Is sex good for you? According to Carly Detterman, a certified nurse midwife at Baystate Midwifery and Women’s Health - Springfield, the benefits of sex extend well beyond the walls of the bedroom (or wherever you’re doing it).
Benefits of Sex:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improved heart health
- A boost to the immune system
- Decreased depression and anxiety
- Improved self-esteem
- Increased libido
- Pain relief
- Better sleep
- Increased intimacy with partner
“The benefits of sex are far-reaching,” says Detterman, “and can be experienced with or without a partner and even without an orgasm.” However, she notes, the key to good sex, isn’t always found below the belt line but rather, it lies between our ears.
The Brain as a Sexual Organ
Depending upon how an individual was raised can have a dramatic impact on whether they enjoy sex or ever achieve orgasm.
“For many women, conversations about sex are difficult,” says Detterman, “But good honest discussions with a consenting partner are crucial for bringing the messages from your brain and body into alignment about what you desire and how to achieve it. You want to share with your partner what gives you pleasure and what causes your brain to tap the brakes. This will require a good bit of self-discovery through exploring your own body. Work on truly focusing on your body and its response to different types of touches and stimuli. Try to avoid judging yourself or the experience you’re having and just sink into it as a learning experience. Also be aware that unlike depictions in movies, desire isn’t an on/off switch. Don’t get discouraged if it takes some time to relax and find your way to pleasure. Every touch or stimulus is teaching you something. Allow yourself to simply be a student of your own body. Then,” she adds, “when you’re getting intimate with a partner, share what you’ve learned. A good partner will respect and appreciate the insight and you’ll both have a better experience overall.”
3 Obstacles to Good Sex
For many of the patients that Detterman and her colleagues at Baystate Midwifery and Womens Health see, the path to a healthy sex life are fraught with other challenges. The most common conditions they treat are:
1. Pain during sex
Referred to as dyspareunia, pain during sex can be an issue at any age or stage of life. Common causes include:
Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM): a collection of symptoms caused by low estrogen levels during menopause. Low levels can lead to changes to the labia, clitoris, vagina, urethra, and bladder. Symptoms can include vaginal dryness or burning, frequent urination, burning with urination and urgency with urination.
Positional issues of the uterus: Can come out of nowhere, can happen after having a baby, or can even happen during menstrual cycle.
Pelvic floor dysfunction: The inability to correctly relax and coordinate your pelvic floor muscles can lead to difficulty when having a bowel movement, urinary problems, lower back pain, and pain during sex.
Vaginismus: An involuntary tightening of the muscles of the vagina whenever penetration is attempted. Vaginismus can happen at any age and even if you have previously enjoyed painless sex with penetration.
Detterman says, “The symptoms of GSM can be treated through medications, both hormonal and non-hormonal.
2. Low libido
Loss of libido is a common problem in women and men. In fact, nearly 50 percent of premenopausal women aged 21-49 admit that their low sexual desire. Causes can range from stress, poor sleep habits, menopause, thyroid function issues, side effect of medication, and more.
When a person cannot have an orgasm despite enough stimulation, it is called anorgasmia. For some women, it can be a lifelong issue, while it can come on suddenly for others. Anorgasmia is often related to health conditions or medications. Possible treatments include lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication.
Detterman emphasizes the importance of seeking medical help if you’re experiencing any type of pain or discomfort during sex. “While there’s no such thing as a ‘normal sex life,’ pain during sex is definitely not normal no matter how often or infrequently you’re having it.”
Finding Your Way to Sexual Health
If you’re facing challenges with your sex life—either emotion or physical—reach out to Baystate’s Women’s Health team to learn more about how we can help.