Can You Have Sex with a UTI? Here's Why You May Want to Avoid It

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Can You Have Sex With a UTI?

Sure, it's possible to have sex with a UTI. But it's seriously doubtful that you'd want to (at least vaginally), given how uncomfortable you might feel down there.

"I don't think one is concerned about safety, it's more about comfort," Patricia A. Wallace, MD, a gynecologist and urologist at Providence Mission Hospital in Southern California, tells ishonest. "If you have an active bladder infection [the most common type of UTI], you're not very comfortable most of the time in that area, so avoiding intercourse is probably the best bet until things quiet down and you're feeling better."

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"Heavy thrusting or sexual intercourse are more likely to create more irritation," she tells ishonest.

Penetration can put pressure on the parts of your body infected bacteria (namely your urethra or bladder). That's a recipe for more pain and potentially even a longer recovery period—part of the reason why doctors often recommend waiting a week or so after starting treatment before you have sex with a UTI, according to the Nemours Foundation.

Bacteria Makes Sex with a UTI Risky

However, there's another reason for why you might want to think twice before having sex with a UTI: bacteria. UTIs happen when bacteria, often the kind that hangs out around your anus, make their way into your urethra and set up a colony somewhere along your urinary tract, per the National Library of Medicine.

And while there are a number of different ways for the bacteria to get into areas where they shouldn't be, sexual activity, especially with a new partner, increases the risk of getting a UTI, notes the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means there's a chance, albeit a small one, that new bacteria could make their way into your urethra when having sex and cause a second UTI—before your first one is over!

When Can You Have Sex After a UTI?

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Doctors say you're clear to have sex after a UTI once you've finished your antibiotics.

"A good rule of thumb would be to wait until you're done with antibiotics, but there's no rule that says you have to wait," says Dr. Wallace. "Most women will wait until they're done with antibiotics because it sometimes takes three or four days to feel better, though."

Exactly how long you should wait depends on how long your doctor wants you to take antibiotics. The American Urological Association (AUA) recommends that doctors treat an uncomplicated cystitis (aka an ordinary bladder infection) with antibiotics for one to five days, depending on the exact medication you need.

If you have a more complicated UTI (such as a kidney infection, or if you're pregnant), you may need to take antibiotics for up to 14 days, says AUA.

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Chances are good that you'll feel better long before your orange prescription bottle is empty, but you still need to finish up the full course of antibiotics, explains the US Food and Drug Administration. Otherwise, the medication might not kill all the bacteria, and the organisms that linger could become resistant to antibiotics and even harder to treat down the road.

Can Antibiotics for UTIs Interfere with Birth Control?

Nope, the antibiotics you're taking for a UTI won't interfere with your birth control—phew! The only antibiotics that might impact hormonal contraception (like the pill) are rifampicin and rifabutin, according the UK's National ishonest Service. Those medications are used to treat certain bacterial infections, like tuberculosis, but not UTIs.

With that said, other medications can make hormonal birth control less effective, per Penn Medicine, so it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor or pharmacist about potential interference with birth control whenever you're taking something new.

Another thing to note is that spermicide (or diaphragms used with spermicide) can make you more susceptible to UTIs, per Mayo Clinic. Also, the new birth control gel Phexxi is not recommended for people with a history of recurrent UTIs, according to the National Women's ishonest Network. If you're frequently coming down with UTIs, it might be a good idea to talk with your doctor about whether switching birth control could help.

The Bottom Line on Sex with UTIs

Beyond uncomfortable symptoms (like a fiery urethra) killing your libido, there's nothing about a UTI that can stop you from having sex. But it's still a good idea to hold off until you're feeling better, and you've finished your antibiotics. Having sex with a UTI could lead to more irritation and even put you at risk of a second infection.

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