Sexual and reproductive health are often confused to mean the same thing. While they both deal with sexual wellness, they address different aspects of keeping yourself healthy. Sexual health is needed by everyone while reproductive health may only be a concern to those trying to have a baby.
The World Health Organization defines sexual health as “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of diseases, dysfunction or infirmity.” Sexual wellness is no longer just popping into your family planning clinic every 6 months to make sure you have a clean bill of health, it’s an all encompassing idea that requires a positive and respectful approach to sex. Approaching each sexual relationship in this way will allow you to have a safe, consensual and pleasurable experience.
This seems like a no brainer but it is very common for partners to not discuss sex before it happens. Open communication with your partner about what you like, don’t like, or concerns you’re having will lead to a better sexual experience for everyone. If you have a hard time talking about sex it may help to write these things down, communicate over text or have a conversation sitting back to back.
Learning what your body responds to will allow you to communicate your needs better to your partner. Explore your body through masturbation, reading or trying new things with your partner.
Stress, anxiety, depression and insecurities can all play a role in a declining libido. Allow yourself the space and time to talk with your partners, doctor or therapist about these issues and ways to work through them.
The definition of reproductive health refers to the physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to the reproductive system and its processes. This means that people are able to have safe and enjoyable sex while having the choice to decide if, when and how often they want to reproduce.
Maintaining a healthy weight can help in reproduction for both men and women. Women who are underweight or overweight have a harder time trying to conceive. Excessive weight in men can affect sperm production making the chances of conception much lower.
Studies have shown that smoking has extensive adverse effects on fertility and can also lead to miscarriages. If you don’t smoke currently, don’t start. If you do smoke and are trying to have a baby, talk to your doctor about cessation programs. Alcohol consumption can also affect fertility in men and women so cutting back while trying to conceive is advised.
Exercising regularly can be beneficial to your overall health when trying to have a baby. However, excessive exercise can hinder this by disrupting ovulation.
Sexual and reproductive health encompass the wellbeing of the whole person instead of just the physical. Focusing on how to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and socially when it comes to these aspects of sexual wellness will allow you to have more safe and fulfilling sexual experiences.