Too often, sexual health is seen as a young person’s problem. They get the talks about the birds and the bees in school and they are the ones that are constantly reminded to seek advice about STDs, STIs and any other concerns they may have regarding sexual relationships and wellness.
But we all know twenty-something-year-olds are not the only ones having fun. So we all need to be just as involved in this conversation! Sexual health and contraception are not just about preventing pregnancy – it is also about ensuring we know how to avoid infections and keep ourselves safe.
In this blog post, we’re going to explore all of these topics and highlight the importance of honesty and breaking the stigma around this topic with all generations!
In almost every case, condoms will provide some protection against the risks of STIs during sex. However, let’s take a look at why people need to make careful considerations about their sexual health and contraception.
Everyone that wants to, should be entitled to really great sex. Being safe doesn’t mean being boring in any way shape or form.
When a person’s penis enters another person’s vagina, there will usually be a risk of pregnancy. This is usually the reason why people use protection such as condoms or female contraception like the pill or the coil.
But sex isn’t just about making babies.
Many of us crave intimacy with another person and nothing should stop us from doing what gets us excited and makes us feel good.
However, while people who might be less likely to fall pregnant or worry about this risk due to menopause or other bodily changes, there is still the risk of contracting an STI such as:
You can also still contract these infections if the person doesn’t ejaculate or if the penis is only shallowly inserted.
Furthermore, anal sex poses an even higher chance of spreading these infections due to the thin lining of the anus. Similarly, oral sex poses a risk of STIs which also increases if you have cuts or sores around the mouth, genitals or anus.
Viruses and bacteria can be passed through breaks in the skin and it is possible for both the giver and receiver of oral sex to contract an STI.
It is for this reason condoms are strongly recommended with new partners or when engaging with multiple people. You can never be too careful and even in long-term relationships or where someone may be using female contraception, we recommend condoms as a preventative measure for STIs.
Even if your partner tells you ‘it doesn’t feel as good’ – that is no excuse for neglecting your safety. They are thin and created for your protection. Surely not having to worry about contracting something will help you enjoy it even more?
Also, the age-old lie of ‘I’m too big for them’ is another excuse that shouldn’t slide in any relationship. You can get different sizes, styles and brands – there will be one out there you can use!
(Plus, there are plenty of videos out there proving otherwise – it’s not as hard as you think to get your whole arm inside a standard condom… So tell them not to flatter themselves and wrap it up!)
Of course, you could use the female condom if you’d prefer.
A lot of people incorporate sex toys into their activities. Whether it be vibrators, dildos or other equipment, this can often be to aid with sexual dysfunction, self-pleasure, and adding something new to your routine, as well as in same-sex relationships or for general pleasure.
Sharing these sex toys poses a risk of spreading STIs and washing after each use and thoroughly is one way of ensuring this does not happen.
Although, you can still use contraception like condoms when engaging in activities using sex toys, which may help to prevent this risk further.
It is important for sexual health and contraception purposes to keep general hygiene in mind and think twice about using toys with different partners without proper care and cleaning.
Developing emotional and physical closeness to another person is extremely important for sustained happiness and quality of life. It can also improve mental health by offering a chance to maintain activity and release those all-important ‘happy hormones’ everyone needs.
However, we are aware that for one reason or another, our physical ability to perform and enjoy sex, in the same way, can often decline.
This may lead to some uncomfortable or embarrassing encounters with partners. Not having the understanding or access to resources that educate us on sexual health and contraception can be a huge reason for this, but many of us will experience it in our lifetime. It is nothing to be ashamed about and you are most definitely not alone!
There are a few things we can do to remain positive and start conversations about these topics that will heat things up once more and allow you to get at it again.
This may be easier said than done but it is so important to have an open and honest relationship with your partner about any worries or concerns.
Your other half should be the one you feel most comfortable discussing these things with, as they are the person you are sharing these encounters with.
Also being settled in long-term relationships or marriage doesn’t mean you can’t try something new. But, nor does it mean you are no longer at risk of STIs or other sexual health issues.
Unfortunately, discussing the topic of polyamory or having sex with multiple partners is still taboo, we need to remember that it is a huge part of many people’s lives and a way they can remain satisfied.
For this reason, it is crucial that anyone, of any age, is having honest discussions with new and existing partners about their past and current sexual health.
This includes mentioning STIs, STDs and contraceptive methods where necessary.
It is essential that both partners feel comfortable communicating with each other about sexual activity to ensure a happy and healthy relationship.
If approaching conversations about sexual health and contraception head-on feels too daunting, there are plenty of other ways to learn more about it.
Websites, books, and articles like this one are readily available on the internet and in libraries which can help to increase understanding. This is a great way to learn about sexual health and contraception without feeling like you have to put yourself out there.
It’s also part of the reason we write things like this and share our messages on social media. Without these conversations and educational resources, no one will learn and people forget what is a normal part of life.
As people approach the menopause, some may start to suffer from falling estrogen levels. Common symptoms associated with this are vaginal dryness and thinning.
As a result, penetrative sex, in particular, can become uncomfortable or even painful. This is when those open and honest conversations are going to be important. You can discuss the use of lubricant or ways in which you may need to reconsider the other person’s sexual health for the benefit of both parties.
There are plenty of fun options that can not only get you your mojo back but can actually improve your sex life. Flavoured lubricants and other products are designed to assist with not only penetrative sex but oral sex too – just don’t forget to keep it water-based if you are using it on top of a condom. (We wouldn’t want any unexpected tears.)
As well as this, sex drive may decrease and other changes to the body may cause low self-esteem, anxiety or depression. Sexual health and contraception do not just mean avoiding infections. We also need to consider mental well-being and our general experience with this part of our lives as people’s bodies change.
But, if you think the menopause might be playing a part in these issues, you could get in touch with our experienced team of specialists. With over 10 years in the field, we understand how personal symptoms can be – differing from patient to patient.
If you need help managing these symptoms or understanding more about how menopause may affect your relationship and personal life, book an appointment today or call our clinic on 01483454016 for more information.
Our clinicians can help with sex drive as well as low mood which may be one of your main culprits in the bedroom!
Unfortunately, ageing can come with a few other sexual changes for those where estrogen is not an issue. This can include erectile dysfunction (ED), reduced libido and even difficulty ejaculating.
There are many possible causes for these changes but it is essential to have open conversations with your partner about how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing.
Again, just as younger people are concerned with having an active but safe sex life, sexual activity, the older you get, should not just be about avoiding infections but also maintaining a healthy and enjoyable relationship.
If you are looking to prevent pregnancy as well as STIs, there are a number of options available to you.
Many people also use hormonal contraceptives to control unwanted symptoms such as acne, mood swings and painful periods – but it is always recommended that you speak to your GP before trying anything new.
Here are a few of the options currently available. Most of which are available through the NHS.
GPs, pharmacies and sexual health clinics are the best places to get contraception. As there are so many, it may take a while to find one that is right for you.
When we get older, people going through menopause may find it harder or impossible to get pregnant, but people producing sperm will continue to do so unless they undertake hormone therapy or have the testes removed.
It is also worth remembering that condoms are the only option that protects against STIs.
Understanding and education surrounding sexual health and contraception are vital in breaking the barriers and stigma we deal with every day.
We hope this blog has helped start a conversation about something we know can be difficult or embarrassing. It is so important that we break down the barriers surrounding these topics to ensure everyone has access to the resources and support they need throughout life.
Don’t forget to share this article with others and find us on social media for more open and honest discussions where we will answer your questions and share our expertise.