The Art And Science Of A Women's Overall Wellbeing
The World Health Organization defines intimate health as “a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social wellbeing in relation to intimacy.” This is more than the quality and frequency of intimacy—though these are important factors. It's way, way more than that.
Feeling good and balanced drives our happiness and lowers stress and while we’ve long known that poor overall health can negatively impact sexual health, it's only in recent studies that show that the reverse correlation is also true. Regular and satisfying sexual activity also plays an integral role in the quality of life and overall physical health.
A positive sexual relationship with your partner has its obvious benefits: physical pleasure, intimacy, and emotional connection. Sex is not only about pleasure though, studies have shown that a balanced sex life and healthy sexual function benefit women’s bodies and minds in many other ways. It's highly connected to your overall physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. So we should absolutely not equate sex only to pleasure. It’s simply a health matter as well.
The first step to improving your sexual health and wellbeing is understanding why it matters. You need a reason to believe in it right? Let us help.
What are the benefits of good sexual health?
Sure, there’s the obvious benefit: great orgasms. But, did you know that a healthy, balanced sex life also benefits your physical, emotional, and mental health?
A healthy sex life helps you:
Maintain a strong immune system.
Dopamine and oxytocin are released during sex, which reduces the level of cortisol (the “stress” hormone) and gives your immune system a boost. Studies have also shown that sex increases the number of lymphocytes—a type of white blood cell—in your system, resulting in more antibodies to strengthen your body’s defenses.
Keep your heart healthy and lower your blood pressure.
Studies have shown that sex may help lower your blood pressure. Plus, it’s a form of exercise that can improve your cardiovascular health and lower the risk of heart disease. This 2016 study found that women who engage in sex regularly are at lower risk of a cardiac event later in life.
The burst of endorphins and serotonin that occurs when you have an orgasm helps relieve pain. This can range from chronic back pain to menstrual cramps, arthritis, and even headaches and migraines.
Like we’ve already said, sex reduces your cortisol levels, which relieves stress. Some studies have shown that intimacy alone may regulate cortisol levels.
Since sex gives you a workout and lowers your stress, it makes sense that it helps you drift off to sleep more easily. Why count sheep when you can have a romp in the sheets instead?
Increase your libido.
Having regular sex improves blood flow and vaginal lubrication, which will have you wanting sex more often. What does that mean? A healthy sex life leads to an even healthier sex life.
Keep control of your bladder.
Nearly one-third of women will experience incontinence at some point, a sign of a weak pelvic floor. Great sex helps exercise your pelvic floor muscles, which in turn keeps you in control of your bladder.
Feel better about yourself.
Several studies have suggested that having a healthy, safe sex life results in higher self-esteem and improved self-confidence.
Feel closer to your partner.
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning that good sexual health isn’t just physically pleasurable for you and your partner, but it also extends to increased feelings of intimacy and closeness that benefit you in all aspects of your relationship.
This is one of the reasons we created Sex and Good to have a foundational daily supplement that was essential to this process.
Omega-3s aren’t made naturally by the body, which means we have to get them from food. Omega-3 fatty acids help fight inflammation, support heart health and circulation, and are vital for brain health. In fact, DHA (a type of omega-3) makes up 8% of your brain weight and is pivotal in brain development and healthy brain function. Omega-3s also help balance cortisol (aka the stress hormone) and increase dopamine (aka the happy hormone).
Translation? More stable hormones, less inflammation, and healthier brain and heart function — all of which contribute to your sexual health. Once we you have all of your essential Omegas, it’s then time to think about arousal.
Sex and arousal...it’s mental and physical.
“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…” the World Health Organization says.
Historically, we’ve centered the conversation on sex around men and their pleasure. And the unfortunate reality is that many women put their sexual health on the back burner, believing it’s not something that’s worth prioritizing—or that their issues cannot be fixed.
You might think that libido and arousal are one and the same, but they’re two distinct parts of sexual health. While libido is your desire to have sex, arousal is what needs to happen in your body and mind to accommodate sex.
Arousal is so much more than the physical. Sure, physical arousal is a crucial part of sexual wellness, but there’s so much more to the story.
Signs of physical arousal are:
- Your heart rate speeds up and your blood pressure increases.
- Your vagina and vulva become wet, lubricating your genital area.
- Your blood vessels dilate and the blood supply to your genitals increases. This can cause your clitoris, labia, and vaginal wall to become swollen.
- Your breasts become fuller and your nipples may become erect.
- Your muscles tense and your breathing becomes heavier.
Mental and psychological arousal is a crucial component as well. As its name suggests, this type of arousal is less easy to define, but easy to pinpoint when you experience it.
This type of arousal is the cognitive response you have to a sexual stimulus. In simple terms, it’s the feeling of being turned on. You can be mentally aroused by looking at an image, by fantasizing, through touch, etc. Physical arousal by itself isn’t enough to result in a satisfying sexual experience: for the total package, you need to be mentally aroused as well.
You can have poor sexual wellbeing for a host of reasons:
- A decreased libido
- An inability to become physically and/or mentally aroused
- Pain related to sexual activity
- Difficulty achieving sexual pleasure/inability achieving orgasm
These challenges can cause feelings of frustration, embarrassment, or even shame. The reality is that sexual dysfunction is extremely prevalent in women—between 30-40% of women experience dysfunction of some kind. And according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nearly 75% of women will experience pain during sex at some point in their lives.
A less than ideal libido can be helped by supplementation and other life practices, both physical and mental. The physical and psychological conditions that get you ready for sex, can be a challenge for many women.
You might be “in the mood” and want to have sex, but find your body not cooperating. Or, you might be physically aroused, but find yourself mentally not into it. There’s also the possibility that you have difficulty maintaining arousal once you get going. Vaginal dryness is one of the most common sexual dysfunctions that women experience and painful sex is something many women experience. We hope we can help.
So once we have aligned these two things, congratulations! Your libido and arousal aligned and you’re having sex! But maybe it’s just not as pleasurable as you’d like. You might feel like an orgasm is an elusive myth. No need to panic. This, too, is all too common in women.
Stress and anxiety also play a role
Listen, the medication you take, including oral birth control, may lower your libido level and impact arousal. But one big one that comes into play in modern age is stress and anxiety.
Stress or anxiety can not only make you less interested in sex, but they can also impact your body’s physical responses to sexual stimuli. Similarly, self-esteem and state of mind are closely connected to your sex drive and ability to engage in sexual activity. And to state the obvious, fatigue—as you no doubt know—may make women less interested in sex.
Sexual trauma or other traumatic experiences related to intimacy or in relationships can profoundly impact libido and arousal, as well as cause painful sex.
There are so many reasons your libido could be impacted.
Aging and menopause are an obvious one as well. Testosterone levels decrease as we age, and estrogen levels reduce sharply during menopause. Both of these hormones are incredibly important to sexual wellness, so aging and/or menopause can be the cause of sexual dysfunction. This is why it’s important to stay on top of your sexual health. It’s so easily ignored.
What does all this mean?
All this to say, good sexual health makes you a happier person. For far too long, the conversation about sex and sexual health has been a taboo one and quite frankly it’s revolved around men, with women’s libidos and sexual needs going overlooked.
It’s time to change that.
Just like any of your body’s systems, sexual health is complex—and it’s also highly dependent on individual bodies and experiences. Whatever your lifestyle or situation, taking control of your own sexual health is an empowering act, and the best part is that the positive consequences reverberate through every part of your life.