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UTI: Often an unpleasant gift after sex

4 min read
Cycle Care

Approved by

Fransje van der Waals - GP
Pain when urinating, an urge to pee after sex, lower back pain, smelly pee or pee that looks cloudy, or making a lot of trips to the bathroom. Your first thought is that you have an STI, but you’re actually dealing with a urinary tract infection (UTI).

How to recognize a urinary tract infection?

Most women will recognize what a UTI is, because, unfortunately, they occur often. If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection, you’ll recognize it immediately the second time around.

Symptoms are:

  • pain when urinating

  • a burning sensation when urinating

  • cloudy or smelly urine

  • needing to use the bathroom often without actually having to pee

  • abdominal pain or backpain

  • sometimes blood in the urine

What are the risk factors of getting a UTI?

In more than 85% of the cases, the culprit is the E.coli bacteria. Everyone carries this bacteria in their intestines. So, how does this end up in your urethra and bladder?

1. Did you know that sex is one of the biggest risk factors for a UTI?

Women are more prone to get a UTI. Women and people with a vulva have a shorter urethra than men and people with a penis, and our urethra is also closer to the anus? So, when you and your lover have sex and your bodies are rubbing against each other - with all the warmth and wetness that comes with it - it’s easy for the intestinal bacteria to move from the anus into the urethra. The vagina usually contains acidic bacteria that fight infections, but sometimes your resistance is lower or the number of acidic bacteria is low and the intestinal bacteria get the chance to spread and cause inflammation of the mucosa.

So, it’s definitely one of the not so pleasant things you can get from having sex. And what’s more, you’ll get it more easily if you share the bed with a new fling. How this works is still not totally clear, but it probably has something to do with the fact that your body has to get used to the bacteria of your brand-new lover. Or maybe it’s because you two have sex in every single room of the house during the first few lovey-dovey months, giving the bacteria a lot of chances to go to wrong places. That’s why a UTI after you slept with a new lover is also called ‘honeymoon cystitis’. Using a condom doesn’t really prevent it, by the way. 

2. A pessary increases the risk of getting a UTI

You can also get an UTI if you have a pessary. It actually slightly increases the chance of getting a UTI, because the pessary puts pressure on the urethra. A spermicidal drug also increases the risk of an UTI.

3. Weakened immune system

The vagina normally contains acidic bacteria that fights infections. Sometimes, your immune system or the number of acidic bacteria is weaker. This gives the intestinal bacteria the chance to spread and cause an inflammation of the mucosa. For example, people with diabetes are more at risk for an infection. But also if you’re not feeling well, don’t sleep enough, or experience a lot of stress, all of this influences your immune system.

We wrote an article about the influence of chronic stress on your body and mind.

4. During and after the menopause

During the perimenopause your hormone balance is changing. This has all kinds of consequences for your mucous down under. They become drier and thinner and the lactic acid bacteria slowly disappear. The natural vaginal microbiome becomes weaker, giving less protection against nasty bacteria.

Want to know more
about the bacteria "down there" and their importance?

Read more

5. Wiping wrong

Always, always wipe front to back after peeing. This prevents bacteria from crawling forward from your anus and into your vagina and urethra.

6. You are peeing wrong

Sometimes you’re in a hurry or you are not relaxed enough to urinate. If this is the case, you often stop peeing before your bladder is completely empty. Don’t do this! Because urine stays in your bladder every time, there is a greater chance of getting an infection! So relax, take some time and urinate properly.

7. Your pelvic floor

Problems with the pelvic floor can cause a variety of symptoms, including a (regularly recurring) bladder infection. Often you then have too much tension in your pelvic muscles. A pelvic physical therapist can give you the tools you need toempty your bladder properly and to relax properly during urination.

Not infectious 

Luckily, an UTI is not infectious, so you don’t have to worry about passing it on to your partner. The incubation period is different for everyone, but some women can already feel the infection coming up even when it’s still in a very early stage. 

What can you do?

If the UTI is at an early stage, there are still things you can do yourself to treat it: for example, drinking plenty of water (2 or 3 liters a day), eating cranberries or drinking cranberry juice, taking D-mannose tablets or vitamin C tablets could help as well. Doing these things can hopefully prevent the UTI from getting worse. In some cases, they can even help get rid of the UTI! But if you suffer from a recurring bladder infection, then a visit to a pelvic physical therapist might be wise to see if that's where the problem originated.

How to prevent a urinary tract infection?

You can’t always prevent a urinary tract infection, but we do have some tips for you!

  • Always empty your bladder completely before sex and go to the bathroom immediately after sex. This way, bacteria that entered the urethra during sex are quickly urinated out again.

  • Otherwise, do not wash your vagina with soap and only rinse with water. You can do that with a bottle of water while sitting on the toilet.

  • Wipe from front to back, not the other way around!

  • If you are prone to UTI’s, you can use acidic products to increase the acidity of your urine. Consider cranberry juice, for example, vitamin C or D-mannose tablets.

  • Don’t use your pessary if it is not necessary. Try to avoid using any spermicidal drugs if you have good alternatives.

  • Empty your bladder completely so no pee is left behind. Do this in a relaxing manner and don’t push it out. A pelvic floor therapist can help you with this.

When to go to a doctor? 

If the early stage UTI doesn’t pass, it is wise to go visit your GP. Antibiotics can save the day. Nitrofurantoin is a kind of antibiotic that is usually given for UTIs. It kills the bacteria and usually works within 2 days. And: always go to the GP if you’re bothered by a UTI, because if you don’t treat it right, it can turn into an acute kidney infection and you really don’t want that! Still can’t get rid of the infection even though you got the antibiotics? It may be that the bacteria are not susceptible to the kind of antibiotics you’re taking. You can get a urine test to find out which antibiotics may be more suitable for you, so that you can finally be UTI-free again! 

If you notice that you keep having problems with your urinary tract after sex and all the tips and tricks mentioned before do not help you enough, you can go to your GP and ask for a prescription for medicine against a UTI. This makes it a lot easier because then you can immediately start with a course of antibiotics when the symptoms start again. This is usually a low dose of antibiotics to prevent the UTI which you take after sex (1 pill).


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