Urinary Tract Infections & Sexual Intercourse

By BSc, MSc (embryologist) and (invitra staff).
Last Update: 11/22/2019

Urinary tract infections are a type of infection that occurs in any area of the urinary tract, such as the kidneys, urethra, ureters, or bladder.

They are usually caused by the invasion of bacteria such as Escherichia Coli in the urinary tract, although they can also be attributed to viruses or fungi. Depending on the location of the microorganisms, they can be divided into upper and lower urinary tract infections.

It is not usually a serious pathology but it presents annoying symptoms and it appears in a recurrent form. For this reason, many women look for home remedies and pharmacological treatments that can serve as a solution.

Below you have an index with the 10 points we are going to deal with in this article.

What is urinary tract infection?

It consists of an infection in any part of the urinary system by the presence of microorganisms. Invasion can occur at the lower end of the urinary tract or through blood flow, directly affecting the kidneys.

It can appear in children, men and women, although it is more common in the latter two cases. In fact, women are more likely to suffer this type of infection and about 20-30% of them will suffer at least one episode of cystitis in their lifetime.

The most common urinary tract infections are those caused by bacteria and in particular by Escherichia coli. However, there are cases caused by viruses, fungi or parasites.

Risk Factors

As we have already mentioned, urinary tract infections have a high prevalence in women and many of them have several throughout their lives.

Several studies indicate risk factors in young women, leading to an increased incidence of urinary tract infections. Among them are:

  • Shorter urethra in women, causing less distance for bacteria to reach the bladder and cause cystitis.
  • Increased sexual activity.
  • Use of certain contraceptives, such as diaphragms.
  • Menopause, as there is a reduction in estrogen levels and changes in the urinary tract.
  • Depressed immune system caused by a disease such as diabetes or by cancer treatments with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
  • Having a catheter in the bladder for a long period of time.

Similarly, men may also have sex-related urinary tract infections, especially anal sex.

Classification of urinary tract infections

When you talk about urinary tract infections, you always tend to think of cystitis. However, there is a classification of urinary tract infections according to the location of the causative microorganisms.

Below, we are going to detail the different types.

Upper urinary tract infections

The upper urinary tract includes the kidneys and ureters. When microorganisms are located in that region, it is said that there is a urinary tract infection in the upper tract.

This group includes the following:

Acute pyelonephritis
a urinary tract infection that affects one or both kidneys and whose risk factors are recurrent cystitis, kidney stones or morphological alterations of the urinary tract. It is more common in women than in men, although as age increases the prevalence increases in men. It is produced by migration of the bacteria present in the feces.
Intrarenal abscess
is the presence of pus around the kidneys beginning the bladder infection. The major risk factor is the presence of kidney stones.
Perinefritic abscess
This is a complication of pyelonephritis. It is usually associated with the presence of kidney stones.
Bacterial nephritis
is an acute kidney infection that lies between pyelonephritis and renal abscess.

The most common symptoms of upper urinary tract infections are nausea, diarrhea, low appetite, or emesis (vomiting).

Urinary tract infections in the lower tract

The lower urinary tract refers to the bladder, prostate, and urethra. Localized infections in this region are the most common in women after sexual intercourse. In addition, women's urethra is shorter than men's, which explains the higher prevalence of infections in women.

On the other hand, the causative agent of urinary tract infections is usually E. colia common microorganism in the digestive tract and in the area between the anus and vagina. There is no study that has clearly proven that this bacterium is transmitted between sexual partners and may be the origin of sexual colonization. According to experts, the bacteria comes from the flora that colonizes the vagina and urethra of the woman, so it cannot be considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Urinary tract infections are not sexually transmitted, as the male does not transmit the bacteria to the female through intercourse and vice versa. However, sexual relationships may favor lower urinary tract infections.

The following are the most common lower urinary tract infections:

Cystitis
is an uncomfortable and painful inflammation of the bladder. It is usually caused by bacteria such as E. Coli and can be spread by affecting the kidneys. There are also a small number of cases of cystitis caused by virus or fungal infection.
Urethritis
it is an inflammation of the urethra, that is, of the urine outlet.
Prostatitis
is an inflammation of the prostate, which affects men and causes pain or difficulty urinating.

Symptoms of lower urinary tract infection

The most common symptoms that may appear from urinary tract infection are the following:

  • Need to urinate often and in small amounts
  • Feeling of not completely emptying your bladder when you urinate.
  • Burning with urination or blood in the urine
  • Urine with a strong, unpleasant, cloudy odor.
  • Pain in the vaginal area
  • Fever.
  • Lower back pain.

These symptoms may appear individually or in combination. We must not forget that there are also asymptomatic cases in which the person is not aware of having an infection, as he or she does not show any symptoms.

The problem with urinary tract infections is not only the uncomfortable symptoms that accompany them, but also the risk of other related alterations such as the extent of the infection or a progressive and irreversible renal lesion.

Recurrent urine infection

It is commonly said that a person who has had cystitis once will be more likely to have it on more occasions. This may be because there are people whose vaginal environment is more appropriate or shows conditions more favorable to bacterial development.

Recurrent urinary tract infections often occur in postmenopausal women, as there is a decrease in estrogen levels, residual volume, and urine flow. In addition, atrophy of the vaginal mucosa occurs, causing dryness, irritation, etc.

Infections also occur recurrently after sexual intercourse. Here are some tips to reduce its frequency in this case:

  • Genital washing only external, before and after intercourse.
  • Urinate immediately afterwards if there is a chance that some bacteria may have entered.
  • Use of sexual lubricants before intercourse in the case of menopausal women.

