By: Kimberly Rodrigues
A urinary tract infection or UTI is a bacterial infection in the urinary system, which includes the bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys. A UTI typically causes infection in the bladder, though it can affect other parts of the urinary system.
Bacteria from the genital area can enter the urinary tract causing infection and inflammation. UTIs reportedly occur in 50-60% of women in their lifetime, but men are also at risk, especially after sexual activity, informs Healthline.
Though vaginal yeast infections are not classified as sexually transmitted, yet they may occur following vaginal intercourse.
UTIs and yeast infections can be acquired in several ways, but both are preventable through proper hygiene and precautions to avoid the overgrowth of bacteria or fungus in intimate areas.
Though having sex may increase infection risk, it can be prevented. However, to understand these infections, let’s first define what they are.
What are UTIs and yeast infections?
UTI is a widespread bacterial infection that affects the urinary system. Although not fatal, severe cases can cause symptoms such as frequent and painful urination, cloudy and foul-smelling urine, and abdominal pain.
Yeast infection is a form of vaginitis or inflammation of the vagina, caused by excessive growth of naturally occurring vaginal fungus, resulting in symptoms like vaginal itching, burning, swelling, and discharge.
Yeast infection occurs when the Candida fungus, a normal component of the vaginal bacteria ecosystem, grows excessively.
Intercourse or use of sex toys can introduce bacteria from a partner’s finger or penis into the vaginal ecosystem of bacteria and Candida, potentially causing a yeast infection.
The risk of infection increases if you have penetrative sex with a partner with a penile yeast infection.
Your partner may have given you a yeast infection, and on the contrary, sexual activity after discovering an infection may result in transmission to your partner.
UTIs and yeast infections are not sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but they can occur after sexual intercourse, particularly in women.
Penetrative sex can alter the natural environment of the vagina or penis, allowing for the growth of bacteria (UTI) or fungi (yeast infection) which can result in overgrowth and subsequent infections, a report in The Times of India explains.
Further, it’s common advice that one should always urinate after sex to prevent UTIs. But what other habits should you adopt after intercourse to maintain vaginal health, and how do they prevent UTIs?
In an earlier feature on the health site, Sara Twogood, MD, an ob-gyn at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, CA, recommends this three-step routine to prevent UTIs and yeast infections.
Pee after sex
You may be familiar with the suggestion to pee after sexual activity – this is to flush bacteria from the urethra, reducing the risk of UTIs caused by bacteria moving from the vagina or colon into the urine tube. Peeing helps prevent this.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, UTIs occur when bacteria from the vagina or colon are accidentally introduced into the urethra during sexual activity, often as a result of friction or pressure. The most common cause of UTIs is E. coli bacteria, which typically resides in the colon.
Peeing after sex is crucial, especially if you’re susceptible to UTIs. Even if you’ve never experienced this common infection, it’s advisable to make it a habit to go to the bathroom after intercourse.
Wipe away excess moisture
Sexual activity can result in excess moisture from semen, sweat, lubricant, and vaginal fluids. To prevent the growth of bacteria and yeast, it’s recommended to clean up immediately after sex with a towel or tissue to eliminate excess moisture.
Yeast infections can occur more easily in moist environments, so drying thoroughly can reduce your risk.
After sexual intercourse, it’s important to dry your intimate area as moisture can foster the growth of bacteria and fungi, potentially leading to a yeast infection. Use a soft cotton cloth to wipe yourself and avoid letting moisture linger to minimise your risk.
Dr Twogood reportedly said, “Moisture is something we want to avoid, especially women who are prone to yeast infections.”
The expert also advises that after sex, it’s important to blot the external genital area to remove excess moisture. She warns against wiping too hard or using a towel but instead recommends using a gentle blotting motion. If a more thorough clean is needed, use plain water and unscented soap to wash and make sure to dry completely.
“The vagina, with its natural secretions and acidic environment,” will cleanse itself. “You don’t need to do anything after sex to ‘clean’ it out,’” Dr Twogood states.
Avoid wearing underwear immediately after sex
According to experts, you should avoid wearing tight underwear immediately after sex and allow your genitals to air out. Sleeping naked can help prevent yeast infections or UTIs. However, if you’re not comfortable doing this, opt for loose-fitting cotton underwear or breathable pajamas.
Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests cotton underwear for optimal freshness and hygiene, as it helps wick away moisture and reduces bacteria growth.