What is Sexual Health?
Originally, the phrase “sexual health” encompasses a range of public health and clinical issues related to prevention of sexually transmitted infections. However, over many years now that phrase has been extended to now include many other aspects of sex, not just sexually transmitted diseases.
Sexual health is the ability to embrace and enjoy our sexuality throughout our lives. It is an important part of our physical and emotional health. Being sexually healthy means:
- Understanding that sexuality is a natural part of life and involves more than sexual behavior.
- A state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.
- Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
- Recognizing and respecting the sexual rights we all share.
- Having access to sexual health information, education, and care.
- Making an effort to prevent unintended pregnancies and STDs and seek care and treatment when needed.
- Being able to experience sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and intimacy when desired.
- Being able to communicate about sexual health with others including sexual partners and healthcare providers.
Sex and Pregnancy
At the heart of pregnancy is sex. If couples do not have intercourse, independent of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive techniques (ART), pregnancy will not occur. Sex is an intimate activity driven by emotion. Couples need to have a strong relationship both in the bed and in life to keep that strong connection needed to maintain a healthy partnership, especially when trying to conceive. How does a couple know when to work on your sex life?
Boundaries of Sex
Most sexual relationships have boundaries, but how many couples actually talk about those boundaries in a meaningful way? Couples that discuss sexual boundaries are more apt to grow intimately closer as they know what to expect from their partner and they do not have to worry about being asked to perform in ways that make them feel uncomfortable.
Some discussions can be held off the cuff with couples simply talking about sexual boundaries face to face. Other discussions happen when specific events in the bedroom cause an uncomfortable feeling. As couples grow together, there are bound to be changes in sexual boundaries some adding to the relationship and others taking away – it is best to work closely with the ebb and flow of your sex life over time.
Frequency of Sex
Frequency of sex is a common topic that comes up in couples inquiring about when to work on your sex life. Believe it or not, both men and women have issues with sexual frequency – both too much and too little. The number one reason couples stop having frequent sex is fatigue. Work, life, children, and stress – they all contribute to fatigue. By the time you reach the bedroom, you are both falling into bed with little thought given to being intimate. Couples need to openly talk about sexual frequency and make a concerted effort to find common ground.
Physical problems in the bedroom can consist of erectile dysfunction or simple body issues. Self-esteem plays a huge role in sexual health. If one or both partners are not comfortable being naked there will be sexual pressure in the relationship. Talk through the issues and make changes to improve your self-esteem and your sexual health will also improve.
Other physical problems like erectile dysfunction may require medical attention. Women often feel comfortable talking with a gynecologist about physical issues, but men find the discussion a little more difficult. Talking with a family physician is a good first step, though a urologist may be a better fit for some physical problems.
Fertility and Pregnancy
At some point most couples move from sex solely for pleasure to sex for the purpose of conception. At first, the idea of trying to conceive releases sexual tension – no more condoms or other means of birth control, but some couples find the novelty soon fades if fertility issues arise. Remember, pregnancy does not happen on the first try for most couples – so keep trying.
It can be hard to face the question of when to work on your sex life, but being more open about sex and sexual expectations means addressing issues before they arise and leaving the lines of communication open for the duration of the relationship.