Is It Safe To Have Sex When You Have A UTI? Experts Weigh In

Contributing Health & Nutrition Editor By Stephanie Eckelkamp
Contributing Health & Nutrition Editor
Stephanie Eckelkamp is a writer and editor who has been working for leading health publications for the past 10 years. She received her B.S. in journalism from Syracuse University with a minor in nutrition.
Medical review by Wendie Trubow, M.D., MBA
Functional Medicine Gynecologist
Wendie Trubow is a functional medicine gynecologist with almost 10 years of training in the field. She received her M.D. from Tufts University.
Is It Safe To Have Sex When You Have A UTI? The Experts Weigh In

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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) rank right up there with yeast infections as some of the most acutely uncomfortable conditions that can affect a woman's nether regions (they can affect men, too, but it's much less common).

So it makes sense that while in the throes of your UTI you may have zero desire to have sex (after all, when your urethra feels like it's on fire and you're crying because it hurts so bad to pee out a mere trickle of urine, the old libido tends to fizzle). But after the most intense phase, and when your symptoms are fading, what then? Is it safe to have sex when you still have lingering symptoms of a UTI? Or should you wait until you're completely pain-free down there? We asked the experts to weigh in.

But first, a quick primer on UTIs.

UTIs are caused by bacteria (often E. coli) from the GI tract entering the urethra and multiplying, and they can develop anywhere in the urinary tract—from the urethra to the bladder to the kidneys. Symptoms often include an extreme burning sensation when you pee and intense urges to pee even when you have little urine to pass (so unsatisfying). According to some reports, between 25 and 42% of the time the body can resolve a minor UTI on its own (drinking lots of water helps), but other times you may need a dose of antibiotics.  

Untreated, UTIs can turn into painful and dangerous kidney infections, so you should head to the doc if you suspect you have one.

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So, can you have sex with a UTI?

"Yes, you can still have sex with a UTI," says board-certified OB/GYN Lakeisha Richardson. However, sex may be painful or uncomfortable until you have completed therapy. UTIs are caused by bacteria, and sex will not make a UTI worse—pain or discomfort are the only factors that may affect having sex with a UTI."

You only really need to hold off if you're experiencing bloody urine or suprapubic (lower abdominal) pain, in which case you should see a doc ASAP, adds Richardson.

Other experts agree that sex probably won't make the infection worse, but they still don’t recommend it until you truly feel up for it. "It's better to refrain from intercourse when you have a UTI because the penis can rub against the urethra, irritating it more," says functional medicine gynecologist Wendie Trubow, M.D. "It shouldn't make the infection worse, especially if the woman urinates after intercourse, but it may worsen the symptoms. I typically recommend waiting until the woman feels better before having intercourse. Often it's within a few days of starting treatment."

Trubow notes that certain positions that will cause less friction on the urethra, like doggy-style, potentially making things more enjoyable. However, whenever you have sex, there's always some chance that you'll introduce new bacteria into the urethra. If that happens when you already have a UTI, you could potentially trigger a new infection, which prolongs your overall recovery time.

How to avoid another UTI (so you can get busy whenever you please).

So, you're probably wondering how to lower your chances of a UTI in the first place so you don’t have to Google this annoying question again. Fortunately, our experts shared some simple, effective suggestions.

Trubow recommends urinating promptly after intercourse, if you can, which helps flush out the urethra and minimize risk of infection; avoiding positions that increase friction on the urethra (legs over your partner's shoulders, for example); staying well hydrated, as urinating helps flush the urethra regularly; and avoiding excess sugar and refined carbs—bacteria love sugar.

Richardson adds that for women who experience recurring UTIs, it may be helpful to take a daily probiotic specifically formulated with vaginal health in mind that contains two strains of lactobacillus, such as RepHresh Pro-B. These will help balance yeast and bacteria and maintain healthy vaginal flora.

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