It's really hard to be patient when you have a urinary tract infection (UTI) and your urethra feels like it's covered in fire ants and your bathroom has become your temporary second home. Luckily, with antibiotics and a lot of hydration, your peeing schedule and sex life will eventually get back on track.
But once you've started antibiotics for your UTI, is it safe to have sex again? Well, it's not advised, but it's probably not going to kill you, says Doreen Chung, MD, a specialist in female urology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. Think about how UTIs happen in the first place: Bacteria that's normally in your bowels ends up in your urinary tract through your urethra, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. When you have sex, bacteria can get pushed near your urethra, and unless you urinate afterwards, it could cause a UTI. So, you can imagine how having sex while you already have a UTI could interrupt or delay your treatment.
Interestingly, some studies show that having sex makes some people with vaginas more susceptible to getting UTIs, Dr. Chung says. "In other words, something about having sex, for these women, allows bacteria to climb into the bladder more easily," she says. "If you are one of these women, even if you are on antibiotics to treat an infection, it is possible to get a second infection while on antibiotics." And having two UTIs would mean your symptoms are even worse than just having one, she says.
Not to mention, if you are experiencing the unmissable symptoms of a UTI, such as frequent and burning urination, sex will probably be very uncomfortable or painful, Dr. Chung says. "Hence, it is better to wait until your UTI has been completely treated, you have finished the complete course of antibiotics, and you don’t have any more symptoms," she says. If it's too late and you've already had sex with a UTI, Dr. Chung suggests drinking plenty of fluids and trying to urinate immediately after having sex to prevent getting another one. It's also a good idea to let your doctor know that you had sex with an infection, in case they have other ideas for treatment.
The good news is that UTIs are typically associated with penetrative sex, Dr. Chung says. So, in theory, non-penetrative sex would be a safer option while you have a UTI, she says. You can use the time spent treating a UTI to experiment with mutual masturbation, explore your other erogenous zones, or try a different oral sex technique on your partner. It might be momentarily annoying to be down for the count, but it's definitely worth it to expand your horizons — and avoid a double-whammy UTI.