It is important to maintain good sexual health as a part of healthy living for all adults and post puberty teens. To be sexually healthy requires a person to be generally healthy and not have any debilitating sickness as well as have a certain discipline in their sexual habits.
The single most significant aspect of good sexual health is for couples to practice safe sex. Some bacteria and viruses can cause STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) infection during sex and the common infections are chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, genital warts, syphilis and HIV. Using a condom every time one has sex provides a large degree of protection against these infections but it does not guarantee 100% safety from infections. Having multiple partners and casual sex with strangers does increase the risk of STD.
Sexual Health Problems
The common sexual health problems for men are ED (Erectile Dysfunction), Premature Ejaculation and STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases). Women too can be affected by STD but may have other sexual illness such as dryness, heavy periods or unusual vaginal discharge.
The Vagina is designed to keep itself naturally healthy with secretions and maintaining a slightly acidic state with pH less than 4.5 to fight off infections. It also contains a lot of helpful bacteria which protects the Vagina from other bad bacteria and maintain a healthy state. Plain, unperfumed soaps should be used to wash the area around the vagina (the vulva) gently every day. Perfumed soaps, gels and antiseptics may affect the pH balance and good bacteria in the Vagina causing subsequent problems. During the time of periods, washing more than once a day may be useful.
All women aged from 25 to 64 should go for regular cervical screening at least once a year like a Pap-smear test. Regular screening means that any abnormal changes in the cervix can be identified early on and, if necessary, treated to stop cancer developing. Cervical cancer vaccination can be taken to reduce the chance of cervical cancer. One should consult a Gynecologist for getting this vaccine.
To avoid unwanted pregnancy or to have a gap between children, for a woman who is in regular relation with her partner, it is safer to have Birth-Control pills (like Mala-D, Ovral) . The other methods to avoid pregnancy are Copper-T or Loop. Even if a man uses a condom, there may be a possibility of a tear or leakage which may result in pregnancy. If a woman who had an unprotected sex with a male partner or is raped and is not interested in having a baby, should take a ‘Morning After’ pill like I_pill after the intercourse. When a couple has decided that they are not interested to have children in the future, the male partner can go for male-sterilization known as Vasectomy. The female can opt for Laparoscopy at any time other than child birth. She can also go through Minilaparotomy two days after child-birth.
For most couples an active sex life is all that is required to get pregnant. However, knowledge of a women’s monthly fertility cycle may be useful. A woman is most likely to get pregnant if she has intercourse within a day or two of ovulation. Usually ovulation occurs after 14 days after the first day of the last period. Since an egg lives for about 24 hours after release, the sperm should fertilize the egg during this time interval. At the same time the sperm can live inside the woman’s body up to 7 days, so it may be inside the woman’s body before the egg was released. Most couples under the age of 35 can conceive within one year of unprotected regular sex.
Missing a period maybe an indicator of pregnancy but it is best to confirm through a pregnancy test kit at home and then confirming with a doctor. If a woman does not conceive within one year of trying, then it is advisable to consult a doctor regarding any fertility issues of either partner.
The normal age for a woman to reach menopause is 50+. It is a time after which her monthly period stops, since she slowly runs out of eggs. Due to change in hormone levels, there are different symptoms after menopause like hot flushes and night sweats. There can also be psychological effects such as tiredness, depression, irritability and less interest in sex. After menopause, Osteoporosis (Reduction of Bone Strength) can often occur which causes the bone to be fragile. To improve this situation, a woman should do regular exercise and take Vitamin-D and Calcium supplements.
It is a good practice to keep the penis clean by washing it with warm water every day during a bath or a shower. For those with foreskin, it should be pulled back gently and washed underneath. If the area under the foreskin is not cleaned correctly, a cheesy-looking substance called smegma can begin to collect. The smegma over time can start to smell and become a breeding ground for bacteria which can cause redness and swelling of the head of your penis, called balanitis. Regular personal hygiene is important but too much washing with soap and shower gels can cause soreness. Washing your penis once a day with warm water is sufficient to maintain good hygiene.
In addition it is necessary to wash the base of the penis and the testicles with warm soap & water since sweat and hair can combine to produce a strong smell, as they are covered in underwear for most of the day. It is also a good idea to check your testicles for any unusual lumps or swellings after a warm bath or shower every month and report any unusual growth to your doctor.
Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
Males affected by this condition are unable to have or sustain the required stiffness to perform sexual intercourse. This is a fairly common problem with males above 40 and can affect younger males due to some underlying health issues. It is important to check for underlying causes for ED such as Hypertension, weak heart condition, high cholesterol and Diabetes before proceeding to treatment. Smoking, alcohol, drug abuse and certain medications can also cause ED.
The treatment of ED should be in consultation with a Doctor with Urology specialization and they can recommend drugs like Viagra (which in India is commonly sold under the brand name like Penegra) or Cialis (which in India is commonly sold under the brand name like Tazzle). However, these medications should not be taken without consulting a doctor since they may have serious side-effects.
Sometimes excitement with a new partner, or acute sensitivity of the local nervous system can trigger orgasm too suddenly in men. Certain creams and anti-depressants can alleviate the problem while psychotherapy may help as well. However, it is best to consult a doctor before proceeding to a treatment in this situation.
Masturbation involves sexually arousing oneself by touching or rubbing the genitals. It is a natural phenomenon among both males & females. Men may use masturbation to learn how to control their orgasms, while women can try to discover what it takes to achieve an orgasm. There are a lot of myths about masturbation but it does not cause weakness, acne, blindness or insanity. More seriously there is no risk of pregnancy or catching of STD. For men it does not cause a drop in sperm count or affect fertility in any way but masturbating too frequently may cause swelling & discomfort in the genitals which usually gets cured naturally with rest.