Should You Avoid Sex When You Have A UTI?
If UTIs are not contagious, does that mean you can have sex when you currently have the infection?
Well I’m willing to bet that, in most cases, you probably will not even want to have sex when you have a UTI. The area is already inflamed, sensitive, and painful. You may even have a fever and body aches.
But if you don’t feel too terrible and really, really want to have sex…can you?
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If you are still dealing with the symptoms of a UTI, it is best to abstain until you feel better. There is friction and plenty of movement involved with sexual intercourse, and that can make you feel worse – and can even prolong the infection healing time.
Some doctors even recommend waiting two full weeks.
5 Ways To Prevent A UTI Brought On By Sex
Now here is some good news: If you are concerned about getting UTIs from sex in the future, there is absolutely no reason to avoid sex altogether.
Instead, I want you to change a few habits to prevent the urinary tract from getting infected post-sex.
1. Go to the bathroom
This one is easy. Always use the bathroom right after you finish having sex, which allows the urine to flush any bacteria that has just entered the urethra. Here is a super helpful video that not only visually explains the UTI/sex connection, but also goes into depth about the importance of quickly urinating post-sex:
2. Ditch the spermicide
Spermicide has been known to kill off the good bacteria in the vagina, leaving behind the UTI-causing bad bacteria. Leave spermicide jellies behind and swap out spermicide-coated condoms for regular condoms.
3. Chill it out
Sometimes “vigorous” sex can lead to too much inflammation in the bladder area. If you never have an issue with UTIs, no need to calm down the sexual behavior. But if UTIs are a real concern for you, experiment with taking it a little easier. See if you find a decrease in your urinary tract infections.
4. Do not douche
You may be thinking a great way to clean yourself after sex and get rid of the bacteria in the area is to douche. However, douching can actually increase the bacteria in the area, which can easily be introduced to your urethra.
5. Clean up
Just because you shouldn’t douche does not mean you shouldn’t clean the area. If you are prone to getting a UTI, each partner should get in the habit of cleaning the genital area before and after sex.
6. Stay proactive
If you feel you are prone to UTIs, stay ahead of them with supplements like D-mannose or Hibiscus extract. Boost your vitamin C levels and limit your sugar intake. Adding in a probiotic and drinking extra water is helpful too.
Should You Be Taking An Antibiotic Post-Sex?
Some women are so prone to post-sex UTIs that doctors will prescribe them antibiotics to take each time they have sex.
Due to the prevalence of antibiotic resistance (particularly antibiotic resistant urinary tract infections) this should be your absolute last resort.
Try the D-mannose supplement and the other lifestyle switches first.
Sex, UTIs, And You
The whole idea of the UTI/sex connection is good news and bad news.
- It is always good to know that the common urinary tract infection is not actually contagious
- But it can be frustrating when sex still leads to these painful conditions
As long you take the proper precautions (like never ever failing to use the bathroom post-sex) and stay ahead of the game with water and supplements, you should be good to go.