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Let’s talk about sex(ual) health and well-being

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Is losing your desire for sex really such a big deal?

The answer is simple: If it’s a big deal to you, it’s a big deal.

Female sexual desire is a very personal thing. One of the most personal aspects of a woman’s life. And every woman is different. Some women whose sexual desire has diminished may be OK with it. For others it may be that sexual desire has never been a really important part of their lives. The unblush POV is that no one can decide this for you but you.  

But if you’re one of the millions of women who used to enjoy your sexual desire, and now it’s gone, and you find that frustrating? That is not a minor matter. In fact, that describes hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) to a T. HSDD is a recognized medical condition. It’s the most common female sexual dysfunction and affects an estimated 1 out of every 10 women in the US. So, what should you do if you suspect that you may have HSDD? The unblush POV is that your desire to want sex again isn’t trivial. It’s important. And you deserve to get it back.

Speaking of “IT”…
This might be a good time to talk about sex itself for a bit. And what makes it such a good thing to desire in the first place. If you’re frustrated by low sexual desire, you have your own, private, reasons for wanting to want it again. But did you know that there are quite a few scientifically studied benefits to this particular pastime? We thought it would be interesting to take a look at a few of them.

A woman’s sexual health is an important aspect of her overall health.

 

For example, studies have found that for couples, having sex helps foster affection for each other.1  And not only while those involved are, um, “in the moment.” The positive effects of having sex continued and helped the couples in the study maintain satisfaction with their relationships over time as well. In short, having sex helped them feel bonded to each other.

The awesomeness of oxytocin
How does having sex help with bonding? One way is that sexual activity has been shown to increase the amount of oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter. It’s sometimes called “the cuddle hormone” because it can be released into the bloodstream when people engage in physical interaction that involves warmth and touch, such as (you guessed it) cuddling. And that has been shown to deepen feelings of emotional attachment and help partners feel closer to each other.

In a survey, 72% of premenopausal women were unaware of HSDD as a medical condition.2

 

Headache relief
There’s scientific evidence that having sex might help relieve some types of headaches.3 In a carefully controlled scientific survey, a significant number of migraine sufferers—60.2%—who had sexual activity during a headache attack felt an improvement of their pain. To break that down, 29% had mild relief, 51.6% had moderate relief and 19.4% had complete relief. (Maybe that will put an end to those corny “not tonight, honey” jokes about low sex drive in women.)

Surveys show that up to 80% of women with frustrating low sexual desire haven’t told a healthcare professional.4

 

Aerobic workout
Can sex be exercise? Researchers at the Université du Québec à Montréal recruited couples who were in committed relationships to help them find out.5  They compared 30 minutes on a treadmill at moderate intensity to having sex. The upshot was that although participants expended more energy running on the treadmill, sexual activity may also be active enough to be considered significant exercise. Another finding was that sex was better appreciated by study participants than the treadmill. (Quelle surprise.)

Open communication is key to diagnosing HSDD.

 

Slumber inducer
If you’ve ever found that you sleep better after sex, here’s how that’s thought to happen:

As we explained earlier, having sex can elevate oxytocin (“the cuddle hormone”). That, in turn, may reduce cortisol—another hormone—which plays a role in coordinating the body’s response to stressful situations. (That’s why cortisol is sometimes called “the stress hormone.”) In addition, sex can elevate yet another hormone, prolactin, which is also known as “the luteotropic hormone.”  (Makes you wonder if all the hormones get nicknames.) The combination of increased oxytocin and prolactin, with lowered cortisol, may help us fall asleep more easily and have better sleep overall.

HSDD can be treated.


In conclusion: hooray for sex!
Those are a few of the benefits sex can have for health and well-being. We could go on, but we think they help us make our point that sex is not a trivial part of life—and wanting to desire sex again isn’t trivial, either.

If you’ve been diagnosed with HSDD, or think you may have it, you owe it to yourself to learn more about it, including how it can be diagnosed and treated. And don’t be embarrassed to talk about HSDD—to your friends, your partner and your healthcare professional. And right here, too, at unblush. You deserve your desire for sex. Sexual health is an important quality of life issue. Don’t let HSDD get in the way of getting what you deserve.

References
  1. Debrot, Anik & Meuwly, Nathalie & Muise, Amy & Impett, Emily & Schoebi, Dominik. (2017). More Than Just Sex: Affection Mediates the Association Between Sexual Activity and Well-Being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 014616721668412. 10.1177/0146167216684124.
  2. Kingsberg SA. Attitudinal survey of women living with low sexual desire. J Womens Health. 2014;23(10):817-823.
  3. Hambach, A., Evers, S., Summ, O., Husstedt, I. W., & Frese, A. (2013). The impact of sexual activity on idiopathic headaches: An observational study. Cephalalgia, 33(6), 384–389. https://doi.org/10.1177/0333102413476374.
  4. Clayton AH, Kingsberg SA, Goldstein I. Evaluation and management of hypoactive sexual desire disorder. Sex Med. 2018;6(2):59-74.
  5. Frappier J, Toupin I, Levy JJ, Aubertin-Leheudre M, Karelis AD (2013) Energy Expenditure during 6. Sexual Activity in Young Healthy Couples. PLoS ONE8(10): e79342. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0079342.
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About the Author
unblush
unblush is a community of women speaking up about the impact of loss of sexual desire—and ways to confront it.
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