When the after-glow of sex suddenly gives way to an overwhelming urge to pee, an alarm bell goes off in most women’s heads: “Oh my god, I’ve got another urinary tract infection.” But sometimes, after we’ve rushed to uncover our emergency stash of Cipro and sent our partner out on a cranberry juice run, something funny happens: we find out that, despite that feeling of intense pressure on our bladder immediately post-sex, our expected UTI never shows up. So if that need to pee wasn’t a UTI symptom, what the heck was it?
Most of us have been warned about the danger signs of UTIs since we became sexually active, and with good reason: a garden variety UTI can turn from a painful inconvenience into a serious health issue, like a kidney infection, very quickly. And since pelvic pressure and the urgent need to pee are some of the most common early signs of a urinary tract infection, it pays to stay aware of them.
Yet many of us have occasionally experienced this feeling of bladder fullness and pressure that doesn’t even develop a UTI. Which is great … but also confusing. What gives?
In order to get some answers, Bustle spoke with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, OBGYN and assistant clinical professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and author of V is for Vagina. Dr. Dweck explained to us why we sometimes feel the urgent need to pee after sex, even when our junk is perfectly healthy— and why we should still remain on guard against UTIs.
Potential Culprit #1: Bladder Spasms
At first glance, having “bladder spasms” doesn’t sound much better than having a UTI — after all, who wants the part of your body that holds your urine to be having spasms? But while some people have frequent bladder spasms — possibly as a result of a chronic health issue like interstitial cystitis — many of us will experience a one-off bladder spasm from time to time after having sexual intercourse. And women who are penetrated vaginally aren’t the only people to report this feeling — some men have reported a similar “need to pee” sensation following ejaculation.
“Bladder spasms (spontaneous muscle contractions) after intercourse may be the cause of this transient feeling,” Dr. Dweck tells Bustle. Feeling a bladder spasm after sex doesn’t mean that you’re incontinent, or going to pee on yourself, either — this contraction of bladder muscles simply creates the feeling that you must urinate immediately, but it doesn’t actually force you to go (your bladder could even be mostly empty when you feel this sensation).
“[Bladder spasms are] not dangerous and in most cases will resolve quickly afterwards,” says Dweck. “Emptying a full bladder prior to intercourse may be helpful” in preventing a bladder spasm after sex, and taking “an over the counter bladder analgesic … or a daily probiotic which balances yeast and bacteria … could be beneficial” if you find yourself regularly experiencing this phenomenon.
Potential Culprit #2: Uterine Contractions
You know how when you have an orgasm, it can feel like every muscle in your body is contracting? Many muscles do contract when you orgasm — and that can include your uterus.
“Uterine contractions are typical during orgasm,” says Dweck, “and the bladder sits anatomically in close proximity,” which means that those uterine contractions can jostle your bladder around. Throw in the extra blood flow and engorgement present in the uterine/bladder area following an orgasm, and you have a situation where your bladder is very sensitive — and any pressure on it can feel intense.
Potential Culprit #3: Urinary Tract Infections
Of course, sometimes that bladder pressure, “gotta go RIGHT NOW” post-sex feeling really is a UTI. Though bladder spasms and uterine contractions can create an urgent bladder sensation, Dr. Dweck notes that UTIs are the most common culprit of this sense of post-coital bladder fullness — so you shouldn’t stop being vigilant about them, especially if you know that you’re prone to them. Seventy-five percent of UTIs are related to sexual intercourse, so it pays to be aware of your post-coital bladder tingles, even if they turn out to be nothing.
Dweck recommends regularly urinating after intercourse as a preventative measure against UTIs, and notes that if you feel a phantom bladder fullness on the regular, but never seem to have a UTI, “it’s never a bad idea to check in with your gyno regularly for any persistent or chronic concerns.” But if you feel phantom bladder pressure due to orgasmic contractions once in a blue moon, don’t sweat it — and maybe have a few more orgasmic contractions, just to distract yourself.