If you have a vagina, you’ve probably been told (maybe several times) that you’re supposed to pee after sex.
It’s just one of those unwritten rules, that we all dutifully follow (or knowingly ignore). The last thing you want to remind you of your most recent romp is a UTI, right?
But that doesn’t mean you need to jump out of bed to hit the restroom the second the main event ends. Here’s what you need to know about when you really need to go.
It’s true that UTIs are common in women, and sexually active women are more likely to get them.
A urinary tract infection happens when bacteria travel up the urethra and enter the bladder, where they then multiply and cause infection.
In female anatomy, a shorter urethra (vs males) means there’s a shorter distance for bacteria to travel through the urethra to the bladder.
“Sex is often associated with UTIs because sexual intercourse introduces bacteria through the urethra and into a woman’s urinary tract,” explains Alan B. Copperman, M.D., director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and vice-chairman of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Peeing after sex helps flush out bacteria before it can travel to the bladder. But there’s no absolute time requirement.
“While urinating before and after sex clearly decreases the chance of a urinary tract infection, the couple doesn’t need to have a stopwatch,” Copperman says.
That sense of immediacy you feel is unfounded, so unless you really have to pee, there’s no need to force yourself—squeezing out a drop or two isn’t effectively flushing out your system anyway. Feel free to get in some cuddle time or a quick nap, if that’s what feels right. Just make sure to go before you fall asleep for 7 hours.
If you do feel the urge to pee, don’t ignore it.
Whether right after sex or at any other point throughout the day, holding urine in the bladder for longer can increase bacteria and make a UTI worse. Also, it’s just straight up uncomfortable. So go when you have to go (and wipe front to back, natch).
Some women are just more prone to UTIs than others.
“Some people may have risk factors that make them get UTIs such as diabetes, kidney stones, or abnormalities in the urinary tract,” explains Mamta Mamik, M.D., a urogynecologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital. If you have more than two UTIs within six months, or three in a year, consider yourself prone. Sorry about that. Still, it’s not going to make a difference if you go to the bathroom five seconds or 30 minutes after sexy time concludes.
If this is you, ask your doctor about treatment options and medications that you can take preventatively or at the first sign of infection.
If you never or rarely get UTIs and you don’t typically pee right after sex, this is permission to keep doing your thing.
If it’s never been a problem for you, it’s fine to keep doing it (or in this case, not doing it), Mamik confirms. Maybe you’re typically healthily hydrated and have good, regular urination, or your body’s just on its game when it comes to preventing this bacterial invasion. Either way, sit back and be thankful for being UTI-free.