This article was first published in The Skeptical Inquirer.
As much as you may want to cuddle, many of us with vaginas have heard that it is crucial that we get up and void our bladders as soon after sexual intercourse as possible. If you’ve had a urinary tract infection (UTI), avoiding the intensely uncomfortable nature of a constant need to pee combined with an inability to do so and a painful burning when you try is motivation enough to cut your post-coital bliss short. But this after-intercourse ritual might not be helping us as much as we think.
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria being introduced into the urethra. They tend to affect vagina owners at tremendously higher rates due to their urethras being significantly shorter and closer to their anuses than penis owners’. During sexually intimate moments, when fluids and flesh are all sliding around, it’s relatively easy for foreign bacteria to find its way to the urethra. The story goes that by urinating after sex, the acidic pee helps flush these bacteria out, lowering the chances of a UTI. But there isn’t a ton of good evidence behind this recommendation.
Lisa Dawn Hamilton, PhD, a psychology professor and sex researcher, points out that “There is very little research on the topic at all, but the existing studies have shown no link. In fact, when comparing people with and without UTIs, the studies find that equal numbers of people pee and don’t pee after sex in the UTI and non-UTI groups.”
Given the low-impact nature of an intervention like urinating after intercourse, many researchers, doctors, and concerned parents continue to advise doing so. However, this technique can have adverse effects beyond wasted time and lost snuggles. As gynaecologist Dr. Jen Gunter put it in her book The Vagina Bible, “every time we make women jump through another useless hoop to get better, we add a burden, be it financial or emotional.”