There are few things worse than the telltale signs of a urinary tract infection coming on, but if you’re trying to conceive, a UTI can be particularly unfortunate. First of all, because the infection is so uncomfortable, you’re less likely to want to have sex. Another concern you might have: Can UTIs affect ovulation? When it seems like so many factors can potentially influence or interfere with your body's reproductive capabilities, it's only natural to wonder.
“A UTI is generally confined to the bladder, which is unrelated to the hormonal axis that affects ovulation, so it should not cause problems there,” Dr. Caitlin Szabo, OB/GYN, tells Romper. Likewise, antibiotics used to treat a UTIs also should not affect ovulation. “Women should feel safe to take what is prescribed and likely needed to resolve the infection,” Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, OB/GYN at Fertility Centers of Illinois, tells Romper.
So while the short answer is that UTIs themselves are unlikely to affect if or when you ovulate, that doesn't mean they can't or won't cause problems. That's mostly because, well, you have to have sex to get pregnant, and sex can actually make UTIs worse.
“Generally, it's not recommended that you have sex until your UTI has completely cleared up — that is, you've been symptom-free for at least two weeks and completed your full course of antibiotics,” per Everyday Health
With that being said, sometimes the reality of life means that you don’t want to skip a month of TTC. If you take added precautions, it’s okay to have intercourse with a UTI.
“[Having a] UTI can increase discomfort with intercourse. It's important to go to the restroom immediately after intercourse to minimize discomfort and in general to decrease incidence of UTI,” Hirshfeld-Cytron says. She adds that many people are concerned that if they get up to go to the bathroom immediately after sex, the sperm will not reach the cervix, which she says is not true.
“It’s important to remember that sperm is motile and microscopic, it hits the ground running," she continues. "Within the ejaculate is fluid from the prostate gland and seminal vesicles that can 'fall out' when a woman gets up, but you won't compromise your ability to get pregnant if you pee right away, and this can really help keep your UTI from worsening."
Your body is more stressed out with a UTI, however (and your brain probably is too because it’s so damn uncomfortable), and stress can impact ovulation.
“Any systemic illness can affect ovulation, either to delay it or prevent it,” Dr. Edward Marut, OB/GYN, tells Romper. “Think of it as a stress effect, which is why psychological or physical stress (namely exercise) can do the same thing. So a UTI, especially a kidney infection, can certainly mess things up.”
This is why it’s important to try to stay as stress-free as possible (easier said than done), especially if you have a UTI and are trying to conceive.
If you’re consistently having trouble tracking your ovulation, a UTI is not likely to be the issue. Irregular cycles can be caused by many factors; Hirshfeld-Cytron specifically mentions high-stress, being under or overweight, polycystic ovarian syndrome, eating disorders, thyroid issues, pituitary disorders, and extreme exercise.
“Ovulation issues are the most common cause of infertility challenges and with many patients, ovulation can be restored through medication and/or positive lifestyle changes,” she says.
However, if you do conceive, and you still have a UTI, it’s important to see your doctor right away. “It's actually quite common to have a UTI during pregnancy and doctors are much more vigilant in treating these in pregnant women even if you do not have symptoms,” Szabo tells Romper. “Your immune system is compromised when you’re pregnant, and the high levels of progesterone cause relaxation of the smooth muscles, making bacteria more likely to ascend to the kidneys. A kidney infection can cause you to be quite sick, so the goal is to treat the UTI before it becomes a kidney infection,” she adds. So in addition to chugging cranberry juice and water, make sure to see your doctor who can help you safely cure your UTI.
Dr. Caitlin Szabo, OB-GYN, Taylor, Suarez, Cook, Khan, and Zertuche, Atlanta Women’s Healthcare Specialists