When we talk about sexual health, we’re not just talking about sex, although sex is a big part of it! The topic of sexual health actually encapsulates everything from gender identity to sexual and reproductive health care, sex education, sexual pleasure, and other sexual activities.
But how much do you really know about sexual health?
Read on to test your sexual health smarts and learn everything you need to know about sexual health and wellness, from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to masturbation and everything in between!
What Is Sexual Health?
Sexual health includes many different areas of human life and how we think about sex and ourselves.
Sexual health can be just as crucial to your overall and emotional health as eating right and exercising is to your physical health, or meditation and therapy are to your mental health. It’s so closely linked to how we think and feel about ourselves! This will become clear as you think about the list below.
Keep in mind that these are just some, but not all, of the components of sexual health:
- Sexuality: includes how you think about and expresses yourself as a sexual being, including sexual thoughts and actions.
- Sexual orientation — including who you’re sexually, emotionally, or romantically attracted to and how you identify yourself and express your attraction. Sexual orientation is fluid and can change over time.
- Gender identity.
- Gender expression.
- Body image.
- Sexual self-esteem: includes how you see and feel about yourself as a sexual being.
- Sexual and reproductive health care — including care, access, and experiences of medical health relating to sexual and reproductive areas such as STIs and HIV, pregnancy testing, birth control, abortion, etc.
- Experiences of sexual violence.
- Consent and boundaries.
- Relationships and intimacy.
- Sexual and reproductive anatomy.
- Sexual activities, including sexual intercourse.
Why Is Sexual Health Important?
Improving your awareness and knowledge of sexual health allows you to take a positive and respectful approach to your health, emotional well-being, and intimate relationships.
5 Random Facts About Sexual Health
Think you learned everything you needed to know about sex and sexual health in your 7th-grade health class? Think again!
Because sexual health is such a broad topic, here are just five random facts about sexual health covering everything from sexually transmitted infections to sexual desire and birth control.
Getting Tested Is the Only Way To Know if You Have an STI
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also called STIs, are infections that are spread from one person to another during unprotected sex.
One of the many overlooked facts about STDs is that they’re spread because most people don’t know that they’ve been infected and don’t show any symptoms! The best way to keep from getting an STD is to increase sexual health awareness and take steps toward prevention through safe sexual experiences (use a condom and/or dental dams (for oral sex)!). The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested and examined! Know that for some STIs there is not a commercially available test specifically, for HPV the #1 most common STI there is no test for men except in research studies.
Anyone under 25 years old who is sexually active should be screened for gonorrhea, chlamydia and offered an HIV test once a year.
Dr Yen’s tip: just because someone has a negative STI test, it is only negative for what they were tested for and only at the time they were tested. Specifically for HIV, it tells us 6 weeks ago, you didn’t have HIV, but we don’t know what you have been exposed to since then. And there are lots of STIs that we don’t usually test for such as Herpes, syphilis, etc. So, our founder Dr. Sophia Yen says “assume everyone has an STI and use a condom every time.”
STD testing is available at most health facilities. If you don’t feel like going to a doctor’s office, you’re in luck. Pandia is now offering a limited at-home testing kit (gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomonas only) for a quick, easy, and confidential sexual health check. Order yours today, with FREE Shipping to your door.
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Sperm Live Up to 5 Days in a Woman’s Body
Did you know that sperm can live for up to 5 days in the reproductive tract after you have sex? This means that those with uteri could get pregnant as long as the sperm remains alive!
If you are having heterosexual sex to prevent pregnancy, you must use at least one, if not a combination of, birth control methods (We do not recommend using 2 hormonal methods but rather condoms plus another method).
For example, the birth control pill, the patch, the vaginal ring, or the birth control shot prevent ovulation, so even if there is sperm living in the reproductive tract, there’s a very low risk of pregnancy. Barrier methods, like a condom, prevent the sperm from entering the body and also help to lessen the chance of spreading STIs. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself in your sexual relationships and ask that your partner(s) wear a condom!
Sex can be better with strong Pelvic Floor Muscles
It’s scientifically proven that sex is a great workout! And not just for cardio… There are specific exercises you can do when to continue to strengthen your pelvic floor and make sex more pleasurable (all the ingredients for a good sex life!).
One of the most popular exercises is called Kegels. And the best part is you only need a couple of minutes each day! (Psst! You can even do them while working from your desk!)
Kegel exercises can improve your sexual health and pleasure by:
- Improving blood circulation to the vagina and pelvic floor, which can help increase sexual pleasure, making it easier to orgasm
- The penis bearing partner may like contraction of these muscles during sex.
- It may result in stronger orgasm (contraction of the muscles).
However, the clitoris is the main organ responsible for orgasm.
Other exercises, like yoga, and specific pelvic floor physical therapy, can also help strengthen your pelvic floor.
If that’s not enough for you, scientific research suggests that those with a strong pelvic floor have more sex!
Not All Birth Control Methods Are Equally Effective
Not all birth control methods are created equal. Some birth control methods are more effective than others in preventing pregnancy; some methods may work better than others depending on your health, your lifestyle, if you want children now or in the future, and your need to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
Among some of the most effective at preventing pregnancy are the pill, the patch, and the ring. These methods are only as effective as your ability to take them when you’re supposed to.
Taking the pill at the same time every day or staying up to date with changing out the patch and the ring is critical to maintaining the levels of hormones to prevent pregnancy. There are also long-active reversible contraceptives, like the IUD and implant, which are also very effective in preventing pregnancy but can be more invasive.
Barrier methods, like condoms or diaphragms, work by establishing a physical barrier between the egg and the sperm to prevent pregnancy, but they are also less effective than hormonal birth control methods.
The experts at Pandia Health can help you decide which method is right for you.
Masturbation Is Healthy!
Sex is a personal thing, and many people shy away from sharing details about their sexual lives, habits, and preferences with their friends, while others openly talk about masturbation and pleasure.
The truth is that masturbation is a natural part of life. A recent study found that 66% of women and 84% of men report masturbating two or three times per month. The women in the study masturbated two to three times per month while men reported masturbating two or three times per week. Masturbation is actually rated the second most effective form of self-care. People who masterbate regularly even report a more positive body image.
Masturbation and orgasm have health benefits, like:
- Releasing serotonin and dopamine can give you a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction.
- A release of oxytocin can leave you with a sense of well-being, closeness, and affection.
- And after you orgasm, your body releases a hormone called vasopressin which, combined with melatonin, can help you sleep better.
- Studies have also found that orgasms can help relieve symptoms of PMS.
Among these benefits, masturbation can help you get in touch with your body (pun intended), helping you to be a more sex-positive person.
Sexual health is an integral part of living an authentic life. Improving your sexual health requires prioritizing it, which can significantly improve your emotional, physical, and mental well-being and enhance your intimate relationships. We hope that since now you’re armed with these sexual health facts, you can improve your sexual health.
Pandia is dedicated to providing accurate and reliable health information. Here, we gave you the facts about sexual wellness, but we have an entire library of information available to help you make informed, safe, and healthy decisions about your sexual health. Check out our Instagram and YouTube channel for more sexual well-being insights.