Sex certainly isn't a one-dimensional act. It's a play of sorts: the overture, the opening number, the intermission, the climax, perhaps an encore, and the final curtain call. We know that practicing safe sex is important, but what you may not know is that healthy sex doesn't stop when we take our final bows. It extends long after.
Whether you're with a new partner or a longtime S.O., your post-coital inclination may be to either slip your clothes back on or fall asleep, but according to gynecologists, what you do during this time period is crucial for your reproductive health. To give you some guidance, we've outlined the most important things to do after sex.
SweetSpot Labs expert Jessica A. Shepherd, MD, says urinating after sex is important to help rid the urinary tract of bacteria and avoid UTIs. This also prevents bacteria from reaching the bladder, which could lead to a bladder infection. The general rule of thumb is to try to urinate within 15 minutes of having sex.
Gently wipe down the outside of your vagina with water or paraben-, perfume-, and fragrance-free soaps. Cleansers with the aforementioned additives may irritate the vagina, and perfumes "contribute to an overgrowth of odor-producing bacteria," according to Shepherd. Also, forgo douching altogether. According to Truly MD co-founder Sheeva Talebian, MD, of CCRM in New York, douching "can be abrasive, as this can cause micro-tears in vaginal blood vessels and increase infection risk."
Check for Signs of Pain or Bleeding
"Don't ignore abnormal bleeding or discharge after sex—it could be a sign of infection or a lesion of your reproductive tract," says Talebian. Similarly, pain during or after sex could be a result of infection, irritation from the lubrication or condom, or a more serious gynecological condition. Speak with your doctor if you notice these symptoms.
Drink Cranberry Juice
You've probably heard that drinking cranberry juice is a good remedy for a UTI, but it's also a smart preventative measure. "Unsweetened cranberry juice and cranberry pills may decrease the risk of getting a UTI," says Brian A. Levine, MD, MS, FACOG, director of CCRM NY. "The exact amount of juice or pills needed and how long you need to take them to prevent infection are being studied. The idea is that cranberry juice can change the pH of the urine and make it a less hostile environment for bacteria to grow."
Check the Condom
Levine says to always make sure there hasn't been a condom malfunction post-sex. "When using condoms for contraception and prevention of STDs, always make sure that the condom did not break, and that the condom was discarded. A piece or whole condom that is retained in the vagina after having sex defeats the purpose of using a condom and puts you at great risk for infections and pregnancy."
"If you had unprotected sex with a new partner, strongly consider STD testing and a chat, and check up with your gynecologist," urges Talebian.
If you're experiencing any pain or difficulty during sex or have questions about your sexual health, please speak with a doctor.
National Institute on Aging. 13 tips to keep your bladder healthy. Updated May 1, 2017.