While a urinary tract infection can pop up at any time (thanks, biology!), if you’re sexually active, your odds of developing a UTI do go up. That’s because sex can introduce bacteria into your urinary tract, which can then flourish in your bladder. Plus, if you’re pregnant, you’re more prone to developing infections, period. And although antibiotics generally clear UTIs up fairly easily and quickly (if you treat them early), there are some simple things you can do after sex to help you prevent getting one in the first place.
1. Go pee
Although there hasn’t been a ton of medical research done on this topic, most doctors agree that if you visit the bathroom after sex, you can flush out some of the bacteria that may have crept up into your urethra and help lower the chances of a UTI. Don’t worry, you don’t have to jump out of bed and rush to the toilet as soon as the deed is done. Do enjoy some postcoital glow before you go; just try to pee within about 15 minutes. (A 2002 study found that women who urinated within 15 minutes of sexual intercourse were slightly less likely to develop a UTI than women who did not urinate after sex.) It’s also not a bad idea to pee before having sex. Besides relieving pressure in the bladder, which can be uncomfortable during intercourse, it can also get rid of any existing bacteria that you don’t want to pass along to your partner.
2. Wipe off your naughty bits
Again, this does not mean you need to hop straight out of bed and into the shower. (Offensive, much?) But soon afterward (maybe after you’re done peeing), consider gently cleansing the area around your genitals with either warm water and a washcloth or some unscented baby wipes. You can also use a mild soap, but this may irritate the area, especially if you have sensitive skin. Also, it’s best to steer clear of scented products that may contain fragrances, which can rub your vagina the wrong way, making you feel less than fresh.
Don’t want to lose any cuddle time? Keep some wipes by your bedside for a quick post-sex cleanup, even if you don’t use them until the next morning. Also, when you’re in the bathroom, remember to wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria to your vagina and urethra.
3. Wash your hands
Even if you don’t take the extra step to wipe down your nether regions, at least try to wash your hands after sex to help get rid of any bacteria you may have picked up from touching your partner’s genitals. Just like with the flu and the common cold, washing your hands with soap and water is the key to stopping the spread of infections, including UTIs.
4. Don’t douche
We know you’ve heard this warning countless times before, but don’t be tempted to “clean” or “rinse out” your vagina, even after sex. Vaginal products like douches, which are typically a mixture of water and vinegar, can disrupt your body’s natural homeostasis and pH balance and upset the good bacteria living inside, which can actually lead to infections. Your vagina is a self-cleaning machine so the best thing to do is leave it alone.
4. Sleep naked
During a sex sesh, there’s a messy, moist exchange of bodily fluids. Plus, throughout the night, your body will likely produce even more like vaginal discharge and sweat. And your underwear can trap this moisture, becoming a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes UTIs and other infections. So forgo the panties and go commando to give your vagina some breathing room to help it stay dry. If sleeping au naturel is just not your thing, try wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear, which are breathable and absorb moisture, or cotton pajama pants sans undies.
5. Don’t guzzle cranberry juice
Although the myth has been debunked, some still believe that cranberry capsules and juice are acidic enough to help stop a UTI or contain a substance that prevents bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract. But studies haven’t proven this to be true. So don’t worry about stocking up on cranberry juice unless you’re adding vodka.
6. Do drink lots of water
You’ll want to drink plenty of water before, during and after sex. Not only to stay hydrated, but to also help you pee more easily afterwards. Plus, frequent trips to the bathroom allow you to flush out bad bacteria more often so it doesn’t have time to settle into your bladder and urinary tract, causing an infection.
7. Clean your sex toys
UTIs aren’t just a concern after a romp with a partner. A solo session with sex toys can also lead to an infection, if they weren’t cleaned properly. Just like your private parts, sex toys can harbor bacteria, viruses and fungi and spread STIs and other infections, especially if they’ve been in contact with bodily fluids and the area around your genitals. So, clean that rabbit after every use. (Depending on the type of toy, cleaning methods may differ, so check the packaging for instructions.)
8. See a doctor
Think you have a UTI? See your healthcare provider if your symptoms (burning when you pee, feeling like you need to go and cloudy urine), persist throughout the day or worsen. UTIs can turn into kidney infections, so you’ll want to get treated ASAP. And if you’re experiencing a fever, chills or flu-like symptoms with a UTI, head to the doc pronto.