Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in sexually active individuals. Even so, there can be some confusion among women about UTIs, especially regarding the link between the infections and sex. I talk more how they are linked in this video, as well as explaining why a UTI can occur after sexual intercourse and how you can go about reducing the risk of getting a UTI after intercourse.
A UTI can affect anyone and involve either the lower urinary tract (comprised of the bladder and urethra), the upper urinary tract (the kidneys and ureters), or both. Women are more prone to getting UTIs than men – up to 30 times more likely, in fact – with lower tract infections accounting for the majority of sexual difficulties.
Most UTIs are thought to arise from the ‘ascending’ route of infection. The first step is colonisation of periurethral tissues with uro-pathogenic organisms, followed by the passage of bacteria through the urethra. Infection arises from bacterial proliferation (growth) within the otherwise sterile urinary tract.
Bacteria such as E. coli can easily enter the urinary tract through the urethra, which is situated close to the genital area in both men and women. It can then travel up the urethra and into the bladder where infection can develop.
‘Honeymoon cystitis’ is a term used to describe a UTI that occurs after having sex with a new partner. It is most common in sexually active younger women. It is believed that women get UTIs more frequently because their urethra is shorter, making it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder.
Some people are more likely to develop a UTI from sexual intercourse due to the make-up of their urinary tract, lifestyle behaviours, genetics, or pre-existing health conditions.
Factors that place a person at risk of developing a chronic UTI include:
- Bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy
- Bladder outlet obstruction or BOO (You can read more about BOO here)
- Bowel incontinence
- Chronic constipation
- Enlarged prostate
- Kidney stones
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Pelvic prolapse
- Perimenopause and post-menopause
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Urinary catheters
- Urethral stricture
- Urinary incontinence
Ways to reduce the risks
To better reduce your risk of getting a UTI after intercourse, there are several things you can do:
- Wash your hands before and after sex, and try not to touch your genitals after you touch your or your partner’s anus. The rectum, anus, and groin have a high density of bacteria that can easily be transferred to the urethra.
- Don’t have anal sex.
- Urinate as often as needed, especially after sex, as this can help clear bacteria from the urinary tract. Drink plenty of water to flush bacteria out of the system. Women should wipe from front to back after urinating.
- Reduce your number of sex partners.
- Drinking cranberry juice daily is sometimes recommended for people with a chronic UTI. Please ensure that the cranberry juice is not of the mass-produced kind that contains added sugar and other artificial additives. Biona is a good brand – 100% pure organic pressed cranberry juice and nothing else!
- If you are prone to UTIs, take one of our For Women capsules twice daily, one before breakfast and one before bed, and one of our Garlic tablets twice daily with meals. The most cost-effective way to buy these supplements is in our Women’s Health Duo. Once your UTIs are under control, cut down to one For Women capsule daily and one Garlic tablet daily.
- If you are prescribed a course of antibiotics to treat a UTI, always take a Live Bacteria probiotic capsule for at least three months afterwards, to replenish the good bacteria that the antibiotics will have wiped out along with the pathogenic strain causing the infection. Take one capsule upon rising or before breakfast and one before bed with a little cold water. These can be taken with a For Women capsule at the same time too.
You can find lots more helpful information about UTIs in my free downloadable Fact Sheet here.
If you have a question about a urinary, bladder or gut and digestive health issue, please get in touch.