We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to tap into your sexual potential and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those stressful sexual health situations that inevitably crop up when you’re getting down? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. This week’s topic: why you should pee after sex.
Q: When my mom had “the talk” with me, she told me to pee after I had sex, and I’ve been doing it religiously ever since. But I’m not exactly sure why you need to pee after sex, and now that I’m an adult with real knowledge about my body, I’d like to know. I know it does something to clean your bladder so you don’t get an infection, but how does that actually work? How does having sex get stuff into your bladder in the first place?
A: A wise woman once told me, “a sponge is not a lifetime investment, and always pee after sex”. I’ve found both to be very helpful advice, although it took me a while to find someone to actually take the time to sit down and explain to me exactly why we need to do this. Knowledge I’m now extremely pleased to be able to share with you!
Why Female Anatomy Makes You Prone To UTIs
Humans with female genital anatomy are way more likely to get a UTI — 10 times more likely in fact. Why is this?
The way the whole female genital area is set up makes it rife for bacterial commingling and resultant UTI disaster. Basically, while all vaginas look gloriously, deliciously different, (as you can see for yourself in this generic NSFW diagram of the vulva anatomy), your urethra is very close to your vaginal opening and anus. Compare this with male genitalia, where the opening of the urethra is very far away from the anus and there isn’t even another genital canal to worry about (because in penises, semen comes out the urethra in a one-stop-shop kind of model).
When you’re just going about your daily non-sexual business, these two areas remain separate. However, when you’re in the throes of all the moving, thrusting, bumping, and position changing that takes place during sexual activity, things get a lot less segregated. Specifically, the opening of your urethra comes into contact with bacteria from your vagina and butt. Which makes sense right? Your vaginal juices flow around your whole vulvular area when you get turned on, and the penis, fingers, or toys you’re playing with can easily transfer vaginal and anal bacteria to touch the opening of your urethra. And yes, I’m talking about your own bacteria — 85 percent of the time, a UTI occurs from bacteria from your own vagina or butt.
While the bacteria from both your vagina and butt is totally naturally occurring and healthy, it’s site specific — you don’t want your butt bacteria in your vagina, and you don’t want either in your urethra. And that’s because they can cause a UTI, particularly the E. coli that hangs out in your butt. Everyone has a urethra, but those with female reproductive systems have one that’s significantly shorter than those with male reproductive systems. Your urethra is a short tube that connects your bladder to the outside world. (You can check out a diagram here.) Its job is to convey urine out of your body.
In humans with vaginas, the urethra is only around an inch and a half long, which means the space between your bladder and the big bad world of bacteria is pretty small. This short distance makes it easy for bacteria picked up by the opening of your urethra during sexy playtime to travel up to your bladder, causing infection and pain. And yes, these bacteria molecules have the ability to actually crawl up your urethra walls.
Why Peeing Helps Protect You
Wait, so why don’t you get a UTI every time you have sex? That’s a great question, and the answer is urine. Your body is well-equipped to protect itself from bacterial infection. In the case of potential infection in your urinary tract, it fights back by flushing out the bacteria through urination. This works very well most of the time, which is why even if you’re prone to getting UTIs, you won’t get one every time you have sex.
Sometimes, not all the bacteria gets flushed out during urination. When this happens, you may end up with a UTI.
When Exactly Should You Pee?
Yes yes, we now know that peeing is important to prevent UTIs, but when?
Pee Right After Sex
You should pee after you're done having sex, to flush out any bacteria hitching a ride up your urethra as a result of your previous (hopefully) delicious experience. You don’t need to leap up the second after you orgasm and run to the bathroom — but going within 30 minutes is recommended. Basically, you just want to catch the bacteria when it’s still in your urethra and therefore easily flushable. If it reaches your bladder, that’s when you can start to have issues.
... But Maybe Don’t Pee Right Before Sex
It used to be commonly recommended to pee before sex too, and many guides will still say to do this. However, there is now some evidence that this isn’t the best idea. If you pee right before sex, your bladder won’t be as full when you pee after sex, which is when you need your urine to push out all the climbing, freeloading bacteria right on outta there. So don’t pee before sex, and instead store your pee for post-coital flushing (unless you need to pee so much that you'll be uncomfortable during sex, in which case you should obviously pee before).
The Bottom Line
Whether or not you geeked out on the anatomy portion of this response, the important thing to remember is that it’s good practice to always pee after you have sex. It helps your body flush out unwanted bacteria and as a result keeps you healthy. So the next time you’re lying around, catching your breath after a good romp, take a minute for your body’s future health and take a bathroom break.
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