Around the world, urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are the most common adult bacterial infection. About 8 million people per year get a UTI in the United States alone! Because UTIs are so common, some people worry about introducing any changes to their bathroom routine. The idea of trying a bidet, for instance, raises some questions: can a bidet cause a UTI, or does a bidet help prevent UTIs? Let’s look at the correlation between bidet use and UTI risk and see why bidets are safe and sanitary for your urinary tract.
What causes a UTI?
In order to determine if a bidet can cause a UTI, we need to first understand how a UTI is contracted.
A UTI is an infection of any part of the urinary tract, the system made up of your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Symptoms of a lower urinary tract infection, meaning an infection in your urethra and bladder, include pain or burning while peeing, blood in your urine, lower back pain, difficulty peeing, frequent urination or urinary incontinence, discharge, and pain during sex. An upper urinary tract infection impacts your kidneys, and symptoms can include pain in your upper back or sides, nausea, vomiting, fever, or chills. An upper urinary tract infection can be serious, because the infection can spread from your kidneys to your blood. Always check with your doctor if you suspect you have a UTI, especially if your symptoms are getting worse, to make sure you get proper treatment.
Who is at risk for a UTI? Anyone could get one, but 85% of UTI diagnoses are for people with vaginas. In fact, 50% of people with vaginas will get a UTI sometime in their lifetime. Scientists think that this is because of the length of the urethra, the area through which urine exits as it’s leaving the bladder. The urethra is longer if it has to pass through the prostate and penis. A shorter urethra means more chance of infection.
To put it simply, a UTI is caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. But it’s a little more complicated than that, because many different types of bacteria can lead to this painful problem. E.coli is the most common type of bacteria responsible, but it’s not the only one, and some non-bacterial organisms can lead to a UTI as well. For this reason, treating a UTI can be tricky, because the antibiotic that you’re prescribed might be designed to eliminate a different type of bacteria than the one causing your UTI. To avoid the pain of an infection and the frustration of trying to treat it, you should take steps to prevent a UTI as much as possible.
Do bidets prevent UTIS, or do they cause them?
Anyone with a vagina has probably heard a few golden rules for avoiding UTIs: never wipe from back to front, and always make sure you pee after sex. Both of these rules are scientifically sound, and a bidet can help in both cases!
Wiping from back to front vastly increases the risk of bacteria getting into the vagina and urinary tract, especially if you’ve pooped. People asking “can a bidet cause a UTI?” are probably worried about this exact issue. However, bidet toilet seats and many bidet attachments have a front wash feature (sometimes called “feminine wash”) that sprays water from front to back, making sure that nothing is pushed into the vagina. You can use a drying feature, if your bidet has one, or gently pat dry with a few squares of toilet paper to make sure nothing is pushed into the urethra.
Sexual intercourse is one of the most common causes of UTIs because of bacteria that can enter the vagina during sex. You should always pee within 15 minutes after sex to flush out your urinary tract, and a bidet helps get everything extra clean. (In fact, the fresh, clean feeling that your bidet gives you after sex might help you remember to pee afterwards, just so you can use your bidet!)
The bottom line
Because a UTI is caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract, getting thoroughly clean when you use the bathroom is an important step in preventing UTIs. A bidet is a safe, sanitary way to keep yourself clean and avoid contracting a painful UTI.