Am I Allergic to Condoms? Symptoms and Treatment

Is this common?

If you experience frequent and unexplained itching after sex, it could be a sign of an allergic reaction. You may be allergic to the condom — or any added ingredient, like spermicide — that you or your partner used.

Although it’s possible to be allergic to any type of condom, latex is the most common culprit. Between 1 and 6 percent of Americans are allergic (or sensitive to) latex, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most latex allergies develop slowly, occurring after years of repeated exposure. They’re also far more common among healthcare workers. As many as 8­ to 12 percent of American healthcare workers are allergic to latex, estimates the CDC.

Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms of allergic reaction, alternative products to try, and when to see your doctor.

What are the symptoms?

In most cases, people who are allergic to latex or other materials will experience a localized reaction. This means that symptoms will only appear in places where your skin came into direct contact with the condom.

Symptoms of a localized allergic reaction include:

  • itching
  • redness
  • bumps
  • swelling
  • hives
  • a rash that resembles a poison ivy rash

In severe cases, a full-body, or systemic, reaction is possible. Women are more likely to experience a systemic reaction. This is because the mucus membranes in the vagina absorb latex proteins faster than the membranes on the penis.

Symptoms of a systemic allergic reaction include:

  • hives in areas that didn’t come into contact with the condom
  • swelling in areas that didn’t come into contact with the condom
  • runny nose or congestion
  • watery eyes
  • scratchy throat
  • flushing of the face

In rare cases, anaphylaxis is possible. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction. Seek emergency medical attention if you have:

  • difficulty breathing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • swelling of the mouth, throat, or face

Why does this happen?

Natural latex — which differs from the synthetic latex in paint — is derived from the rubber tree. It contains several proteins that are known to trigger an allergic reaction.

If you have a latex allergy, your immune system mistakes these proteins for harmful invaders and releases antibodies to fight them off. This immune response may lead to itchiness, inflammation, or other allergy symptoms.

About 30 to 50 percent of people with latex allergies are also allergic to certain foods, according to a 2002 study. Some plant-based foods contain proteins that are structurally similar to those found in latex. This means that they may trigger a similar immune response.

You may be more likely to develop a latex allergy if you’re allergic to:

  • avocado
  • banana
  • kiwi
  • passion fruit
  • chestnuts
  • tomato
  • bell pepper
  • potato

Although latex allergies are the most common, it’s possible to be allergic to other condom materials.

The premise remains the same: If the given material contains one or more irritating compounds, your immune system will deploy antibodies to fight against them. This can result in a localized or full-body allergic reaction.

Although most condoms are made with latex, there are many alternatives available. Discuss your allergy with your sexual partners and choose the best non-latex option for both of you.

Try: Polyurethane

Made from plastic, polyurethane condoms effectively prevent pregnancy and protect you and your partner from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They come in both male and female varieties.

Polyurethane is thinner than latex. It conducts heat well, so they can feel fairly natural.

But polyurethane doesn’t stretch the same way as latex, so these condoms may not fit as well. Because of this, they may be more likely to slip off or break.

If you want to give this option a go, Trojan Supra Bareskin condoms are a popular choice. This male condom is only available in one “standard” size, so make sure you and your partner check the fit before use.

Unlike other options, polyurethane condoms are compatible with most lubricants. This includes lubes made from:

  • oil
  • silicone
  • petroleum
  • water

Try: Polyisoprene

These condoms are the newest development in non-latex protection. Some people even prefer them to latex.

Polyisoprene is a synthetic rubber. This material conducts heat better than latex, which can make for a more natural feel. It also stretches better than polyurethane.

Polyisoprene condoms protect against STIs and pregnancy, but they’re only available for men. They can be used with water- or silicone-based lubricants.

Try Skyn’s original condom, which is made with their patented technology. Durex Real Feelnon-latex condoms are also made with polyisoprene.

Try: Lambskin

Lambskin condoms were used long before the development of latex.

Made from the intestinal lining of sheep, these condoms are “all natural.” This results in heightened sensitivity, leading many people to say they can’t feel the condom at all.

