It might seem simple at first glance, but good sexual health goes far beyond enjoying great intimacy. For sexual health to be at its best, we need to stay in good physical health, understand contraception options (or needs) and protect against STIs. Here are some strategies to stay healthy in this important area.
1. Physical Health
It's important to try to be the healthiest possible. Exercise and fuel the body regularly with nutritious foods and everything, intimacy included, is healthier overall. According to the National Coalition for Sexual Health good physical health helps us achieve our best sexual health. Great sex requires stamina and physical comfort, and poor health may preclude both of these.
Emotional health is just as important. The Providence Health Team stresses the importance of exploring and understanding sexuality, working past personal emotional challenges and playing an active role in developing a quality sex life. Being kind to the self is important, too. We can’t feel fully empowered in the bedroom if we don’t love and respect ourselves.
2. Get Educated About Possible Repercussions
Worry over unintended pregnancy can put a damper on any great moments that may have been planned. But this is easy to overcome in today's information era by seeking out education about birth control and knowing the options. Here are some of the most common types of contraceptives:
- Birth control pills can come in the form of combined oral contraceptives (estrogen and progestin) or progestin-only and are 93% effective. Both increase the risks of breast and cervical cancer, although they may reduce risks of endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancers.
- Implants and injections also use progestin but don’t need to be taken daily. Implants last about 3 years, with a success rate of over 99%, whereas injections (also known as the “birth control shot”) must be repeated every three months and are only 96% successful.
- IUDs are small devices that are implanted in the uterus. Depending on the type, they can remain in place for 5 to 10 years. IUDs that slow-release progestin are more effective, but both have less than a 1% failure rate.
- Barrier methods like diaphragms and sponges are used vaginally to block sperm. They are far less effective, even with proper spermicide use. Diaphragms are only about 83% effective, whereas sponges work between 73% and 86% of the time.
- Condoms aren’t much better. Male condoms, worn by the male partner, prevent pregnancy in 87% of instances. Female condoms, worn inside the vagina, work 78% of the time. But it's important to note that condoms are the only birth control method that can protect against STIs.
3. Stay Protected
Even with love and trust, it’s important to insist on condoms and/or testing to protect against STIs. Get regular screenings and take preventative measures wherever possible. Sexual wellness relies on making good choices, and the wrong ones may lead to unnecessary problems. Stay in charge by protecting yourself.
Regardless of age or gender, sexual wellness requires strategy and healthy decision-making. Move toward health overall and respect the choices of both parties to create a great environment, ripe for intimacy.