There’s more to safe sex than using protection. Safe sex also involves knowing how to take care of yourself as a sexually active person. That’s right, taking care of your body is vital to having great sex!
And one of the simplest things you can do for your body after sex is to, well, pee. It’s a small action that might feel like an afterthought. But it can make a huge difference.
If you have a vulva, listen up.
If you’ve never had a UTI, take a second and count your lucky stars. They’re easily treatable but they are not fun. And for all the vulva owners out there, your chance of getting a UTI is 30 times higher than penis owners.
However, just because you have a vulva doesn’t mean you’re going to get a UTI. It just means you’re more susceptible. But peeing after sex lowers your risk. Let’s dive into what’s happening here.
Your urethra is kinda short.
No offense. But it’s true, your urethra is about 4cm long, shorter than the urethra of a penis. Located just above the vaginal opening, surrounded by absorbent tissue (hello Skene’s gland!) and below the clit, it’s a tad vulnerable.
Its main job is to get urine from the bladder out of the body, and it passes through the pelvic floor to do this. The pathway is short, so bacteria don’t have to travel very far to get to your bladder.
And when it does that, it starts multiplying. Think “You’re The One That I Want,” but instead of John Travolta, it's a burning sensation when you pee.
Your urethra is next door neighbors with your anus.
In the case of the penis, the urethra is located at the tip. That’s a pretty long distance from A to U (anus to urethra.) But for vulvas, the anus is just around the corner.
The most common type of UTI is caused by E. coli traveling from the rectum to the urethra. It infects the urethra and the bladder.
When this happens, you can experience the following symptoms:
- Burning sensation when you pee
- Feeling like you have to pee even when you don’t
- Blood in the urine
- Cloudy urine
- Strong smelling urine
These symptoms are uncomfortable enough that you’re likely to address them ASAP. And they’re treatable with antibiotics and a little willingness to ride out the pain. But if the infection spreads to the kidneys, it can become quite serious. Chills, nausea, fever, and vomiting are symptoms that signal you need to get to a doctor right away.
However, this is rare. In most cases, a round of antibiotics solves the problem.
UTIs happen for many reasons, but sex is the main cause.
Several studies have confirmed this. One study that observed 288 women found that not only did sex increase the risk of getting a UTI, using a condom actually increased the likelihood by 43%.
All you condom haters, slow your roll. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a condom to protect against STDs. But you should probably pee after sex. This will reduce your risk of getting a bacterial infection. But it won’t protect against STDs.
A study at Michigan University found that UTI occurrence did correlate with sexual activity. And urinating after sex lowered that risk.
Some people are more prone to UTIs than others. Another study recently found that the culprit for this is actually bacteria found in the vagina. This bacteria, lovingly named Gardnerella Vaginalis, can actually get into the neighboring urethra and cause dormant E. Coli from a past infection to wake up and start spreading the infection. Again!
Sometimes it be your own vagina.
Why does peeing after sex help?
During sex, there’s a lot of touching, moving, rubbing, caressing, licking, kissing, and maybe even some penetration. Right?
Sometimes bacteria from the outside world find its way to the urethra. For people with penises, this isn’t really a big deal. You see, in the penis, urine shares a pathway with ejaculate. And that pathway is going to get flushed, leading all unwanted bacteria out the door.
But for vulvas, the urine is the only thing passing through that pathway. Even though female ejaculation does happen, the ejaculate comes from the tissue that surrounds the urethral opening, rather than the urethra itself.
This means that nothing is going to flush that pathway except for some good ol’ fashioned urine.
So if bacteria does get in, and you never know, urinating flushes it out before it can reach the short distance to your bladder and start raising hell like it loves to do.
But men aren’t totally exempt either.
UTIs can sometimes occur in men if bacteria enter the urethra during anal sex. The urethra of the penis runs through the center of the prostate, and so not only the bladder but also the prostate and the seminal vesicle (where semen is made) can become infected.
This is the downside of sharing a highway with ejaculate. The risk is lower, but if infection happens, more functions can be affected.
But don’t freak out.
Forgetting to pee after sex doesn’t mean you’re going to get an infection. Some people are more prone to UTIs, so if you are, this isn’t something to worry about. Rather, it’s a tool in your arsenal of safe-sex practices that you can easily pull out when you need it.
Don’t feel like you shouldn’t have sex if there’s not a bathroom nearby for you to use right away. Don’t feel like you can’t rest for a minute to bask in the glow of a great session. But do it sooner than later. Most doctors recommend that you do it within a 45-minute window in order to effectively flush any bacteria out.
If you do get an infection, you can rest assured that the problem can easily be solved by seeing your doctor.
A note on STIs and bacteria.
Some STIs can cause the urethra to develop a bacterial infection. Herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and mycoplasma can be to blame. However, peeing after sex doesn’t protect again sexually transmitted infections.
Instead, it helps to prevent bacterial infection. So practicing safe sex means protecting yourself from STIs, getting tested, using contraception if you don’t want to get pregnant, getting and giving consent, and now it means peeing after sex too.