What Is Honeymoon Cystitis? (It Has Nothing To Do With Getting Married)

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
Whether or not you've heard the term "honeymoon cystitis" before, chances are good that you're intimately familiar with its symptoms (at least, if you're a sexually active person who has a vagina). Honeymoon cystitis is just a cutesy name for bladder infections caused by sex, aka a urinary tract infection (UTI). And you don't have to be married to get one.
While not all UTIs are caused by sex (and a UTI would never be classified as a sexually transmitted infection), having sex does increase the risk of getting a UTI, according to the Mayo Clinic. That's because UTIs are caused by bacteria that has no business being in the bladder somehow finding its way up there. And having penetrative sex can easily move bacteria from one part of a person's body (like, near their butt) to another part (like, inside the urethra). Once that bacteria is in the urethra it has only a short distance to travel up into the bladder. That distance is why people who have vaginas get bladder infections way more often than people who have penises, because the penis' urethra is much, much longer so the bacteria don't often make the trip before being flushed out.
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So, as unfair as it may seem, about one in every five people who have vaginas will get at least one UTI in their lifetime, says the National Kidney Foundation. And sex is a trigger for many of those infections. So, it makes sense that doctors who see many patients with sex-related bladder infections would come up with a euphemism tied to honeymoons. After all, people tend to have a lot of sex on their honeymoons, right? And that logically translates to a lot of honeymoon-caused UTIs. Yet, that's not the only reason doctors have chosen that particular word for their euphemism. "The 'honeymoon' part implies frequent intercourse with a new partner, though today the term refers more to the 'honeymoon period' of a relationship than to a post-wedding trip to the tropics," wrote gynecologist Judith Reichman, MD, for Today.
The good news is that there's nothing mysterious about honeymoon cystitis. The term might sound scary, especially to people who are about to go on a honeymoon, but UTIs are pretty common and easy to deal with. So, if you feel a burning sensation in your bladder, have pain when you pee, and are seeing cloudy urine, then get yourself to a doctor asap for a round of antibiotics.
What's even better, is that there are steps you can take to prevent honeymoon cystitis, just like you would any other UTI. Most importantly, you'll want to make sure that you're drinking plenty of fluids (and not just alcohol, which will make you dehydrated and might actually make things worse). Then, follow the strict UTI advice to pee soon after you have sex. If your bedroom (or couch, or kitchen table, etc.) activities did push bacteria into your urethra, then peeing will flush it out before it has a chance to reach your bladder, Dr. Reichman wrote. As long as you're not prone to frequent UTIs, taking those two steps every time should help you avoid a UTI, no matter how much sex you're having.
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