Does Peeing After Sex Actually Matter? What Doctors Say
When it comes to women's health—especially sexual health—there are a lot of myths and misinformation out there. Women, for example, are often told to always pee after sex to prevent UTIs. But does it actually work? And what about peeing before sex?
To better understand the science behind pre- and post-sex habits, mbg consulted the research and spoke with doctors and sexual health experts to get the truth about peeing after sex.
Is it necessary to pee after sex?
Peeing after sex (aka postcoital voiding) is a helpful way to avoid urinary tract infections (UTIs), urologist Vannita Simma-Chiang, M.D., tells mbg. Although there isn't solid research on how effective the preventive strategy is, many doctors recommend peeing after sex as a general healthy habit to adopt.
When it comes to contracting UTIs, people with vaginas are at an anatomic disadvantage for two reasons: length and proximity. The typical urethra length for people with vaginas is between 2 and three centimeters, compared to 15 to 29 centimeters in people with penises. Plus, the urethra is right next to the vaginal opening.
"With any sexual activity, there's going to be fluids everywhere," Simma-Chiang says. While those fluids may contain both good and bad bacteria, there's still a chance the bad bacteria can make its way into the bladder.
"By peeing after sex, it causes the bacteria to be washed out of the urethra, making it less likely that it will be there to cause an infection," OB/GYN Heather Irobunda, M.D., says.
The mixed research on peeing after sex.
Although many doctors recommend it, research on the effectiveness of peeing after sex has produced mixed results.
For example, an older study in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology found college students who always pee before and after sex were less likely to get UTIs1. But another study compared young women with recurrent UTIs to young women without a history of UTIs to better understand their risk factors, and there was no significant link between postcoital voiding and infection risk.
That means that as helpful as peeing after sex may seem, it's still just a prevention strategy, not a guaranteed preventive method. Some people are simply more prone to UTIs than others, and peeing after sex may not make a difference.
For people who deal with recurring UTIs, Simma-Chiang recommends visiting a doctor who can prescribe low-dose antibiotics (postcoital prophylaxis2) or non-antibiotic treatment options, like cranberry or d-mannose supplements.
What about peeing before sex?
"A common misunderstanding is that you should only pee after sex, but before is helpful and healthy as well," sexologist Gigi Engle tells mbg. "Having a full bladder during sex can also be uncomfortable."
As far as preventing infections goes, Irobunda says there is no real information or data to suggest peeing before sex can truly prevent a UTI. But if you feel an urgency to pee before sex, it's definitely a good idea to go.
"If you ignore that urgency and hold the urine in your bladder for too long, it's just not healthy for you," Simma-Chiang says. "You have to be in tune with and listen to your body." This is especially important for older populations, who are more susceptible to UTIs due to natural changes in the kidneys and weakening of the bladder.
A full bladder can also just be uncomfortable and distracting, particularly if you're having vaginal intercourse, which can ultimately interfere with pleasure. This is particularly true if you're someone who can sometimes confuse orgasmic sensations with needing to pee, or if you're experimenting with squirting.
"The reason pre-sex peeing is needed if you'd like to squirt is that the stimulation required engages the urethral sponge, and this can sometimes feel like the sensation of needing to pee," Engle explains. "If you've already peed beforehand, you won't be so worried that you're going to pee and [will] therefore enjoy the experience more fully."
The bottom line.
Even though there's not strong research evidence, doctors generally recommend peeing after sex as a good way to flush bacteria out of the urethra and potentially lower the risk of developing a UTI. Peeing before sex may not be as helpful at preventing UTIs, but it can help you be more present in the moment and experience pleasure more fully.
If you find yourself getting a UTI every time you have sex (even with the peeing trick), it's a good idea to consult with a urologist or doctor. These medical professionals can rule out any other potential causes of infection and provide personalized treatment options.
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Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.