However, lambskin condoms are porous, and viruses can pass right through them.

Although they can effectively protect against pregnancy, lambskin condoms don’t prevent the spread of STIs. They’re recommended for monogamous couples who have tested negative for STIs.

Lambskin condoms are only available in male varieties.

Trojan’s Naturalamb condoms are the only brand available in the United States. They come in one “standard” size, but users report that they’re actually very large. Make sure you and your partner check the fit before use.

It could also be the spermicide (nonoxynol-9) on the condom

Spermicides are commonly used in gels, suppositories, and condom lubricants.

Nonoxynol-9 is the most common active ingredient in spermicide. It’s known to cause irritation in some people, especially when used frequently.

Doctors used to believe that spermicide, which kills sperm, could help protect against pregnancy and certain STIs.

Experts now agree that condoms lubricated with spermicide are no more effective at preventing pregnancy than other condoms.

Research has also proven that spermicide isn’t effective against STIs. In fact, frequent spermicide use may actually increase your risk of contracting HIV or another infection.

Although spermicide is no longer used on most condoms, it hasn’t been banned across the board. This means that some condom manufacturers may still add spermicide to their product. These products are labeled accordingly.

Try this

If you think spermicide is to blame, switch to a regular latex condom. Make sure it’s labeled “lubricated,” but not “lubricated with spermicide.” This male condom from Trojan is a popular pick.

It could even be the lubricant that you’re using

Personal lubricants are designed to enhance sexual pleasure, but they contain a wide range of chemicals and preservatives that can cause irritation. This includes glycerin, parabens, and propylene glycol.

In addition to irritation and itching, these ingredients can cause an overgrowth of bacteria. This can result in a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.

Try this

Most people pay little attention to the ingredients in their lubricants. However, if you’re experiencing irritation or frequent infections, you may want to look for something more natural.

Try Aloe Cadabra, a natural alternative made from aloe vera and vitamin E. Sliquid Organic’s Natural Lubricant is another good option. It’s enriched with botanicals like hibiscus and sunflower seed.

Natural lubricants aren’t compatible with all condoms or toys, so make sure you read the packaging before use. Your doctor can also answer any questions you have about appropriate and effective use.

If you don’t want to use any added lube, make sure you’re using a non-lubricated condom.

If your symptoms last for more than a day or two — or persist after trying alternative options — see your doctor. Your symptoms may be the result of an infection or other underlying condition.

Your doctor can perform a physical exam and run diagnostic tests to check for common STIs and bacterial infections. Most genital infections can be cleared with a course of antibiotics. But if left untreated, certain infections can lead to severe complications, such as infertility.

If your tests come back negative, your doctor may refer you to an allergist. Your allergist will perform a patch test to help identify the substance that’s triggering your symptoms.


Every Woman’s Guide to Never Having Bad Sex Again

Having bad sex just isn’t an option anymore. Nope. Too often we simply accept that women won’t always enjoy sex. It’s something we give little notice to in our culture. And to be frank, it’s utterly ridiculous. This archaic thinking is rooted in sexual stigma and a lack of anatomical understanding.

“Our sexuality is as part of our lives as is eating and sleeping. Sexuality is an important aspect of our well-being, and in a healthy romantic relationship, it’s as vital as love and affection,” Dr. Sherry Ross, an OB-GYN and women’s health expert, tells Healthline.

Good sex comes from ridding yourself of sexual shame, owning your desire, and understanding the clitoris, leaning into that pleasure therein.

If you know what brings you to orgasm, you’ll know how to show your partner how to do the same.

It’s important to know your body, what it likes, and how it works. If you aren’t sure what makes you tick, you can’t exactly expect a partner to magically figure it out.

It’s absolutely possible to never have bad sex again. Here’s how.

The saying goes, “If your heart’s not in it…” But when we say “heart,” what we really mean is brain.

