For years now, you may have already had the habit of urinating or jumping in the shower right after sex. Practicing a simple post-sex hygiene routine might help reduce the risk for infections and discomfort for some, and that only becomes truer during and after menopause. But do you need to make any changes to your current routine?
We talked with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, Bonafide Chief Medical Officer, to find out her advice on after-sex clean up along with the habits to steer clear of.
Does Sex Require More Preparation and After-Care During Menopause?
Vaginal dryness and irritation are common complaints that women have during perimenopause and menopause, Dr. Dweck says. The dryness and irritation, which can be due to declining levels of estrogen, can potentially increase the risk for problems like urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bacterial vaginosis (BV), she notes.
Making a few adjustments to your routine both before and after sex can help to reduce these risks, not to mention enhance your sexual experience overall. That's particularly true for women who are prone to urinary tract or vaginal infections, says Dr. Dweck.
What Are the Most Important Parts of Post-Sex Hygiene for Menopausal Women?
A healthy post-sex care routine doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, taking two simple steps can go a long way towards preventing problems like UTIs and BV, Dr. Dweck says. And you may be doing them already.
- Urinate after sex. You may have already been doing this before perimenopause and menopause, especially if you have a history of frequent UTIs. But if not, now's a good time to start. "During intercourse, bacteria from the anorectal area can be transferred towards the urethra. Urinating after intercourse can mechanically flush these bacteria from the urethral opening and lower the risk of UTI in those who are prone," Dr. Dweck says. You don't necessarily need to make a beeline for the bathroom the second sex is over, she notes. But when you're ready to get up, make it a point to urinate.
- Wash mindfully. Showering or bathing right after sex isn't a necessity, says Dr. Dweck. But when you do bathe - whether it's soon after or the next morning - be gentle. Use a mild, unscented soap to wash your vulva and external vaginal opening and avoid scrubbing vigorously, Dr. Dweck recommends. There's no need to clean inside your vagina. "The vagina can clean itself," she says.
Also, if vibrators or sex toys are part of your routine, be sure to give them a thorough cleaning after each use. "It's important to clean vibrators and sex toys in between each session," Dr. Dweck says. "Follow the manufacturer instructions, which typically recommend using a mild soap and water."
What About Before Sex, Should You Be Making Any Changes Then?
Drier vaginal tissue is more prone to becoming irritated during sex, which can potentially increase the risk for infection. If dryness and pain are issues, using a vaginal moisturizer and vaginal lubricant can aid in making sex more comfortable, while helping to lower the chance for infection, Dr. Dweck explains. "Drier, inelastic tissue can be more prone to little abrasions that can lead to infection," she says.
To reap the biggest benefit, use your vaginal moisturizer regularly. "You should use it on a regular basis, like face cream," Dr. Dweck recommends. Reach for a vaginal lubricant right before sex. "Silicone-based options without harsh ingredients or additives are favored, since they have minimal effect on the pH of the vagina," says Dr. Dweck.
Women who are prone to bacterial vaginosis may also want to consider having partners wear a condom during sex. "Ejaculate can be a pH disruptor in the vagina," Dr. Dweck says. "Using a condom can help break the cycle or prevent reoccurring BV, especially if a woman is having sex with multiple partners, but also still if she's having sex with one trusted partner."
Are There Any Common After-Sex Clean Up Tips That Should Be Avoided?
The biggest mistake is trying to clean up too much, Dr. Dweck says. Cleaning methods like douching, for instance, can actually do more harm than good. "It's important to avoid this practice in general, but especially after sex, because it can disturb vaginal pH and lead to infections including BV," she explains.
"Some women put tampons in their vagina to soak up secretions after sex, but that's unnecessary and could be harmful," says Dr. Dweck.
Are There Any Risks to Not Practicing Post-Sex Hygiene?
Sticking with a few simple after-sex clean up tips can help reduce the risk for urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis, particularly if a woman is prone to them, Dr. Dweck says.
But while good hygiene habits are important, you don't need to make them your number-one focus. "Be in the moment during sex," Dr. Dweck advises. "This is good general advice for people who are prone to infection, but it [post-sex hygiene] isn't a medical necessity for most women by any means."