Serious Question: How Long Is Sex Off Limits When You Have A UTI Or Yeast Infection?

Even though something sexy is probably what got you into your predicament, there is nothing sexy about a post-sex urinary tract infection (UTI). With that being said, you're not alone. Since people with vaginas are 30 times more likely to experience UTIs, nearly 1 in 3 people with vaginas will experience a UTI requiring treatment by the time they're 24. Most people with UTIs will feel like they need to urinate frequently even if there is hardly any urine to pass. They'll also experience a burning sensation while urinating and notice an unusual color and smell in their urine. 

This burning sensation can make it difficult to tell between UTIs and yeast infections since the sensation can be similar for both. UTIs should not be confused with the equally uncomfortable yeast infection. While UTIs are infections that can affect anything in your urinary tract (including your bladder, urethra, and kidneys) and must be treated with antibiotics, yeast infections are fungal, affect the vagina, and can usually be cleared up with over-the-counter anti-fungal treatments. So why is something as uncomfortable as a UTI (or a yeast infection) so common? 

We talked to Dr. Karen Toubi, a board-certified OB-GYN and certified Cliovana expert, to get the low down on everything down low and discuss ways you can treat, handle, and even avoid these infections altogether.

Why are UTIs and yeast infections so common?

Dr. Toubi explained, "UTIs after sex are common because sexual activity can introduce bacteria from the genital area or anus into the urethra, which can cause an infection." People with vaginas have shorter urethras that also happen to be located closer to the rectum, making them much more likely to experience UTIs. This can also be compounded by physical differences in a person's urinary tract as well as by pregnancy, age, and previous UTIs. She also mentioned that even though sex can introduce this bacteria where you don't want it, it won't affect everyone the same, noting that "Some people are more prone to a UTI after sex than others." 

Similarly, yeast infections are common after sex due to the change in your vagina's natural environment. According to the Mayo Clinic, vaginal yeast infections affect up to 3 in 4 women. This can be caused for a host of reasons like through contact with your sexual partner's natural bacteria or having a reaction to external products like latex condoms or lube. For some people, taking antibiotics or being pregnant can also be factors that cause yeast infections so the chances of experiencing one in your lifetime are high.

What about sex?

So can you have sex with a UTI or yeast infection? Despite what you might think, you can't spread a UTI or yeast infection to your partner. However, Dr. Toubi still doesn't recommend getting back on the horse just yet, "Sex with a UTI is painful. It is recommended to wait until all symptoms of the UTI have gone away before having sex again." 

She also mentioned that if you suspect you might have a UTI, it's best to hold off on sex until you can meet with your doctor as you run the risk of making the infection worse. With that being said, there is good news! Dr. Toubi told us that there is "no need to wait to finish the antibiotics prior to resuming sex." Depending on the severity of the infection, some antibiotics courses can take up to two weeks. She emphasized making sure things feel normal before resuming sexual activity, and, of course, to make sure you still finish your antibiotics even if your symptoms are no longer present.

So, what about yeast infections? Similarly, it's best to wait until you no longer feel irritation. However, most over-the-counter medications to treat yeast infections have ingredients that can damage latex condoms so it is best to wait until you have completely finished your treatment course before having sex again.

So, what about home remedies for UTIs?

Most of us have reached for cranberry juice or the easier-to-take pill form made by AZO when we suspected we had a UTI. These pills are often touted as a cure-all for UTI-related issues, but Dr. Toubi disagrees, "Taking AZO tablets (over the counter) without a confirmed diagnosis can mask symptoms of a UTI and delay proper treatment. This can cause your UTI to turn into a kidney infection." She emphasized that it is always best to consult with your doctor if you have or suspect you might have a UTI. Delaying antibiotic treatment, or attempting to treat your symptoms with home remedies can ultimately lead to worse medical issues down the road.

So, if AZO pills can't help you, is there something that will? While not a cure-all Dr. Toubi did recommend D-mannose supplements for those looking to help prevent UTIs, "D-mannose is a type of sugar that is naturally found in fruits such as cranberries, peaches, and apples. It is used as a dietary supplement and is believed to help prevent UTIs by preventing bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract." These supplements are easy to find online and relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to the medical care of a kidney infection!

Avoiding UTIs and yeast infections altogether

Now that you know what does and doesn't work for treating UTIs what about avoiding them altogether? We asked Dr. Toubi for some best practices, "UTIs can be prevented by practicing good hygiene, drinking plenty of water, urinating frequently, wiping from front to back, avoiding irritants like douches and powders, and practicing safe sex." She also told us that, specifically for post-sex UTIs, urinating before and after sex and ensuring you wear cotton underwear can help. Another interesting recommendation comes from the CDC which suggests avoiding baths in favor of showers, especially if you find yourself struggling with recurring UTIs.

Planned Parenthood also recommends cotton underwear for avoiding yeast infections. Additionally, they suggest avoiding tight-fitting pantyhose, hot tubs, scented feminine products, and staying in wet clothes and bathing suits for too long.

UTIs and yeast infections might be uncomfortable, but talking about them shouldn't be. It is important to remember that, given the number of people experiencing them every day, you shouldn't be embarrassed by either. Make sure to take your symptoms seriously and to treat infections fully to ensure not only your health and well-being but to also help avoid any recurrences. If you find yourself still struggling with recurring infections after implementing new practices, talk to your healthcare provider about different medical options that might best serve you.