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This story originally appeared on Health.com by Ashley Mateo.
Just like shower sex, sex on an ocean beach or in a swimming pool is hardly as glamorous IRL as it seems. Yet it’s still portrayed on screen as one of the ultimate summer sex fantasies. (Thanks, porn.)
We get it: It’s hot out, you’re already half naked, and it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to get it on when you’ve got a white sand beach or infinity pool to yourself. (Please make sure you have it to yourself.) As romantic as that sounds, there are unpleasant realities to this kind of summer lovin’. Some may just kill the mood, while others could hang around long after you’re back in your swimsuit. Before you strip down, read up. (Related: 6 Reasons Sex Is Better on Vacation)
You’ll Probably Get Sand In or Near Your Vagina
This should be obvious to anyone who’s ever been to a beach, but sand gets everywhere. “Sand acts as an abrasive, so if you get it around the genitals, on the vulva, or even in the vagina, it can actually lead to irritation and chafing,” says Leah Millheiser, MD, director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University. (Related: An Ob-Gyn’s Guide to a Healthy Vagina at the Beach)
If you’re determined to do it beside the ocean, make sure you have a large towel beneath you. Rinse off afterward with fresh water, not seawater. If the sand causes any micro-tears in your vagina, salty ocean water can sting and burn. “While it may be uncomfortable, it’s not a major concern, though,” says Dr. Millheiser. “Women’s bodies are constantly producing vaginal lubricant, which cleans out the vagina—that sand will eventually make its way out.”
Hotel pools are ground zero for germs
Here’s some fun summer info: Nearly one-third of 498 disease outbreaks from recreational water—many of which were GI-related and resulted in approximately 27,000 cases of illness and eight deaths—were associated with hotel pools, hot tubs, and spas, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Bacteria can live in pool water, and we know that if somebody has a GI virus, like diarrhea, and they go swimming, that viral material can get into the pool and spread,” says Dr. Millheiser, even to your vagina. (Related: The 6 Best Natural Lubes to Try)
Sand is pretty germy, too
Not only do little kids have accidents on the beach, but birds and animals use the sand as their public toilet. And that means beach sand can contain 100 times the levels of fecal bacteria as seawater, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
“You’ve got to use common sense when it comes to where you have sex,” says Dr. Millheiser. “Bacteria and viruses are everywhere in our environment. That doesn’t mean every single person who has sex at the pool or on the beach is going to get an infection, but it is possible to get infections from what’s on the sand and what’s in the water. Be smart.”
Water dries you out down below
“When you have sex in the water, you lose lubrication,” says Dr. Millheiser. “Vaginal lubrication is water, the majority of what you’re in is water, and so when water meets water, that natural lubricant dries up really quickly.”
Chances are you don’t normally pack lube in your beach bag. But if you think you might get it on in a pool, bring a silicone-based lubricant. “A silicone-based lubricant isn’t going to wash off as easily as a water-based lubricant,” she explains. Lube is important, especially when you’re in water, because it’ll make the action feel better and it might prevent tears. “When you get a tear, it’s easier to transmit infections from the water or from one partner to another,” Dr. Millheiser says. (Related: Is Weed Lube the Key to Your Best Sex Ever?)
You might set yourself up for a UTI
Urinary tract infections are pretty common all year long. But the frequency with which women get them goes up in the summer, according to a study published in the journal PLOS One. That’s likely because bacteria thrive in hot, moist environments (like your bathing suit bottoms), and there’s a large amount of bacteria your vagina could come in contact with during the summer.
“Women get UTIs simply by the in-out motion of penetrative sex,” says Dr. Millheiser. “What that’s doing is pushing bacteria that surrounds the opening of the urethra into the bladder, and that can lead to a UTI.” Bacteria from a hotel pool could also potentially make its way up into the urinary tract and lead to a urinary tract infection. If you have sex in the pool, “urinate immediately afterward, because if any of the pool water with bacteria did get up to your bladder, you want to try to get it out,” she advises. (Related: You’re More Likely to Get an STI During Your Period—Here’s Why)
You’re still at risk for pregnancy and STIs
Hard to believe, but some women actually think it’s not possible to conceive if they have sex in water. “I’ve had plenty of patients who got pregnant through having sex in water, thinking that they wouldn’t get pregnant,” says Dr. Millheiser. “When ejaculate enters the vagina, there are a million sperm being sprayed up around the cervix—and it just takes one to get in!”
Speaking of summer sex myths, some women also think that chlorine and hot water can kill sperm, so they don’t need to worry about getting pregnant—or contracting an STI. Dr. Millheiser says that yes, hot water and chlorine could damage sperm. But if a man ejaculates inside your vagina, all it takes is one sperm to make it to the egg. As for STIs, chlorine and heat will not kill the bacteria or viruses that cause these. You may have a vacation mindset, but do not take a vacation from safe sex.