Are UTIs Sexually Transmitted
Can a UTI Be Transmitted Sexually?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common, especially if you are sexually active. So, you may well ask: can a UTI be transmitted sexually? The short answer is yes, but a UTI is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI). UTIs are caused by bacteria found on everyone’s skin, and sex merely increases the risk that they will get inside your urinary tract and cause an infection.
What Is a UTI?
A UTI is a bacterial infection affecting the urinary tract which creates, collects, and removes urine from your body. This is how the system works:
- Your kidneys create urine.
- Two tubes (the ureters) transport urine from your kidneys down into your bladder.
- Urine exits your body through another tube (your urethra) when you empty your bladder.
What Are the Kinds of UTIs?
UTI sexually transmitted diseases can be divided into two types:
- Bladder infections (cystitis) – the most common kind.
- Kidney infections (pyelonephritis) – rarer and can be more serious.
Who Can Get a UTI?
UTIs mainly affect women because the urethra opening is very close to the rectum. Since the UTI-causing bacteria generally come from the rectum, this short distance makes it easy for them to enter the urinary tract. Also, the urethra is short, providing a short journey to the bladder.
A man has a much longer urethra running from the penis tip all the way up to the bladder. Thus bacteria have further to travel before reaching the bladder. Also, the urethra opening is situated much further away from the rectum.
- Although heterosexual men are less likely to get a UTI, those engaging in anal intercourse are at greater risk because bacteria from the bowel can get into the tip of the urethra. We always suggest wearing a condom to prevent this.
What Causes a UTI?
Most UTIs are caused by bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract, and such bacteria are often found on the skin around the rectum. Also, some types of contraceptives can contribute to a UTI, including:
- Spermicides, including ones found on some condoms. Spermicides make it easier for bacteria to attach themselves inside the urethra.
- Diaphragms (which may also be treated with a spermicide) can press on the urethra resulting in trapped urine. Entrapment hampers urine flow that helps to wash bacteria out of the urethra.
What Are the Symptoms of a UTI?
The most common signs of a bladder infection are:
- Burning or pain during urination.
- Urgently and frequently needing to empty the bladder even when it is nowhere near full.
- Urine that is cloudy, pinkish, or blood-tinged.
- A mild uncomfortable feeling in the lower abdomen (where the bladder is situated).
The indications of a kidney infection are more severe:
- Pain in the side or back.
A kidney infection is possible if a bladder infection is not treated, thus enabling it to reach the kidneys.
Can a UTI Be Transmitted Sexually?
You may ask: are UTIs sexually transmitted? Yes, there’s a definite link between a UTI and sex, and, unfortunately, being sexually active can trigger repeat infections. Symptoms typically show up about two days following sexual intercourse.
- Recurrent UTIs are defined as more than three infections yearly or two within six months.
Are UTIs Sexually Transmitted?
Anything that encourages bacteria to enter the urinary tract increases the chance of a UTI. Sexual activity pushes bacteria toward the urethra and can also cause skin chafing in the genital area, making it more hospitable to bacteria. Check out or relevant article called UTI vs STD to learn more about that subject.
How Can a UTI Be Prevented?
Since visiting your healthcare provider every time you have sex isn’t reasonable, it’s helpful to consider how to prevent a UTI.
- Empty your bladder immediately after sex. Fresh urine flowing through your urethra can help wash bacteria out.
- Stay hydrated, so urine doesn’t stay in one place for too long, giving a bacterial infection a chance to settle in.
- Use over-the-counter products such as cranberry supplements, probiotics (particularly those that contain lactobacilli), and D-mannose, a type of sugar.
Is a UTI Contagious?
A UTI results from your urinary tract getting infected with your own bacteria and is not passed from person to person. Having sex with an infected person doesn’t mean you’ll catch it, and if you have a UTI, you won’t give it to someone else. However, it makes sense to abstain from sex and heal from your UTI before risking the introduction of even more bacteria.
Are UTIs Only Sexually Transmitted?
Although UTIs can be sexually transmitted, other factors have an influence, including:
- Certain bladder conditions.
- Kidney stones.
- A compromised immune system.
- Surgery of the urinary tract or genitalia.
- Holding urine for long stretches of time.
- A family history of UTIs, especially in your mother.
- Having a UTI in childhood.
Conditions that irritate the skin around the urethra can also cause a UTI, e.g., spending a long time in a wet bathing suit or using a bath bomb or bubble bath. These habits can affect the bacteria living on the skin around your urethra, making it easier for a UTI to get started.
What Is the Treatment for UTI Sexually Transmitted Diseases?
Treatment for a UTI typically means taking antibiotics. However, in an effort to reduce antibiotic resistance, research is being undertaken to find alternative treatments, including:
- Vaccines, especially ones targeted at preventing infection with E. coli.
- Oral medications.
- Vaginal suppositories.
What to Do if You Think You Have a UTI
It’s important to visit your doctor, especially as UTI and STI symptoms can be similar. For instance, some STIs cause pain or burning during urination or lower abdominal pain. Moreover, a urine dipstick result can sometimes erroneously point to a UTI rather than an STI. If you have a yellow, white, chunky, or mixed discharge, you most likely have an STI. Also, note that it’s possible to have both a UTI and an STI simultaneously. Get a test for an STI in complete privacy from STD Check. No one will know you are getting tested, and it won’t appear on any medical record. Please click here for more information. We hope this answers the question, are UTIs only sexually transmitted and more!
Medically Reviewed by Julie Hutchinson, MD on August 22, 2022
Author: Esther Jordan
Esther Jordan has been a writer ever since she can remember. She has always loved the free gift of self-expression through journaling, creating stories, and sharing life experiences in front of audiences. Public speaking and creating content has been a strong suit of hers since high school. Immediately after college, she received a paid position as an search engine optimization (SEO) writer in 2010 when SEO was still a very brick and mortar concept for a lot of small businesses. It was a time of do-it-yourself websites and online magic that everyone wanted and either referred to it as SEO or pay-per-click (PPC).