What urinating after sex does and does not prevent in women
There are a few things that many women believe urinating after sex can prevent. These myths and beliefs spread like wildfire and can lead to dangerous health choices. Being all about taking the fear, anxiety (and when it calls for it, the utter nonsense) out of medical health issues, we believe it’s time to set the record straight …
What urinating after sex does help to prevent
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
While having sex doesn't always mean that you will develop a UTI, it does increase the risk of infection. This is because faecal bacteria (most commonly E. coli) from the rectum is naturally located on the skin surrounding the anus. During intercourse, this bacteria can come into contact with the penis, fingers or any sexual aids and devices used and enter the vagina along with them.
Urinary tract infections can therefore be quite common in women, especially those who engage in sexual intercourse frequently. Due to the unique make up of a woman’s anatomy, the anal and vaginal openings are situated close to the urethra (a tube that connects the bladder with the outside of the body) making it easier for bacteria to enter it and spread through the urinary tract. The fact that a woman’s urethra is relatively short (around 4cm’s in comparison to a man’s 20cm one), increases the ease with which bacteria can travel through the urinary tract.
Once bacteria reaches the bladder, it begins to multiply and can cause damage to the tissue and inflame the bladder resulting in an infection that is known as cystitis.
The bacteria may also advance further up the urinary tract to the ureters and kidneys, causing an infection of the kidneys known as pyelonephritis. These infections are collectively known as Urinary Tract Infections (or UTIs).
Around 50-60% of all women will develop a urinary tract infection1 at least once in their lifetime. The first signs and symptoms of a UTI include the following:
- Strange-smelling urine
- A frequent need to urinate
- A burning sensation when you urinate
- Cloudy, bloody or darky coloured urine
- Pain and pressure in the lower back
- Sharp pain in the lower abdomen
When you urinate after immediately after sex, this helps to flush out the harmful bacteria that enters the vagina through penetration and keeps it from spreading to the nearby urethra and causing an infection.
If, however, you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should visit your health care provider as soon as possible in order to start treatment and prevent the infection from reaching your kidneys.
What urinating after sex does NOT prevent
It is important to note that there are three openings in the female genital region:
- The vagina
- The urethra (the opening from which urine is expelled)
- The anus (the opening from which excrement is expelled from the body)
Some women believe, that apart from the anus, there is only one other opening (i.e. the vagina) and that urinating after sex will wash out any sperm that has been ejaculated into it, thus preventing pregnancy.
This is, however a myth and urinating after sex will not prevent pregnancy.
Urination does not stop or flush out the sperm that has entered the vagina and uterus through the cervix after intercourse.
Some women assume that urinating after sex will flush out the bacteria that causes an STD in the same way that it helps to flush out the bacteria that cause UTI's. As previously mentioned, urine comes out of the urethra, and fingers, the penis and sexual devices go into the vagina, they are two very separate holes.
Therefore, urinating after sexual intercourse does not prevent a sexually transmitted infection if you have unprotected sex with someone who has an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease). STD's cannot simply be flushed away by visiting the loo for a number one and once contracted, need to be treated with medication.
To avoid infection, you should always use a condom during sexual intercourse, especially with a new sexual partner or when you are not in a monogamous relationship.
HIV is transmitted through the bodily fluids of an infected person, often through sexual intercourse. It's extremely important to note that urinating after unprotected sexual intercourse with someone who is HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) positive does NOT prevent you from contracting the HIV virus. The idea that urinating after sex flushes the HIV virus from the body is a complete myth and there is absolutely no medical proof to support this.
There are, however, a number of precautions that you can take as an HIV negative person in order to prevent contracting the virus from an HIV positive sexual partner. These include:
- Ensuring that your partner is on ARV treatments
- Having safe sex by using condoms, which should be fitted with care and paired with a lot of lubrication.
- Using PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) which involves taking anti-HIV medications before engaging sexually with someone who is HIV positive in order to reduce the risk of becoming infected. It is important to note that safe sex involving the use condoms is still needed in order to prevent contracting HIV.
.National Institute of Health. 13August 2013. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3749018/ Accessed [15 March 2018]