What NOT to do before you get busy between the sheets. (Photo: Getty Images)
If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve heard the advice, “You should pee before and after having sex.” (If you’re not familiar with the logic, the idea is that emptying your bladder before and after you get busy will somehow help prevent a urinary tract infection.)
Unfortunately, that advice is wrong — and experts say it could even increase your odds of developing a UTI.
According New York City urologist David Kaufman, MD, the “pee before sex” mantra is one of the biggest misconceptions he has to clear up for his female patients. While urinating after sex is definitely important, he says going to the bathroom beforehand is a big no-no.
Why? During sex, vaginal bacteria can get pushed into your urethra. Waiting to pee, and consequently having enough urine stored up to create a strong stream, increases the odds of pushing that bacteria back out. Without it, the bacteria can cause an infection.
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Urinating before sex “is the No.1 cause of post-coital urinary tract infections, also known as honeymoon cystitis,” Kaufman tells Yahoo Health. Having a solid stream afterward is crucial since the bacteria can be hard to dislodge.
“Bacteria have tiny pilli that act as Velcro hooks, which allow them to attach themselves to the urethral lining,” says Kaufman. If the bacteria isn’t dislodged, it can make its way into the bladder where it quickly reproduces and grows, creating a UTI.
Unfortunately, women are especially susceptible to developing UTIs from sex because the female urethra is only two inches long — a relatively short distance for bacteria to travel. And some women are more likely than others to experience the issue because their vaginal opening is positioned closer to their urethra, says Kaufman, who has some patients who develop a UTI nearly every time they have sex.
Worried you’re getting one after you get busy? You’ll know very quickly if you’re right. Sheryl Ross, an OB-GYN and women’s health specialist in Santa Monica, California, says the symptoms can show up within 24 hours if bacteria end up where they shouldn’t be.
While it may sound practical to try to rinse or wipe that bacteria away before sex to decrease the odds of developing a UTI, urologist Michael Ingber, MD, advises against it. “The vagina is a mucosal surface, which secretes its own lubrication and has its own ‘healthy’ bacteria,” he explains to Yahoo Health. “Typically, we don’t recommend altering this in any way.”
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There are a few other steps you can take to prevent a UTI other than flexing your bladder control skills, says Ross. Regularly wiping front to back can keep unwanted bacteria out of your vaginal area, and it’s best to avoid using excessive lubrication, sex toys, or a vaginal sponge, which can be a haven for bacteria. But Ross says that staying hydrated and peeing right after sex are still among the most important UTI-fighting methods.
Of course, thinking you shouldn’t pee before sex and actually doing it are two different stories — since telling yourself that you can’t use the bathroom can make you have to go even more. If you can’t hold off, Kaufman recommends guzzling water after you go so that you’ll still have a strong post-coital stream of urine.
Uncomfortable with the idea of not peeing before sex? Ross points out another upside aside from avoiding a UTI: “Some women report that they actually have better orgasms with a full bladder.”