Why Sexual Health Matters

Sexual health is a critical aspect of overall well-being that is often overlooked or stigmatised. However, prioritising sexual health is essential for leading a fulfilling, healthy life at all stages.

So, let’s explore why sexual health matters and the steps to a healthy and fulfilling life.

Importance of Sexual Health for Overall Well-Being

Sexual health is closely connected with physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Positive sexual experiences, free from coercion, discrimination, and violence, can enhance feelings of intimacy, pleasure, and self-esteem.

Sexual dysfunction, infections, unintended pregnancy, and sexual trauma can lead to distress, relationship strain, and long-term health complications. Conditions like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and low libido can impact self-confidence and partner satisfaction.

Furthermore, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), if left untreated, can cause fertility issues, chronic pain, and even increase the risk of certain cancers. Sexual trauma, such as assault or abuse, can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.

Sexual activity has been linked to numerous health benefits, as regular sexual activity can boost the immune system, improve sleep quality, and even reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men. The release of endorphins and oxytocin during sexual pleasure can act as natural mood elevators and pain relievers.

sexual health

Overcoming Barriers to Accessing Sexual Health Resources

Despite the importance of sexual health, many people face barriers to accessing the information, services, and support they need. Stigma, shame, and lack of comprehensive sex education can make it difficult to seek help for sexual concerns. Some individuals may feel embarrassed discussing intimate issues with healthcare providers or may fear judgment from their partners or community.

Accessibility and affordability can also pose challenges, particularly for disadvantaged populations. In some areas, finding a sexual health clinic could be difficult due to them operating limited hours or may not have any resources at all.

Online pharmacies are emerging as convenient, discreet alternatives to traditional healthcare settings. These services allow individuals to access contraception, STI testing and treatment, and other sexual health resources from the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

Additionally, online consultations with licensed healthcare professionals can provide personalised advice and prescriptions, eliminating the need for in-person visits. Discreet packaging and delivery options further protect patient privacy.

By reducing barriers to care, online options can help more people take control of their sexual health and provide users with easier, quicker, and more convenient help. However, choosing reputable, licensed providers is essential to ensure the safety and quality of care.

sexual health

Common Sexual Health Treatments and Concerns

Sexual health encompasses a wide range of issues, from STIs to sexual dysfunction. In England, there were 447,694 new diagnoses of STIs in 2018, a 5% increase from 2017. Of all the new STI diagnoses, 49% were chlamydia, 13% were genital warts, 13% were gonorrhoea, and 8% were first-episode herpes.

STDs like Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are bacterial infections that can cause painful urination, abnormal discharge, and fertility problems if left untreated. Genital warts and herpes are caused by viral infections, and the STD symptoms of these can result in painful blisters or lesions.

While herpes is not curable, herpes treatment, such as antiviral medications, can manage outbreaks and reduce transmission risk. Regular STD examination, using barrier methods like condoms, and practising safe sex can help prevent the spread of these infections.

Sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction (ED), premature ejaculation (PE), and low libido, can be caused by physical, psychological, and relationship factors. ED is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse, while PE is ejaculation that occurs too quickly. Low libido refers to a decreased interest in sexual activity. These conditions can be distressing and impact relationships.

Treatment options for sexual dysfunction range from lifestyle changes and therapy to medications and devices. Lifestyle modifications, such as exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol consumption, can improve overall health and sexual function. Psychological therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) or sex therapy, can address underlying mental health issues and relationship concerns. Medications like sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) or boostaro sexual enhancement supplement can help treat ED by increasing blood flow to the penis. Devices like vacuum pumps or penile implants may be considered in more severe cases.

Contraception is another important aspect of sexual health for preventing unintended pregnancy. In the UK, the NHS sexual health clinics provide free contraception to all, including hormonal methods, barrier methods, and long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). Hormonal methods, such as the pill, patch, or injection, work by regulating hormone levels to prevent ovulation.

Barrier methods, like condoms or diaphragms, physically block sperm from reaching the egg. LARCs, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants, provide long-term, reversible contraception without requiring daily action.

