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Urinary Health in the Bedroom: UTIs, Urinary Incontinence, and Sex
In discussions about sexual health, one element that’s often overlooked is what role urinary health plays in the bigger picture. Questions like “does sex cause UTIs?” and “is it possible to experience urinary incontinence during sex?” often go unanswered, but are important to a lot of people's personal wellness. In fact, at least 50-60% of women will experience a UTI in their lifetime, and 40% of those who experience urinary incontinence experience it during sex. 1,2
Here, we’re going to explain everything you need to know about how sexual health can affect urinary health, how the urinary system can have a bearing on your sex life, and what things you can do to improve your wellness in both areas.
UTI and Sex: Does Sex Cause UTIs?
In our comprehensive guide to the urinary system, we covered the important information about the anatomy, function, and common problems of the urinary system that are most relevant to wellness. As we just saw, statistically, one of the most common urinary problems many people experience is a urinary tract infection, or UTI.
A UTI can occur whenever bacteria enter the urinary system through the urethra. One of the ways by which that may happen is through sexual intercourse, with women being especially susceptible. Some symptoms that might indicate you have a UTI include:
- Pain when urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Pain or pressure in the lower abdomen
The relationship between UTIs and sex works both ways, because, while sex can be responsible for causing a urinary tract infection, the symptoms caused by the UTI can then hamper sexual health. Somebody with a UTI, or who frequently gets UTIs after having sex may be more reluctant or unable to engage in the type of sex life they want to have. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the ways that the risk of getting a UTI from sex can be reduced.
UTI and Sex: How Can I Reduce the Risk of Getting a UTI From Sex?
Considering the impact urinary infections can have on sexual health, as well as the more severe risks of the infection spreading to the kidneys, it’s important to know how to best reduce your chances of acquiring a UTI from sexual contact. Here are some easy tips:
- Make Sure You Practice Good Hygiene: We know that the answer to “can sex cause UTIs” is yes, and that bacteria are the problem. As such, it’s logical that one of the most important pieces of advice in preventing them is to keep yourself clean before and after sex. Simply using warm water and a clean cloth is plenty.
- Urinate After Having Sex: While the jury is still out as to whether this is a reliable solution to UTIs and sex, the consensus is largely that it’s a good practice. Urinating after sex may help to eliminate potential bacteria that may have entered the urinary tract.
- Stay Well Hydrated: Drinking enough water is an important tip for urinary health in general, and has the added effect of helping to keep your bladder flushed of bacteria.
- Avoid Harsh Cleansers: For women, certain personal hygiene products that contain fragrances or other chemicals may do more harm than good. There are natural “good” bacteria down there that help to act as a protective barrier against infection, and these types of cleansers can wash them away.
Incontinence During Sex: Is Bladder Leakage During Sex Normal?
While men’s bodies have a natural mechanism that prevents urination during sex, women may be subject to experiencing a type of urinary incontinence during sex called coital urinary incontinence. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 60% of women who experience some form of urinary incontinence have some form of leaking urine during sex.3 So, yes, incontinence during sex is normal for many.
Coital incontinence is usually a form of stress incontinence, which involves urinary leaks as a result of activities that put pressure on the bladder. Similar to common triggers like laughing and sneezing, sex can easily be a cause of this type of urinary incontinence. While not quite as common, incontinence during sex may also be a form of urge incontinence, where the muscles of the bladder spasm at the wrong time, releasing urine.
The effects of bladder leakage during sex can be largely psychologial, and can take a toll on the confidence of those who experience it. Fortunately, there are ways to help lessen the risk of these types of leaks.
Incontinence During Sex: How Can I Avoid Bladder Leakage During Sex?
There are several ways to help avoid the problem of coital incontinence. Some serve to address the underlying causes of urinary leaks, while others are specific to your sexual habits:
- Use Kegels to Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles: Kegels consist of consciously tightening then releasing your pelvic muscles in order to help strengthen them, which can help with urge incontinence.
- Find the Sexual Positions That Work Best: Some sexual positions may put more pressure on the bladder than others, thereby worsening stress incontinence. Work with your partner to identify new positions that help remedy incontinence during sex.
- Avoid Liquids Before Sex: A simple tip that can make a big difference, ensuring your bladder isn’t already under strain by abstaining from liquids lessens the likelihood of leaks during sex.
- Have a Conversation With Your Doctor: While it may feel like an embarrassing topic, talking to your doctor about incontinence during sex can help direct you toward the best treatment options for you. In addition to providing you with a plan of what kinds of pelvic exercises and lifestyle changes may be most effective, they may prescribe medication for urinary incontinence in some instances.
Whether your solution is as simple as beginning pelvic exercises, or a more complex plan designed by you and your doctor, just remember that incontinence during sex can often be overcome.
A fundamental understanding of how urinary health and sexual health relate and interact is a major tool on the path to better wellness in both areas. The answers to basic questions like “does sex cause UTIs?” and “what causes incontinence during sex?” can provide big insights into your own sexual and urinary wellbeing.
If UTIs and sex seem to be a recurring problem for you, or if you experience incontinence during sex, the tips and information in this guide can be the perfect starting point on your journey toward relief and better wellness. Follow us on social media for even more facts and information about urinary wellness, sexual wellness, and more!
- Al-Badr, Ahmed, and Ghadeer Al-Shaikh. “Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women: A review.” Sultan Qaboos University medical journal vol. 13,3 (2013): 359-67. doi:10.12816/0003256
- Grzybowska, Magdalena Emilia, and Dariusz Grzegorz Wydra. “Coital incontinence: a factor for deteriorated health-related quality of life and sexual function in women with urodynamic stress urinary incontinence.” International urogynecology journal vol. 28,5 (2017): 697-704. doi:10.1007/s00192-016-3185-3
- Jha, S., Strelley, K. & Radley, S. Incontinence during intercourse: myths unravelled. Int Urogynecol J 23, 633–637 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-011-1583-0
The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any disease.