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Selena Gomez is talking vulvar health. In a recent TikTok stitched with the prompt “Women who don’t wear panties,” Gomez finished the video with a deadpan “. . . can sometimes can UTIs.”
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a type of bacterial infection of any part of the urinary system — including the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. According to Mayo Clinic, a UTI usually involves the lower urinary system, namely the bladder and/or urethra. Though UTIs are very common, people with vulvas are particularly vulnerable to this type of infection, with more than half of people with vulvas having an infection at least once in their life, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Anyone can get a UTI, however people assigned female at birth (AFAB) are particularly susceptible as the average length of the urethra is about 1.5 inches, whereas for people assigned male at birth (AMAB), the urethra is much longer, making it harder for bacteria to travel to the bladder, according to Cleveland Clinic. In fact, American Family Physician Journal found that people AFAB get UTIs up to 30 times more often than people with penises.
UTI symptoms can be very uncomfortable, ranging from frequent urination and pain or burning during urination to fever and back or neck pain. If left untreated, UTIs can cause serious health problems including repeat infections, permanent kidney damage, and sepsis.
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Can Not Wearing Underwear Contribute to a UTI?
No, going commando will not directly cause a UTI. This type of infection is caused by bacteria, not your choice of underwear. However, your risk for a UTI does increase if you are having sex (especially internal or “penetrative” sex), are dehydrated, use a diaphragm for birth control, or wipe back to front after using the bathroom.
In fact, Cleveland Clinic says that wearing tight-fitting underwear can contribute to yeast infections, as the fabric can trap heat and moisture. Sleeping naked — or wearing loose-fitting bottoms — can allow for air circulation on the genitals, helping keep the area cooler and drier. If you are sleeping naked or commando, though, be sure to wash your sheets regularly, as the dead skin cells, sweat, and potential bacteria that would have been transferred to your pajamas or underwear, will now have direct access to your sheets.
When it comes to going commando during the day, be mindful that certain, rougher materials (think: denim or wool) can cause chafing and irritation. Plus, “materials like nylon and lycra can trap moisture and heat, which is a breeding ground for infections,” certified obstetrician and gynecologist Jodie Horton, MD, previously told POPSUGAR. Cotton will be the most vagina-friendly fabric, Horton says.
As the majority of people will experience a UTI at some point, preventative measures are important to avoid future infections. Drinking plenty of water, peeing after sex, avoiding douching, and wearing cotton underwear is your best bet to prevent UTI.
Image Source: Getty / sopradit