You don't have to hop out of bed and into the shower right away. But gently cleaning yourself after sex can protect men and women from infections, like of the urinary tract (UTIs). Wash the area around (not inside) your genitals with plain warm water. You can try mild soaps, but if you have sensitive skin or you already have an infection, they might dry out or irritate the area. Men with foreskin should gently pull it back and wash underneath.
Some women think they need to clean inside their vagina after sex with water or prepackaged fluids. But douching can lead to more infections. That's because it upsets the natural balance of bacteria that protect your vagina. The best way to take care of your vagina after sex is to leave it alone -- it cleans itself naturally. Also, keep in mind that a mild smell is normal and may not be a sign of a problem.
Along with douches, drug stores offer lots of wipes, creams, and sprays that claim to help you "freshen up" your personal areas. Some of them are made with harsh soaps, detergents, shampoos, perfumes, or lotions that can make your skin break out. Just stick to a gentle rinse with warm water after sex. And avoid scented tampons, pads, powders, and sprays, especially if you tend to get infections.
During sex, bacteria can get into your urethra, the tube that carries urine out of your body. That can raise your chances of an infection. When you pee, you flush those germs out. So enjoy some cuddle time with your partner, then head to the bathroom. If you're a woman, when you wipe, do it from front to back to stop the spread of bacteria.
Since it's a good idea to pee after a roll in the hay, don't forget to drink water. When you stay hydrated, you'll pee more, which means that more bacteria will wash out of your body before infections can flare up.
Hot, sweaty places are the perfect spots for bacteria and yeast to thrive. So wear underwear and clothes that let air in. Women should avoid pantyhose, girdles, and panties that are too tight. Cotton undies work well for men and women -- they're breathable and absorb moisture. Or skip underwear altogether when you go to bed.
It's the best way to get rid of bacteria you might pick up from touching your or your partner's genitals. That's key to stop infections from spreading. Wash with soap and water, and make it part of your post-sex clean-up routine.
After you're done with them, bacteria, viruses, and fungi can hang around. That means your toys could spread STDs and other infections. Clean each toy after every use -- check the packaging for cleaning instructions. It's better not to share toys with others -- that can send germs back and forth. If you do plan to share, try to cover the toy with a new condom each time you use it.
Partners can pass these back and forth during sex. (Yes, guys get yeast infections, too.) So if you notice the symptoms -- itching, burning, or a thick, white discharge from the vagina or penis -- treat it before the next time you get busy. Talk to your doctor if you think you have one.
If you're sexually active, especially if you've been with a new partner, it's a good idea to get tested for STDs. Most of the time, these infections have no symptoms, so testing is the only way to know for sure if you have one. You can also watch for symptoms, like discharge, pain, blisters, sores, spots, or lumps around your genitals.
Sex is usually safe during pregnancy, but you are more likely to get infections like UTIs during this time. So it's even more important to take care of the basics after sex -- pee afterward, wash around your vagina, and drink water. Encourage your partner to do the same.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
- Environmental Health Perspectives: "A Question for Women's Health: Chemicals in Feminine Hygiene Products and Personal Lubricants."
- Mayo Clinic: "Contact Dermatitis," "Male yeast infection: How can I tell if I have one?" "Urinary tract infection (UTI).
- Michigan Medicine: "Vaginal Rashes and Sores."
- NHS Choices: "What should I do if I think I've got an STI?" "How to keep a penis clean."
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Bladder Infection (Urinary Tract Infection -- UTI) in Adults."
- U.C. Santa Barbara SexInfoOnline: "Non-Sexual Transmission of STIs."
- Urology Annals: "Impact of genital hygiene and sexual activity on urinary tract infection during pregnancy."
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women's Health: "Douching," "Vaginal yeast infections."
- CDC: "STD & HIV Screening Recommendations."
- Planned Parenthood: "Get Tested."