Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are considered more common in women than in men due to the proximity of the urethra to the clitoris and anus. Although they are not caused by sex, intercourse is certainly a factor that often contributes to UTIs.
So, can oral sex cause a UTI too?
Read on to understand more about what causes UTIs, how they can be prevented & treated, and how to know if your partner performing oral sex can result in a UTI for you.
What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
A UTI is categorized as a bacterial infection in any part of the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys, urethra, and ureters. The bladder, however, is the most frequently affected part of the urinary tract for females, typically resulting in symptoms like a more frequent urge to pee, pain or burning when urinating, and pelvic pain.
If left untreated, UTIs can spread to the kidneys resulting in long-term health issues and regularly recurring UTIs.
What Causes UTIs?
Put simply, harmful bacteria are typically at the root of urinary tract infections, specifically E. coli, which is linked to 90% of UTIs worldwide. That said, harmful bacteria like E. coli are always present in the lower intestines, rectum, and the skin in the anal area, so why do they cause UTIs in some women, and not in others?
The answer, more often than not, comes down to an unbalanced vaginal microbiome.
Also known as the vaginal flora, the vaginal microbiome is a balanced mixture of bacteria and microorganisms that naturally reside within the vagina to maintain a healthy pH balance and ward off the effects of harmful bacteria.
Although it is a combination of billions of healthy, harmful, and neutral bacteria, 95% of the vaginal microbiome is typically healthy bacteria called lactobacillus.
If this natural balance of the vaginal microbiome is upset, healthy bacteria within the vagina are no longer capable of fighting harmful bacteria like E. coli when it spreads from the anal region.
What Causes an Unbalanced Vaginal Microbiome?
Risk factors that are known to increase the risk of an unbalanced vaginal microflora include having sex, poor vaginal hygiene, douching, using fragranced lubricants or scented vaginal hygiene products, using spermicidal condoms, wiping from back to front after using the bathroom, taking antibiotics for another condition, hormonal imbalances during menopause, or when stressed or pregnant.
Can Oral Sex Cause a UTI?
Yes, oral sex can cause UTIs. Considering how close the clitoris is to the urethra, the tongue is just as effective as a penis at spreading E. coli from the anal region and pushing it into the vagina and urethra.
When the vaginal microbiome is balanced, healthy bacteria in the vagina will be capable of fighting the spread of harmful bacteria like E. coli during oral sex. However, the risk of a urinary tract infection from oral sex is considerably higher if the vagina owner is already experiencing an unbalanced vaginal microbiome.
Is Oral Sex Safe if Your Partner has a Sinus Infection or Strep Throat?
Not all bacteria from your partner's mouth are harmful to your vagina, however, recent studies have concluded that certain strains of bacteria associated with sinus infections, common colds, and strep throat could increase your chance of UTIs.
Sinus Infections & Oral Sex
Although researchers acknowledge that the E. coli strains associated with sinus infections or common colds differ from those known to cause UTIs, the possibility that they could adapt and encourage other harmful bacteria to thrive also exist, particularly if the vaginal microbiome is unbalanced.
Additionally, staphylococcus aureus, another bacteria associated with sinus infections, has been identified in UTI lab cultures in increasing amounts in recent years.
Strep Throat & Oral Sex
During studies focused on the three groups of streptococcus bacteria, researchers confirmed that although group A streptococcus is the most common cause of a sore throat, it could not contribute to a UTI during oral sex. Group B streptococcus (GBS) from a throat infection, on the other hand, could increase the risk of a UTI by co-colonizing with the naturally found GBS in the vagina or urinary tract.
Both studies concluded that if a partner performing oral sex has a sinus infection, a cold, or strep throat, the bacteria responsible for each infection could increase the risk of a UTI for the receiver.
How to Prevent UTIs?
According to statistics, approximately 60% of women suffer from at least one UTI in their lifetime, however, with some minor lifestyle changes and the inclusion of powerful natural supplements, the risk of UTIs happening or recurring is significantly reduced.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent UTIs
- Drink at least 2.5 liters of water per day to help flush harmful bacteria from the urinary tract.
- Wipe front to back after using the bathroom to avoid spreading harmful bacteria from the anal region to the urethra.
- Don’t hold your pee. When you need to go, go. Holding your urine for too long can allow harmful bacteria to build up in the urinary tract.
- Never use douching products, scented menstrual products, or fragranced hygiene products for your vagina. They upset the natural vaginal microbiome.
- Practice safe sex by using a condom or dam but stay away from spermicide condoms, which can alter the natural pH balance of the vagina and leave it susceptible to infection.
- Refrain from oral sex if your partner has a sinus infection, cold, or sore throat.
- Always wash your genitals after sex and try to empty the bladder to clear the urethra of any harmful bacteria.
Natural Supplements to Treat & Prevent UTIs
Freeze Dried Aloe Vera Supplements with D-Mannose & Calcium from Intimate Rose are highly recommended for soothing and preventing urinary tract infections. For those suffering from recurring UTIs, this 3-in-1 supplement can be taken on an ongoing preventative basis, to discourage harmful bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.
The next useful supplements to treat and prevent UTIs are probiotics. In addition to improving your digestive health, probiotics also help to maintain a healthy vaginal microbiome and prevent UTIs from developing when taken on an ongoing basis.
Additionally, antibiotics can upset the balance of bacteria in a healthy vagina, therefore women’s health experts highly recommend taking daily probiotics in conjunction with antibiotics for a UTI, or other conditions, to prevent subsequent UTIs.
Caused by the spread of harmful bacteria from the anal region to the urethra, urinary tract infections (UTIs) happen to over 60% of women at least once in their life. Just as sexual intercourse can contribute to the spread of harmful bacteria from the anal area to the urinary tract, oral sex can too.
While antibiotics are required to treat a UTI, recurring infections can be prevented with the help of some minor lifestyle changes and two powerful natural supplements to maintain a healthy vaginal microbiome.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Urinary Tract Infection - https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html
The Healthy Journal – What happens if you have a UTI and receive oral - https://www.thehealthyjournal.com/frequently-asked-questions/what-happens-if-you-have-a-uti-and-receive-oral
National Library of Medicine - Development of a biofilm inhibitor molecule against multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus associated with gestational UTIs - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4531255/#B2
National Library of Medicine - Determinants of co-colonization with group B streptococcus among heterosexual college couples - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12192222/
National Center for Biotechnology Information – In Vitro Antimicrobial Activity of Aloe Vera Gel on Selected Urinary Pathogens - http://thebiomedicapk.com/articles/527.pdf
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Combination of Probiotics and Antibiotics in the Prevention of Recurrent Urinary Tract Infection in Children - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3883373
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.