Daily Archives: April 4, 2016

Q&A with J: Protecting Yourself from Infection

Today’s question’s involves infections that sometimes happen to women post-sex. Here’s what the wife asks:

I am a 44-year-old newlywed. My husband I both waited for each other all those years, and I’m so glad we did! Marriage is a blessing and he was definitely worth the wait.

[Wow. Insert applause here! Well done, you.]

Because I was never sexually active, I didn’t really think about it, or even know about what new brides bodies go through (I felt so naive for such an old lady!). Consequently, I’ve suffered UTI’s and the latest Urethritis. I’ve felt so bad for so many months that I’m afraid I’ll never feel normal again. I have a great Christian doctor, so there is hope! So, my question to you is, how do I protect that part of me while having sex? I’ve experienced some pain while going through this and don’t want to neglect my husband out of fear it will return. Besides the normal, hygiene, cranberry pills, lots of water advice; is there anything you can tell me to help me in the actual mechanics of sex? And how to keep away (or at least protect) that part of me?

Q&A with J: Protecting Yourself from Infection

For those who don’t know the tried-and-true suggestions, here’s a quick run-down:

  • When using the bathroom, keep your wiping separated. Doctors recommend wiping front to back, to keep harmful bacteria from the rectal area from reaching your more delicate urethral opening.
  • Empty your bladder before and after intercourse. There’s conflicting advice on this one, some saying only after. I simply have my own experience of a gynecologist suggesting before as well and me noticing an improvement. But ask your doctor.
  • Drink plenty of liquids, especially water. You need to flush our your urinary tract regularly anyway, but even more so with the possible introduction of irritants.
  • Keep his and her areas clean. Bacteria causes infection, and good washing and hygiene prevent the appearance of bacteria. You could shower before, even together, or simply clean your genitals with a damp cloth or cleansing cloths you can buy (like these from healthy hoohoo).
  • Drink cranberry juice, and keep cranberry pills around just in case. Cranberries somehow prevent bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract. It’s not a cure-all, but it is a prevention technique and it can ease painful urinating if you do get an infection.

Those are the basics for preventing urinary tract infections. But you might get infections anyway. Let’s look at why and some suggestions for the “actual mechanics of sex” to help you avoid this unpleasant experience.

Potential Contributors

The reason we wives get more urinary tract and bladder infections is that our urethra is closer to our vagina and anus than for men. It’s easier for bacteria to navigate where it doesn’t belong and get trapped. Women also have a shorter urethra, so the bacteria doesn’t have to travel as far. That may not sound fair, but there it is.

(And since we can have multiple orgasms, maybe things balance out somehow.)

In addition to our anatomy challenges, and the causes implied in the above advice, here are a few other potential contributors:

Your birth control method. Although the diaphragm was my favorite form of birth control, it is linked with a higher incidence of UTIs for some women. That’s also true of certain oral contraceptives, spermicides, and female condoms. These can irritate the urethra, making an infection more likely. So if you’re on contraception, check with your doctor to ensure that your method is not contributing to your infections.

You’re up against menopause. At age 44, I doubt this is the issue. However, I feel I should mention that menopause, and perimenopause, can affect women in various ways — including an increase in UTIs. From the little bit I read, extra estrogen could clear that up. But I’m not a doctor, so — once again — chat with your physician if you believe this could be an issue.

He’s uncircumcised. I’m well aware of the ongoing debate about whether to circumcise infant boys, and I’m not getting into that. I simply want to point out that uncircumcised males have a higher risk or UTIs themselves and of passing on bacteria to their wives (American Academy of Pediatrics; “Study: Uncircumcised Boys Have a Higher Risk of UTI”.) There’s some contradictory research, of course, but the upshot is that doctors recommend extra-careful cleaning for uncircumcised adult males. Bacteria can get trapped around that foreskin, so why not take additional time to make sure that’s not a contributing issue?

You have allergies. You could have an allergy to ingredients included in soaps, lotions, bubble baths, etc. If you have a sensitivity to such products, you should stop using them and find alternatives. See an allergy doctor to find out if this is an issue, or run your own test by cutting things out and seeing how your body responds. Then make changes accordingly.

You’re new at this. For most wives, UTIs are more common early on. We are more sensitive to sexual friction and bacteria at the beginning, and it gets better over time. Indeed, bladder infections have been called “honeymoon cystitis” due to their prevalence in formerly virgin newlyweds. As your body grows more used to the activity and gets a little tougher, so to speak, you might find that your infections decrease in frequency.

Sexual Mechanics

Anal contact. I have strong concerns about anal sex, because God did not create our anus to be responsive the way a vagina is. It’s simply not the same. Health workers also report more injuries and infections for those who engage in anal activity. Likewise, I have no idea what your sexual repertoire entails, but if doctors say not to wipe with toilet paper from your rectum toward your urethra, then it hardly sounds like a great idea to involve that area in sexual activity. Particularly if you tend to have infections. Consider that as you and your husband decide what you will or won’t do in your marriage bed.

Friction. Take it easy. “Harder and faster” probably shouldn’t be your clarion call in the middle of sex. Until your UTIs are more under control, he should be easing in and rhythmically thrusting, rather than pounding it in and out. To that end, you may need to help things out by making sure he’s comfortably sliding in. You can reach down and guide his penis and/or use your hands to spread your vaginal lips so that things don’t get, well, folded and scrunched up down there. When he’s inserted correctly, the contact should be with your inner vaginal lips and vagina and should feel like a good fit. Then let the rhythm begin.

Lubrication. Given that high friction can be issue, you should also attend to lubrication. You either need to take sufficient time in foreplay to produce ample lubrication to reduce unnecessary friction or use a personal lubricant. You might fare better with natural coconut oil or an organic product (like Sliquid or Good Clean Love).

Sexual positions. I found conflicting information on whether specific sexual positions are tied to urinary tract infections. But in my mind, it stands to reason that if the issue is partly the distance bacteria has to travel to reach the urethra, couldn’t your sexual position play into that? I certainly know that some positions stretch out your body more down there, and others bunch it up. In my research, the one position named as a potential culprit is woman on top. But I suspect sitting positions might be more problematic in general than standing or lying down. If someone has experience proving or disproving this theory, be sure to say so in the comments.

Sexual frequency. One of the reasons why UTIs are more common when you first start having sex is that you’re usually having a lot of sex. Now I am all for having frequent sex. Daily sounds just fine to me! But what happens for many couples is that frequency eases off a bit when you get deeper into the marriage.

When couples first start having sex, they’re usually like, This is great! Let’s do this all the time! It’s fresh, new, and exciting, so you go at it a lot. But like all that romantic stuff you did in the beginning, you typically settle into that being among the things you do together, but not as centrally focused. The last time I looked, the average happy marriage had sex around three times a week. That’s still pretty good.

But for women I’ve known who struggled with UTIs early on, their schedule often went more like: Sex every day for a week, UTI arrives, no sex for a week while recovering, then sex again every day for a week . . . and so on. Truth is, you’re not getting any more sex this way than if you went to every other day to see if that helps your body become less irritated. This doesn’t mean you’d have to keep up the every-other-day plan forever. Your body may just need some time to acclimate.

There will likely be some trial-and-error in figuring out what works for you. But I hope it helps having a few more suggestions here.

And now let’s see if my readers have any of their own suggestions. Chime in, y’all!