Medically reviewed on May 19, 2023 by Amy Harris, MS, RN, CNM. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Not really, but it is complicated. So, let’s start with some definitions first. UTIs are infections involving any part of the urinary system, including your urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. Women and those people assigned female at birth (AFAB) are about 30 times more likely to get UTIs than men or people assigned male at birth (AMAB).  You can develop a UTI when normal bacteria living in your gut (most commonly E. coli bacteria) is accidentally transferred forward from your anus to your urethra (the opening to your urinary tract). Because female’s or people AFAB’s urethras are closer to their rectums, bacteria have a shorter distance to travel, and therefore women bare the brunt of the UTI burden. 
Because most types of sexual activity make it easier to spread this bacteria into the urethra, there is a connection between having sex and getting a UTI, especially if you have female anatomy. Men who have anal sex and those who are uncircumcised are also more likely to get UTIs than men who do not have anal sex or who are circumcised.  So, unlike some sexually transmitted infections that are transmitted through semen, blood, or vaginal secretions (such as HIV, chlamydia, or gonorrhea), UTIs are not directly transmitted through sexual activity.  But, if you are sexually active, it is definitely easier to develop a UTI, especially if you are female.
Fortunately, there are ways you can lower your risk of catching a UTI if you are sexually active. The other good news is that when caught early, UTIs can be treated quickly, easily, and affordably.  Below, we’ll touch on several risk factors for UTIs, as well as treatment and methods for prevention.
Researchers estimate that more than half of people assigned female at birth will contract at least one UTI in their lives.  In some cases, UTIs will go away without taking medication, but the only way to make sure you are cured is to consult with a health care provider about your symptoms and take any medications they prescribe.
It’s important to note that UTIs can become more complicated to treat (and more dangerous for you) if they go undiagnosed and untreated.
The threat posed by UTIs varies by which parts of your urinary tract they infect, how quickly you get treated, and whether or not you have other medical conditionsFor instance, cystitis (the name for what happens when a UTI infects your bladder) is considered relatively uncomplicated type of UTI, meaning that most cases of cystitis are easily, quickly, and successfully treated and cured without requiring urgent medical care or a hospital stay.  Cases of cystitis typically respond well to antibiotic treatment when caught early. 
However, UTIs that move up to infect the kidneys can be dangerous. Pyelonephritis (an infection of the kidneys that can develop from an untreated bacteria in your urethra or bladder) can be serious, require antibiotics through a tube in your vein (IV catheter), and urgent medical attention or hospitalization. Untreated pyelonephritis can cause permanent damage to your kidneys leading to high blood pressure, kidney disease, or kidney failure. 
Another possible life-threatening complication of kidney infections is called sepsis. Sepsis happens when your bladder infection spreads to your bloodstream.  Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection and is a medical emergency. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 3 people who die in a hospital had sepsis during their hospitalization. 
In addition to being sexually active, there are several other reasons why you might get a UTI or have trouble with repeated UTIs (called recurrent UTIs). Knowing about (and trying to reduce these risk factors when possible) may help you avoid getting a UTI the next time you have sex, particularly if you are a woman. Some UTI risk factors you can actually do something about, while others are harder to change (called non-modifiable risk factors). Some of those non-modifiable causes of UTIs that are hard to avoid are:
Chances are you probably already know about some of these tips and tricks to prevent UTIs, but just to refresh your memory, here are some prevention measures to try: 
In many cases, UTIs can occur without presenting any noticeable symptoms, especially in people with male anatomy The most common symptoms people with a UTI report are [4,5]:
If your UTI symptoms persist for longer than one to two days, or if they become more severe, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider to alleviate your pain and prevent the infection from advancing to the kidneys. [4,5]
Healthcare providers typically rely on antibiotic medications to treat most UTIs. These can include: [4,5]
While UTIs are not classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), some of their symptoms, like discomfort during urination, can be the same as STIs symptoms.  Besides learning how to prevent a UTI, sticking to a routine of sexual health testing may help bring you peace of mind and make sense of confusing and uncomfortable UTI symptoms you might be experiencing.
To discuss your symptoms and potentially get a diagnosis and treatment, you can speak with a clinician through Everlywell’s virtual care program. Depending on your symptoms and other health conditions you might have, you may be able to receive UTI treatment online.
Ready to learn more? Book a virtual care appointment today.