Sexualy health involves prioritising safe sex practices, promoting open communication and consent and seeking professional, reliable help when needed.
Let GlobMed help you to find the right professionals, testing centres, and sexual health education for your needs.
What Is Sexual Health?
Sexual health goes beyond the absence of disease.
Medically, sexual health can refer to maintaining healthy relationships, planned pregnancies and healthy reproductive systems, disease prevention, and treatment for sexual infection and dysfunction.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual health as a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. This includes the possibility of pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.
Sexual Health Problems
Our sexual health is influenced by our overall health. Medical conditions, medications and psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, relationship problems, and trauma can all affect our sex life.
Most people experience some type of sexual health problem during their lifetime, but if an issue is ditressing or consistent it is important to get some help.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
A sexually transmitted infection (STI) or sexually transmitted disease (STD) can be caused by bacteria, parasites, and viruses. These can spread from person to person during sex (whether vaginal, anal, or oral) and skin-to-skin contact. Some common STIs include:
- Genital herpes
- Genital warts
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Pubic lice
Arousal dysfunction is the inability to become physically excited by sexual activity. In men, this can manifest as erectile dysfunction - the inability to attain and maintain an erection. Female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD) involves the inability to attain or maintain physical arousal (the lubrication-swelling response) for the duration of sex.
Low Sex Drive
Our libido (or sex drive) is essentially our desire to engage in sexual activity. Libido varies from person to person, and fluctuates regularly. While there is no ‘correct’ level of sex drive, a chronically low libido can have a significant impact on your sex life.
Anorgasmia involves difficulty in achieving an orgasm, or the inability to achieve one, even when aroused. It is more common in females, but men can experience it too.
Men can also experience ejaculation issues, such as premature ejaculation (ejaculation occurring too soon), retrograde ejaculation (minimal ejaculation due to semen entering the bladder, which can affect fertility), and delayed ejaculation (difficulty reaching the point of ejaculation, if at all).
Pain During Sex (Dyspareunia)
Painful sex can have a significant influence on your relationship, self esteem and sex life. If you and your partner are engaging in gentle, consentual sexual practices, and it is still painful, the pain might be caused by one of many medical conditions:
- Chronic infections
- Vaginitis - causing vaginal itching, burning, and pain
- Vaginismus - a rare condition of involuntary spasms that prevent penetration
- Vaginal dryness, which can cause pain, discomfort, and even tissue damage
- Fibroids - common abnormal growths in the uterus that can cause pain
- Vaginal atrophy - thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal walls which makes intercourse painful
- Stress incontinence - involuntary leakage of urine caused by pressure on the lower abdomen
Dypareunia can also affect men, and may be due to foreskin damage, STIs, penis deformities (e.g. Peyronie’s disease), or priapism (prolonged erection, which can be painful).
Unwanted pregnancies can occur for many different reasons and are associated with multiple health risks for both the mother and child.
What Can I Do To Cultivate Good Sexual Health?
Whether you're in a committed relationship or exploring new connections, understanding sexual health and practising safe behaviours are important aspects of a satisfying and fulfilling sexual life.
Open communication with partners about sexual history, testing, and contraception methods promotes trust and ensures mutual safety.
STI Prevention, Testing, And Treatment
STIs don't always have symptoms and therefore can be passed on unknowingly. Regular testing, coupled with practising safe sex, helps protect oneself and one’s sexual partners from the transmission of infections. Regular screenings for STIs are important especially if engaging in new sexual relationships, even if you don't have symptoms.
It is important to be aware of changes in your sexual health and to seek medical advice as soon as you feel that something is different.
Sexual health clinics, doctors, and some pharmacies offer confidential testing services. If an STI is diagnosed, appropriate treatment options, such as antibiotics or antiviral medications, can be prescribed to manage the infection and prevent complications.
Birth Control (Contraception)
Choosing the right contraception method is important for preventing unwanted pregnancies and protecting against STIs. There are many different contraceptive methods available,. Hormonal methods include the combination pill, progestogen-only pill, contraceptive implants, patches, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). Non-hormonal options, such as condoms and diaphragms, are also widely used.
Natural methods, such as fertility awareness, can be effective but require careful monitoring and understanding of one's menstrual cycle.
A vasectomy is a permanent form of contraception for men. It involves surgically cutting or blocking the vas deferens - the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the urethra. It is an important decision to undergo the procedure and your healthcare team will guide and support you every step of the way.
Addressing Sexual Concerns
Sexual health encompasses not only physical well-being but also emotional and relational aspects. It is normal to experience concerns or difficulties related to sexual function or satisfaction.
Sexual desire can fluctuate due to stress, hormonal changes, relationship issues, or underlying medical conditions. If you have concerns about your libido or sexual desire, our network of healthcare specialists can help identify potential causes, such as hormonal imbalances or psychological factors, and suggest appropriate interventions or therapies.
Promoting Positive Sexual Relationships
Building and maintaining positive sexual relationships is a vital aspect of sexual health. Open and honest communication with partners about desires, boundaries, and consent creates a safe and pleasurable sexual environment. It's important to prioritise mutual respect, empathy, and understanding within intimate relationships.
Consent is an ongoing process that requires clear and enthusiastic communication. Consent should be given willingly, without coercion or pressure, and can be withdrawn at any time.
Nurturing emotional intimacy and connection also contributes to a satisfying sexual life. Building trust, fostering emotional closeness, and maintaining healthy communication patterns can enhance overall relationship satisfaction and sexual well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions
General practitioners, sexual health clinics, gynaecologists, obstetricians, urologists, and therapists specialising in sexual health can provide accurate information, diagnosis, treatment, and support. GlobMed can advise and assist you in the process of finding the best resources for your unique situation and concerns.
While the terms sexually transmitted infection (STI) and sexually transmitted disease (STD) are often used interchangeably to describe conditions that can be passed on through the transfer of bodily fluids or contact of infected skin surfaces, there is a small technical difference between the two.
An STI is an infection, and may or may not develop into an STD, which is a disease. However, all STDs begin as STIs. In addition, the term STD involves the word ‘disease’ which often carries with it stigma. Despite this small difference, in most uses of these two terms they are intended to mean the same thing.
The five Ps of sexual health comprise a guideline that a healthcare practitioner may use for sexual history-taking. These are: Partners, Prevention of pregnancy, Protection from STIs, Practices (sexual), and Past history of STIs.