A urinary tract infection, aka UTI, is a painful but common infection that happens when bacteria from your skin or rectum gets into your urethra and infects your urinary tract. That can cause range of intense symptoms, including a burning sensation when you pee and feeling like you need to go all the time.
But, once you start to feel better, it’s natural to wonder… can you have sex with a UTI? The answer is a little complicated. Here’s what you need to know.
Can you have sex with a UTI?
While there’s no official health guidance on this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors say the short answer is yes, you can have sex with a UTI. “It poses no risk to either partner,” says urologist David Kaufman, M.D., director of Central Park Urology, a division of Maiden Lane Medical. However, he says, “it will likely be very uncomfortable” for you “due to bladder sensitivity.”
Women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., agrees. “Sexual intercourse with a symptomatic UTI can be uncomfortable and irritating,” she says.
What is a UTI, again?
A UTI is a common infection that can happen when bacteria infects your urinary tract, the CDC explains. A UTI can technically affect any part of your urinary tract, but it most commonly causes a bladder infection. A kidney infection is a less common form of a urinary tract infection but is considered more serious than a bladder infection, the CDC says.
Anyone can develop a UTI but some people are at a higher risk than others. Those include:
- Females (the urethra is shorter and closer to the rectum in women, making it easier for bacteria to get into the urinary tract)
- Having had a previous UTI
- Being sexually active
- Changes in the bacteria that live inside the vagina, or vaginal flora caused by menopause or the use of spermicides
- Age (older adults and young children are more likely to get UTIs)
- Structural problems in the urinary tract, like an enlarged prostate
- Poor hygiene
UTIs are typically treated with antibiotics.
Not sure if you have a UTI? The CDC lists the following as major symptoms of a bladder infection:
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Frequent urination
- Feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder
- Bloody urine
- Pressure or cramping in the groin or lower abdomen
Kidney infection symptoms can include:
- Lower back pain or pain in the side of your back
- Nausea or vomiting
What can happen if you have sex with a UTI?
You won’t break your urinary tract or anything, but it’s not an ideal scenario. “It will be uncomfortable,” Dr. Kaufman says. Dr. Wider points out that you may “irritate the area” and “exacerbate” your symptoms.
“You can get an additional infection as well,” Dr. Wider says. “If you are being treated with antibiotics, the symptoms will likely clear in an expedient fashion and the chances of getting a secondary infection go way down.”
When can you have sex after having a UTI?
Again, you could have sex with a UTI—it just may not feel all that comfortable. With that in mind, Dr. Wider says that “it’s probably wise to wait until you treat the UTI and symptoms have gone away before having sex.”
How to lower your risk of having a UTI in the future
There are a few things you can do to lower the risk you’ll develop a UTI in the future. While you may have heard that it’s a good idea to pee before and after sex, Dr. Kaufman says that’s actually not the best way to go.
Instead he recommends that you “hydrate before sex and pee like a firehose after sex.” This helps push out any bacteria that may have been shoved into your urethra during sex, he explains.
The CDC also recommends you do the following:
- Stay well hydrated.
- Take showers instead of baths
- Minimize douching, sprays, or powders in the genital area
- Teach girls when potty training to wipe front to back
If you happen to develop symptoms of a UTI, call your doctor. You’ll likely need to get on antibiotics to clear things up.