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Breaking the Stigma: Normalising Conversations About Sexual Health

One of the biggest barriers to promoting sexual health is the pervasive stigma and taboo surrounding these topics. Many people feel uncomfortable discussing sexual issues openly, leading to a lack of education and a reluctance to seek help when needed. By normalising open, honest conversations about sex, we can create a culture of sexual health and empowerment.

This starts with comprehensive, inclusive sex education that goes beyond just the basics of biology. In September 2020, relationships and sex education (RSE) became compulsory in all secondary schools in England. This curriculum aims to provide young people with the information they need about consent, communication, pleasure, and diversity to develop healthy attitudes and behaviours around sex.

Healthcare providers, media, and public figures also have a role to play in destigmatising sexual health. By approaching these topics with sensitivity, non judgment, and evidence-based information, we can break down barriers and encourage more people to prioritise their sexual well-being.

Moreover, healthcare providers can create a welcoming, inclusive environment that encourages open communication about sexual concerns. Media can represent diverse sexual experiences and provide accurate, respectful information. Public figures can use their platforms to advocate for sexual health education and services.

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Navigating Sexual Health Challenges at Different Life Stages

Sexual health needs and concerns can vary across the lifespan. Young people aged 15-24 experience the highest rates of STIs due to factors like inconsistent condom use, multiple partners, and lack of access to sexual health services. This age group may also face challenges related to peer pressure, consent, and sexual identity. Comprehensive sex education and accessible, confidential services are essential for promoting sexual health among young people.

As people enter long-term relationships or marriages, sexual health challenges may shift to issues like maintaining intimacy, navigating differing desires, or coping with infertility. Couples may benefit from open communication, relationship counselling, or fertility treatments to address these concerns.

Older adults may face challenges related to changing relationships, chronic illness, and shifting sexual function. Menopause can cause vaginal dryness and discomfort, while conditions like diabetes or cardiovascular disease can impact sexual performance.

However, contrary to popular stereotypes, many older adults remain sexually active and interested. Healthcare providers should be prepared to discuss sexual health concerns with older patients and offer appropriate treatments or therapies.

People with disabilities may also require accommodations and specialised care to express their sexuality fully. They may face physical barriers to sexual activity, discrimination from potential partners, or assumptions about their sexual desires and capabilities. Healthcare providers should work with patients to address their individual needs and provide resources for sexual expression, such as adaptive equipment or counselling.

It’s important for sexual health resources and services to be inclusive and responsive to the diversity of human experience. This means providing culturally competent care, offering a range of contraceptive and STI testing options, and creating accessible, welcoming environments for all patients.

Nurturing Lifelong Sexual Well-Being

Sexual health is a lifelong pursuit that requires ongoing care, communication, and self-reflection. By prioritising sexual health and seeking support when needed, individuals can enhance their quality of life and build fulfilling relationships.

This means staying informed about sexual health topics, getting regular check-ups and screenings, and being proactive about preventing and treating issues. Individuals can educate themselves through reliable sources like the NHS website, sexual health charities, or healthcare providers.

Regular STI testing, even in the absence of symptoms, can help catch infections early and prevent transmission. Attending recommended screenings, such as cervical smears or prostate exams, can detect potential issues before they become more serious.

On a societal level, advocating for comprehensive sexual health education and resources is crucial. This may involve supporting policies that increase access to contraception and STI testing, fighting against discrimination and stigma, or promoting inclusive, medically accurate sex education in schools.

Ultimately, sexual health matters because sexuality is a natural, integral part of who we are as humans. It influences our physical, emotional, and relational well-being throughout our lives. By nurturing sexual well-being, we can lead healthier, happier lives and build a society that values and supports sexual health for all.

Looking for more information about the importance of sexual health? Contact a contact certified pharmacist at e-Surgery through this link for real-time advice regarding sexual well-being, or follow this link for sexual health treatments.

Images supplied. Feature image courtesy of unsplash.com

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