Sex Hygiene for UTI Prevention
Though maintaining a post-sex hygiene routine is always important, it’s especially key during peri/menopause, a time when women can become prone to developing UTIs. While premenopausal women only have a 16-36% recurrence rate for UTIs, that number jumps to 55% following menopause.
Decreasing levels of estrogen can change the composition of the bladder lining and vaginal tissue, upsetting the overall microbiome and decreasing the body’s natural defense mechanisms against urinary tract infections. And while sex doesn’t automatically lead to UTIs, it can disrupt the natural balance of your vaginal and urinary bacteria, and even introduce harmful foreign microbes or substances that can trigger infection.
When you were young, making sure to pee afterward was usually enough. But in peri/menopause, an effective pre- and post-sex hygiene routine is key to help mitigate that risk.
There is evidence that women who drink more water are less likely to suffer from recurrent UTIs. In a study of 140 premenopausal women, those who drank an additional 1.5 liters of water on top of their normal liquid intake had 50% fewer episodes of recurrent urinary tract infections and required fewer antibiotics than women who did not drink additional fluid. A good rule of thumb is to take your body weight, halve it, and then drink that many ounces of water each day. So, if you weigh 150 lbs., you should aim for around 75 ounces of water a day.
Pee ASAP (Before and After)
The easiest way to keep disruptive microbes that can cause UTIs out of your body is to expel them. And the easiest way to expel them is to simply pee after sex. If you can, it also helps to pee beforehand. This flushes the urethra to avoid bacteria buildup that can lead to infection. However, you don’t have to immediately hop out of bed to pee the second the sex stops. Typically, making sure you pee about a half hour after sex will do the trick.
Wash Up After
A lot of people are rightfully confused about the topic of properly cleaning female genitalia. Take a walk down the sexual health aisle at any random supermarket and it’s easy to see why—there are a plethora of products formulated and marketed toward women to promote “that fresh feeling,” — many of which are actually filled with chemicals that can negatively impact the vaginal biome.
The truth is, the vulva and vagina are pretty low maintenance. The vagina (the muscular tube that connects the outer vulva to the cervix of the uterus) is self-cleaning. You don’t need to douche, flush, or anything of the like to keep it clean. The vulva (the external genitals, which a lot of people mistake for the vagina) may be cleaned, but you don’t need any special products to do so. A light wash with warm water and a gentle, unscented soap should do the trick. It’s not imperative to clean up immediately after sex, but given the increased risk of infection that comes with menopause, it’s better to do so sooner than later—say within 15 minutes after finishing. You can even keep unscented body wipes by the bed for a quick and efficient clean-up between sex sessions.
And if you use sex toys, don’t forget to clean those as well, as they can carry bacteria. Your particular toy may have specific cleaning instructions, so clean toys according to the material of each individual one.
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch