Wondering if sex is responsible for causing bladder infections in women? Well, the answer is “yes” and “no;” sex does not directly cause a bladder infection, but sex does increase the risk of bladder infections by pushing the bacteria inside the urethra. It is the symptomatic bacterial invasion of the bladder, which actually causes a painful infection. Sex, especially vaginal intercourse, gives bacteria entry into the bladder, and thus increases a woman’s risk for a bladder infection. Other factors that influence the risk of a bladder infection include age, personal circumstances, characteristics of the invading bacteria, and choices associated with a woman’s sex life.
5 Things You Need To Know About Sex And Bladder Infections In Women
To clearly understand the link, here are 5 things you need to know about sex and bladder infections.
The Relation Between Sex & Bladder Infections
The link between bladder infections and sex in women depends on structure and location. Normally, bacteria responsible for bladder infections in women often reside in the colon. Because of the passage of stool, these bacteria live harmlessly on the skin of the anal and genital regions. In women, the bacteria can also be found on the opening of the vagina and urethra, which is the tube through which urine is expelled out of the body. Since the vagina is situated just behind the urethra, the thrusting motion within the vagina during sex can shove bacteria from the urethra into the bladder. As the urethra is only 1.5 to 2 inches long in women, the bacteria have to travel a smaller distance to gain entry into their bladder. This makes it easy to cause urinary or bladder infections in women after sex. This relation is an important point you need to know about sex and bladder infections in women. Some studies have shown that the prevalence of urinary tract infection in sexually active women was found at 6.4%.1 Some studies have also shown that as with young women, recent sexual intercourse is also strongly linked with the occurrence of UTI in postmenopausal women.2
Frequency of Sex and Bladder Infection in Women
The risk for bladder infection, or cystitis, increases with a higher frequency of intercourse among young women and postmenopausal women. As there is a link between sexual intercourse and the rate of urinary infections, increased frequency of sexual intercourse can also raise the risk of urinary infections in women. Studies have shown that frequent sexual intercourse is one of the greatest risks for recurrent urinary tract infections.3 This is one of the important things you need to know about sex and bladder infections in women.
Contraceptive Choices Affect The Risk of Bladder Infection in Women
A woman’s risk for developing bladder infection is also influenced by their contraceptive choices. The use of contraceptives that require or include a spermicide specifically increases the risk of bladder infection. A study conducted in 1996 to find the incidence of UTI in women and its relation with the use of a male condom with and without a spermicide. It established that the risk for bladder infections in women was high with the use a condom and even more with exclusive condom use or condom with a spermicide.4 Spermicides are believed to raise the risk of bladder infection by promoting the growth of infection-causing bacteria on a woman’s genital skin and urethral opening. A possible association between cervical cap with spermicide use was believed to increase bladder infection risk. But this finding was not conclusive. However, both diaphragm and cervical cap users too are at an increased risk for recurrent bladder infections.
Sex Partners and Bladder Infections in Women
Considering the link between intercourse and cystitis risk, researchers have evaluated the potential role of a woman’s sex partners. Some studies have reported that having multiple partners is a strong behavioral risk factor for UTI.5 Exposure to new bacteria which can cause a bladder infection is believed to be responsible for increasing the risk linked with having a new sex partner. This too is one of the important things you need to know about sex and bladder infections in women.
Preventing Sex Related Bladder Infections in Women
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way of preventing a bladder infection, whether linked to sexual activity or not. However, women can take certain steps to decrease their risk of developing cystitis associated with the intercourse. For instance, the risk of bladder infection, especially among women experiencing recurrent cystitis, can be reduced by avoiding the use of spermicides. Although not proven yet, but emptying the bladder before and after intercourse is also believed to reduce bladder infection risk. One of the important things you need to know about sex and bladder infections in women is that drinking more water can help reduce the risk of urinary infections. Studies suggest drinking cranberry juice can help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and prevent frequent bladder infections.6
Warnings and Precautions Regarding Bladder Infections
Anti-biotic therapy is the only proven treatment for bladder infection. So, when experiencing typical symptoms of bladder infection, like frequent, urgent need to urinate and burning pain when urinating, women should promptly seek medical attention. If intercourse is the trigger factor for bladder infection, these symptoms normally develop within 24 to 48 hours after sex. Rapid medical evaluation and treatment are especially important for pregnant women or women with diabetes. Chills, fever, and back pain also raise the urgency of treatment, since these symptoms can indicate the spread of the infection to the kidneys. Further tests may be advised for proper diagnosis and treatment can begin soon.
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- Urinary Bladder Infection: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prognosis, Prevention, Risk Factors, Diagnosis
- What is Bladder Infection & How is it Treated?