LM: Thanks for your question, Keeping It Clean! I’ll be writing as the context expert for today’s question, answering your question from the perspective of a college student. It’s worth noting up front that, while you can develop at UTI (urinary tract infection) from sexual activity, UTIs are not STIs (sexually transmitted infections). They can develop from sex, but they can also occur from any contact with bacteria, such as wiping “back-to-front” after using the restroom.
AA: I will be writing today as the content expert. There are a couple of things to consider when thinking about UTIs and how sex can play a role in developing a UTI. The short answer to your question is no--anal sex does not have a higher risk of UTIs than vaginal sex for a female-bodied individual. UTIs occur when bacteria get into the urethra and cause an infection. While anyone can get a UTI, female-bodies are more susceptible due to the short length of the urethra.
[Image description: diagram of the renal/urinary system, including kidneys, ureter, bladder, and urethra. Image source: https://www.organsofthebody.com/images/what-is-ureters.jpg]
LM: The vagina is very close to the urethra compared to the anus, so for female-bodied individuals, penetrative vaginal sex carries a higher risk of causing a UTI than penetrative anal sex. However, there are a lot of bacteria in the rectum, so it’s still possible to get a UTI from anal sex. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prevent UTIs, which we’ll discuss next, and treatment is readily available.
AA: There are a number of ways to prevent UTIs:
Pee before and after sex to help eliminate bacteria that may have entered into the urethra during the sexual encounter.
Drink plenty of fluids and don’t wait to use the restroom when your body needs to go.
Don’t douche! While it is good to keep your genitals clean, there is no need to use soap or other douching products inside of the vagina.
LM: If you’re having anal intercourse of any kind (penetrative, oral, etc.), it’s also very important not to go straight from anal play to vaginal play, to avoid transferring bacteria from the rectum to the vagina. Be sure to use a new condom or dental dam when switching from vaginal to anal sex and vice versa, and consider saving any anal play for last.
AA: Some common symptoms of UTIs are:
Burning or pain with urination
The feeling that you have to pee all the time
Occasionally, blood in the urine
If you find that you are experiencing any of these symptoms and believe you have a UTI, contact your healthcare provider. Treatment for UTIs is easy and effective, usually involving a round of antibiotics.
LM: According to the Mayo Clinic, UTIs are very common with over 3 million cases a year in the United States. While UTIs are common, it’s important to remember that they can have more serious complications if left untreated, so even if you’re unsure you have a UTI, it’s best to check with a clinician.
AA: Thank you again for your question, as UTIs are not something we talk about very often. Using the strategies we mentioned above can help you keep UTIs at bay, whether from anal or vaginal sex or something else, but if you do get one, get in touch with your healthcare provider to get it treated.