Sex With a New Partner Causes UTIs and Yeast Infections—Help!
It’s not uncommon for sex, especially sex with a new partner, to cause problems like yeast infections or urinary tract infections (UTIs). Although they’re relatively easy to treat, they can be incredibly irritating and/or painful.
UTIs are caused when bacteria enter the urethra and make their way up to the bladder. Since the urethra is in between the clitoris and the vaginal opening in female-bodied people, it’s in prime position to come into contact with bacteria during sex. Women get UTIs more frequently than men, because their urethras are shorter, but men can get UTIs as well, and there are some studies that suggest that unprotected insertive anal sex can increase the risk of UTIs for men. The most common symptoms of UTIs are a frequent urge to urinate, pain during urination and sometimes blood in the urine.
Peeing right after sex flushes bacteria out of the urethra and prevents them from settling in the bladder, which is why post-coital urination is recommended to prevent UTIs. Spermicides, which are found on some condoms and in contraceptive methods like the Today sponge and diaphragms, also increase the risk of UTIs, so if you are using a contraceptive method with spermicide, switch to something else (condoms without spermicide are just as effective at preventing pregnancy). Some people do find that a particular sex position seems to lead to UTIs, so paying attention to what you were doing before a UTI emerges can help pinpoint positions that you might want to avoid. Sexual activities that increase the chance of introducing bacteria from the anus to the urethra can cause UTIs, so be careful when switching from anal sex to vaginal sex or from rimming to cunnilingus and so on. Use new latex barriers for each activity and/or avoid moving from the anus to the vagina.
Yeast infections are a different beast; they are caused when the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina is thrown out of whack, leading to an overgrowth of yeast that can cause itching, burning and thick, white discharge. Men can get yeast infections on the penis as well, especially if they aren’t circumcised, and it’s possible to pass yeast infections back and forth between partners, so both partners should get checked out and treated if necessary.
The bacterial balance in your vagina can be disrupted by a number of things: using a lubricant that contains glycerin or sugar, douching, taking antibiotics, using birth control methods containing estrogen, and even oral sex (cunnilingus). Sometimes any type of vaginal sex can cause a yeast infection. If you get yeast infections frequently, I’d suggest making sure your partner doesn’t have one, using a lubricant that is sugar- and glycerin-free, and possibly using barriers like condoms or dams during vaginal sexual activities. Do NOT use vaginal douches (they are not necessary for vaginal health and cause more harm than good), and talk with your health care provider if you’re using a hormonal birth control method to see if you can switch to one with a lower estrogen level.
UTIs and yeast infections are something that almost every female-bodied person will experience in their lifetime, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. If you have recurring yeast infections or UTIs, don’t be afraid to talk to your health care provider about them to see if they have more intensive treatments to suggest. Diet can impact yeast infections too.
Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.