Complications of cystitis

Cystitis or any other lower urinary tract infection is not complicated if treated early. On the other hand, if they are not treated properly, they can cause serious problems.

Some of the complications that may occur are:

  • A kidney infection resulting from the absence of treatment for a bladder infection.
  • Hematuria, the presence of blood in the urine.
  • Sepsis. This is the most drastic complication that ends up causing death.

Prevention

Most urinary tract infections are cured after the administration of various drugs. However, a number of measures can be taken to alleviate them, especially if they are recurrent infections.

Some of the tips discussed below will largely prevent microbial development in the urinary tract. This prevents numerous urinary tract infections such as cystitis. These are detailed below:

  • Emptying the bladder completely when urinating.
  • Urinating after intercourse, as many microorganisms can take advantage to invade the urethra.
  • Wiping genitals from front to back.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids to promote the formation of urine.
  • Avoiding moisture in the pelvic area.
  • Changing the wet swimsuit after swimming in swimming pools, beaches, etc.
  • Maintaining good intimate hygiene.
  • Consuming cranberry juice and dairy products with probiotics.
  • Being careful with some condoms, spermicidal creams and diaphragms, as they alter the pH of the vaginal area.

Probiotics are a group of living microorganisms (bacteria and yeasts) that have a beneficial effect on the body. They are microorganisms that inhabit the digestive system in a normal way and when consumed, they allow to balance the composition of the flora.

Treatment for cystitis

The goal of treatment is to eliminate the symptoms and the agent causing the infection. Depending on the type of causative agent, one drug or another will be administered. That way, the doctor will prescribe:

  • An antibiotic if the cause is bacterial (most common.)
  • An antifungal medication if the infection is caused by a fungus such as Candida.
  • An antiviral medication if the infectious agent is a virus such as herpes.

The prescribed medication is usually taken orally and the treatment time is usually less than two weeks. However, it will always depend on the type of infection, the causative microorganism and the drug chosen by the specialist.

Admission to hospital is necessary only in the most serious cases with added complications.

Home Remedies

There are simple home remedies used to treat urinary tract infections, particularly cystitis. However, it should not be forgotten that these remedies cannot replace the pharmacological treatment established by the doctor.

These home remedies are not a complete cure, but simply help. We are going to discuss some of them: We are going to discuss some of them:

  • Consumption of blueberries because it has proanthocyanidins, substances that hinder the adhesion of bacteria, especially Escherichia Coli, in the urinary tract, thus slowing the infection. If the bacteria do not adhere to the urinary epithelium, they can be eliminated with the urine and infection will not occur. Although it is advisable to consume natural blueberries or juice, there are also preparations of proanthocyanidins. Blueberry intake has no side effects and is not contraindicated during pregnancy or breastfeeding. In addition, it can be combined with other antibiotic treatments without reducing their effect.
  • Drinking parsley tea, as this food helps eliminate toxins in the urine and strengthens the renal metabolism.
  • Drinking natural juices with lemon because it has antiseptic and antibacterial power.
  • Consumption of radishes because they have antibiotic and diuretic power, which will make you urinate more times and in greater quantities.

FAQs from users

Why are some people more prone to urinary tract infections?

By Dr. Paloma de la Fuente Vaquero MD, PhD, MSc (gynecologist).

Recurrent urinary tract infections (RUTIs) are a frequent affectation of the urinary tract, especially in sexually active young women, pregnant women, and postmenopausal patients (with genital atrophy due to estrogenic deficit) and women with urologic pathology.
Read more

Does urinary tract infection during pregnancy suppose a risk?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

During gestation there are a number of changes in a woman's body that can increase the chance of urinary tract infection. The risk lies in the fact that the infection spreads to the bloodstream and is dangerous to the fetus and mother. For this reason, it is common to test the urine during routine pregnancy check-ups.

The most prominent fetal risks are: premature birth, impaired fetal growth, low birth weight, or anemia in the baby.

What antibiotic should I take if I have symptoms of cystitis?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

It is not recommended to take any antibiotics without your doctor's advice. As mentioned above, cystitis may be caused by bacteria, fungus, or virus, and depending on this, one or the other treatment will be given.

If you have symptoms of cystitis or suspect a urinary tract infection, see your doctor for advice on the most appropriate treatment.

Is it possible for me to have blood in my urine because of the infection?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Yes, although it does not always occur, hematuria or the presence of blood in the urine may occur as a result of a urinary tract infection.

Do men get urinary tract infection, too?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez (embryologist).

Of course, urinary tract infections also affect men. However, they are less prevalent, although treatments tend to last longer.

Microorganisms can colonize the prostate of young and sexually active men. In addition, an increased prostate due to elevated testosterone levels in adult men leads to incomplete emptying of the bladder, leading to urinary tract infection.

Can a urinary infection delay my period?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez (embryologist).

It is normal that in the presence of a urinary infection there is a delay in menstruation given the stressful situation that is generated in the body.

Stress entails hormonal alterations in the woman that can lead to a transitory amenorrhea or irregular menstrual cycles.

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References

Author

 Clara Miret Lucio
Clara Miret Lucio
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Pharmacy from the University of Valencia (UV). Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the UV. Experience as a pharmacist and embryologist specialized in Reproductive Medicine at Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI), and currently at Equipo Juana Crespo (Valencia, Spain). More information about Clara Miret Lucio
Adapted into english by:
 Romina Packan
Romina Packan
inviTRA Staff
Editor and translator for the English and German edition of inviTRA. More information about Romina Packan

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