Dr HANX Dispatch: How To Handle Honeymoon Cystitis
Honeymoon cystitis: is that a real thing?
“Honeymoon cystitis” is a term often used when you get cystitis after sex. It’s a pretty common occurence if you haven't had sex for a long time and get back to it, especially in people with vaginas who are in their 20s or their 50s. The nickname honeymoon cystitis comes from the trope that it tends to kick in for people on their honeymoon. It doesn't have to be nuptial related, either. Honeymoon cystitis can also be related to cystitis that crops up after sexual activity at any time. Basically, if you're having lots and lots of sex (not that we're jealous or anything)...
How does sex cause cystitis in women?
Cystitis in generally is more common in women and people with vaginas due to our anatomy. Our urethra (the tube that carries urine from our bladder to outside of the body) is much shorter in comparison to men and people with penises, so it’s easier for bacteria to travel from the outside into our bodies and cause irritation and infection.
It’s also pretty common to get cystitis after sex, as during penetrative sex, the penis can irritate the back wall of the bladder when it pushes against the front wall of the vagina. This pushes bacteria into the bladder, which can be the start of a urinary tract infection.
Penetrative sex or not, when having sex, the bacteria outside of the body, and often near the bottom (there are many bacteria near the anus that commonly cause UTIs), can make its way into the urethra as these areas of the body are very close in proximity.
Some women and people with vaginas get cystitis after having sex with a new partner, or one particular partner, due to the anatomy of the couple, as well as being exposed to new bacteria. Thus, cystitis after sex = very common.
Why is honeymoon cystitis common in young women and also women in their 50s+?
Honeymoon cystitis can occur after your first time having penetrative sexual intercourse, as well as if you're dating and having sex with new partners for the first time. However, it's also commonly seen in women and people with vaginas who may be re-entering the dating scene after a period without a sexual partner or after a divorce, for example. Hence, there is another peak in the 40-50s+ age group.
How do I know I have honeymoon cystitis?
If you’ve ever had cystitis, or a urinary tract infection (which are pretty common), then you’ll be all too familiar with the symptoms of burning or stinging when you pass urine, needing to pee urgently, pain low down on your tummy and sometimes cloudy or blood-tinged urine.
How do I treat honeymoon cystitis?
As with normal cystitis, you can take cystitis relief sachets to help manage your cystitis symptoms but if this doesn’t help or the cystitis doesn't clear up within 48 hours, you should see your doctor for a short course of antibiotics to treat the infection.
It’s advisable to abstain from sex until your infection has cleared up, although honestly, it's probably the last thing on your mind right now...
Do I need to stop having sex if I get honeymoon cystitis?
Absolutely not! There are many preventative measures you can take and if they don’t work, you can see your doctor to review if you need any further treatment to help prevent the cystitis you experience after sex. There are many people with similar experiences, and it is not uncommon, so remember you’re not alone. Chat with other people in the same boat over on our free digital safe space, the HANX Life forum. You can help prevent honeymoon cystitis in the first place by following the below tips:
- Pee straight after sex. Number one rule. This also helps flush away any bacteria that may be around the genital area or within the urethra after sex. 💦
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. This helps flush out any bacteria that may be sitting in the urinary tract. 🚰
- Look after yourself and keep your immune system strong. If you are susceptible to lots of bouts of cystitis, it’s worth considering cutting down on drinks and substances that irritate the bladder such as caffeine and alcohol. ☕
- Try using lube to make sure there is less friction in the area. Ensure its kind to your body, pH balanced and free from unnecessary chemicals, as this will just irritate you more! ✨
- Try different positions. If you’re experiencing cystitis every time after sex, it may be worth asking your partner to be more gentle or try different positions. 💗
- If you've gotta go... Pee before sex to empty the bladder of any bacteria. 💡
- Try to avoid using spermicides (in your contraception or lubricant) and if possible, avoid using diaphragms contraception, as these can increase your chances of getting cystitis after sex.
What if I can’t pee straight after sex?
Sometimes it can be very tricky to pass urine straight after intercourse, as the muscles that control the release of urine cannot relax after sex.
After the menopause (when periods stop), hormone levels including oestrogen change, meaning it may be even more difficult to pass urine immediately after sex. Fluctuating levels of oestrogen can also contribute to structural changes of the vagina, bladder and urinary tract, often causing thinning of their walls and dryness. These all contribute to making infections more likely, hence why “honeymoon cystitis” is common in women and people with vaginas who are over 50 years old.
What’s more, straight after sex is often a very intimate time, and many people don’t want to destroy the post-coital haze by leaping up and off to the loo! However, to ensure urine does not remain in the bladder, and therefore increasing the risk of infection, it’s advisable to not wait too long before peeing after sex.
What if my cystitis doesn’t stop after sex and I have tried the preventative measures above?
If you’ve tried a few measures such as lubricants, different sexual positions, and peeing straight after sex, but you’re still regularly getting cystitis after sex, it’s worth seeing your doctor about it. They may refer you to a gynaecologist for an examination, to check if you have any anatomical problems that is causing the issue. For example, if you have a prolapsed bladder, you may be susceptible to irritation during sex due to where the bladder is in your pelvis (if it is a bit lower than normal).
If you’re getting regular episodes of cystitis after sex, you may also benefit from taking a one-off dose of an antibiotic immediately after sex or a low dose antibiotic longer term to help prevent these.
If you have gone through or going through the menopause, you may also benefit from using oestrogen creams which your doctor can prescribe.
Is honeymoon cystitis a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
No! Honeymoon cystitis is triggered by sex, but it is not an STI. However, if you’re having sex with a new partner, be sure to use protection, such as condoms to protect from STIs. And if you’re experiencing other symptoms such as abnormal vaginal discharge, pain or bleeding, see your sexual health clinic or doctor for review.