UTIs are a very unwelcome, yet very common third wheel in our relationships. In fact, UTIs are the most common medical complaint among women in their reproductive years, and 80% of women contracted them within 24 hours of sexual activity. But did you know the experience of a UTI and the fear of contracting another one can have consequences that go beyond the physical? Our resident expert and board-certified urologist, Elizabeth Kavaler M.D. weighs in on the subject.
“To call UTIs ‘mood killers’ would be an understatement,” says Elizabeth Kavaler, M.D. “Many women who have one UTI will have another, and another, and if you identify sex as the trigger, it can have a serious impact on your libido and your relationship.”
So, how can women get a handle on the sex-UTI issue? Dr. Kavaler offers her answers to questions she most commonly receives:
- I feel like I’m getting UTIs constantly! Why is this happening, and how do I make it stop?
“It’s not unusual for women to get UTIs in ‘clusters.’ Women usually come to see me after they have had two, three or even four in a row. The cause of the cluster is elusive, but fortunately, they eventually stop occurring so frequently. Most importantly, they are not harmful, as the bladder lining regenerates after each infection, and no evidence of the event is left behind. In the meantime, there are things you can do to help make you less susceptible, one of which is Cystex® Liquid Cranberry Complex with Proantinox.”
- Can having more sex than usual be the cause of a UTI?
“For most women, frequent or lengthy sexual activity does not cause UTIs, but on the other hand, the term ‘Honeymoon Cystitis’ was coined for a reason! This can especially be true if you’ve gone a length of time with little to no sexual activity and then suddenly start having a lot. It is not clear whether it’s a matter of mechanics (increased friction or trauma can lead to bacterial entry) or adaptability (partners acclimate to one another with more regular encounters).”
- I swear that my new partner is giving me UTIs! Does this happen?
“The truth is that UTIs are not sexually transmitted diseases. But I do hear this a lot, and it’s particularly distressing if you really like the guy! Thankfully, observational data suggests that the more frequent the encounters are with the same person, the more likely the infections will be to resolve. In other words, sticking with the same guy and having regular sex with him is a good method of reducing the frequency of the infections.”
- Fear of a UTI is seriously affecting my desire to have sex. What can I do to get over this?
“We all know experimentation can be good, right? Try a little more foreplay to make sure you are adequately lubricated, or use a water-based lubricant to minimize irritation to the urethra. Try increasing your water intake so that you can urinate after sex to flush out the bacteria that’s introduced during the act. When you urinate, sit, don’t squat, and take an extra second or two to empty, as retaining urine in the bladder will increase the likelihood of contracting a UTI. And don’t underestimate importance of Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises, when done regularly, can keep the important pelvic floor muscles toned, which helps ensure proper bladder function and can even an enhanced sexual experience. Click to learn more about kegels.”
- It’s hard for me to get to the doctor right away when I get a UTI. Is there a way I can get rid of it myself?
“The fact is that UTIs need medical treatment, but an over-the-counter medication like Cystex® PLUS Urinary Pain Relief Tablets can help with symptoms until you can see the doctor. Cystex PLUS is a great choice because it not only relieves the discomfort, but also contains an antibacterial agent to help stop the progression of the infection while you’re waiting for your appointment.”