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Common sexual health problems

Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary Tract Infection or UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary system (kidneys, bladder, bladder and urethra). UTIs are caused by micro-organisms, usually bacteria from your digestive tract, getting inside the tube that carries the urine (pee) from your bladder to the outside of the body through your penis or vulva. This is usually because bacteria from the anus has made its way to other parts of the genitals like the tip of the penis or the front of the vulva.

UTIs are not considered an STI because they can be caused by many other things. Sometimes people will get a UTI from wiping the wrong direction after using the toilet. You should always wipe backwards – from the front of the body back to the anus to avoid getting any feces or poo near the opening to the urethra.

Even though a UTI is not an STI, having sex or engaging in sexual activity can sometimes increase the risk of having a UTI. This is because bacteria can be spread if genitals are pressed or rubbed into one another, or if hands touch around the anus and then near the urethra opening.

If you have ever had a UTI or if you are someone who gets them often, it is a good idea to pee shortly after you have sex to help prevent them. This is because urinating will help flush out any bacteria from inside the urethra before it has a chance to reach the bladder!

UTIs are more common in people with a vulva because their urinary tract, or urethra, is shorter – only about 4cm long, which means it is easier for the bacteria to travel up to the bladder. The urethra in the penis is longer, so UTIs are less common. Signs of a UTI are:

  • a burning feeling when peeing
  • feeling like you need to pee more often, even if only a few drops come out
  • cloudy, or very smelly pee – may have blood in it
  • pain in the lower abdomen or tummy (above the pubic bone)

UTIs are not usually serious, but they can be really uncomfortable! They can be treated easily with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. There are also some things you can do at home which might help like drinking lots of water. If you have any of these signs or think you may have a UTI you should see your local doctor, make an appointment with a Family Planning NSW Clinic or Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS).

Genital thrush

Thrush – or candida – is a common infection caused by yeast that is usually found in the vagina, mouth and bowel. This yeast is natural and usually doesn’t cause any problems because it is kept in balance by other organisms that live normally on the skin and in the body. Sometimes this natural balance can be thrown off by things like pregnancy, wearing very tight pants or certain types of non-breathable fabrics often, diabetes or medications. When this happens, there may be an overgrowth of the yeast causing thrush.

Thrush can happen in the vagina or on the penis, usually where the foreskin meets the underside or ridge of the head of the penis. Thrush is more common in the vagina than the penis, because the vagina has its own natural yeast. Someone with thrush may have a thick, white, cottage-cheesy fluid or discharge that may smell, and the outside of the vagina or penis might be red, itchy or sore.

Thrush is not an STI – which means your sexual partner’s do not need to be tested or treated for thrush but sex might be uncomfortable or painful until it is treated.

You can get antifungal creams or tablets from the chemist without a prescription to treat thrush, and they usually work within a week. If the itching, soreness or redness doesn’t go away it is important to see your local doctor, make an appointment at a Family Planning NSW Clinic or Aboriginal Medical Service.