Dr. Ross tells us that for a woman’s sexuality, the place we have to look first is the mind. The brain is our most powerful sex organ besides the clitoris (and trust me, we’ll get to that). “Intimacy, sex, and orgasm all begin with desire. If you don’t have any desire, you will not be able to have an orgasm. Plain and simple, mission will not be accomplished,” says Dr. Ross.

There are many issues that hinder and block our ability to connect our minds to our bodies: Body dysphoria, a lack of confidence, and sexual shame are just some of the factors that can leave sex feeling more obligatory than amazing.

When you feel those initial stirrings, those first moments of sexual spark, don’t shy away from them. Breathe into your body. Begin by entrenching yourself in a sexual fantasy. Don’t have one? Watch a little porn or read an erotic story to center yourself. Here are some suggestions.

Focus on your breath and everything your partner is doing to you that feels good. Consider this an entire experience of mind, body, and soul — even if it’s a casual encounter.

Masturbate for better sex

You may not have considered this before, but touching yourself is how you improve your sex life.

“Masturbation is a vehicle for understanding your body. The less you go for drives in your body’s ‘town,’ the scarier exploring it will be. Fear is the main ingredient of shame. Once you know that town, quite literally, like the back of your hand, then and only then, do you have the agency to invite another in for a visit,” Mal Harrison, a sexologist and director for the Center of Erotic Intelligence, tells Healthline.

Spend time with your vibrator or your hand. Experiment with different pressures, positions, and rhythms. If you know what brings you to orgasm, you’ll know how to show your partner how to do the same.

The clit should be involved always, always, always.

Harrison even encourages parents to teach their children the normality and importance of masturbation for overall health. “If you don’t encourage your daughter to masturbate and get her access to whatever toys she wants to try, then how can you expect her to understand and own her agency?” she says.

Focus on the clitoris

OK. Let’s not beat around the bush (pun intended). Research says many women don’t achieve orgasm from penetrative sex alone, and a recent survey found that 1 in 3 women need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm. So, we have to stop pretending that run-of-the-mill, penis-in-vagina sex is going to produce a female climax. It just isn’t realistic or based in fact.

“During penetrative sex, most women need the clitoris stimulated at the same time unless they are in touch with their G-spot,” Ross says. By the way, the G-spot IS a part of the clitoris, too.The clit should be involved always, always, always.

If you’re not getting the clitoral action you need, speak up! Do not fake orgasms. If you fake an orgasm, you set unrealistic expectations and create inaccurate guidelines for what brings you pleasure. “Don’t go along with someone who isn’t 120 percent into respecting you and focused on you having a great time. Otherwise, pleasure inside the bedroom will likely be zero,” Harrison says.

Remember, sex isn’t shameful

It’s amazing. It’s healthy. It’s beautiful.

Sexual shame is one of the main reasons we experience bad sex. We’re told sex is dirty and gross. This kind of thinking completely warps our perceptions of both ourselves and our pleasure.

“People are afraid of sexuality because it’s not commonplace to discuss freely and openly. The more we speak about it, the less power shame will have,” Harrison adds.

We have to talk about it until we are blue in the face. We must normalize sexuality. Only then can we have better sex. Good sex shouldn’t be an anomaly. It should be the gold standard we all expect, every single time.

7 Foods to Help Boost Your Sex Life


Having a healthy sex drive is linked to feeling physically and emotionally healthy. So it’s no surprise that food can play a role in helping you get your groove back.

If you’ve hit a slump in the bedroom, it may be time to take a closer look at your diet. These seven foods are packed with nutrients that can perk up your libido and may improve your overall health, too.

1. Meat

food and sex

Include a variety of meats in your diet to improve your sex life. Beef, chicken, and pork contain carnitine, L-arginine, and zinc. Carnitine and L-arginine are amino acids that improve blood flow. Uninterrupted blood flow is crucial to sexual response in both men and women. According to NYU Langone Medical Center, these two nutrients may effectively treat erectile dysfunction in some men.

Serve up some animal-based protein (in moderation, to avoid increasing risk of heart disease) to help keep all systems running smoothly in the bedroom. Vegetarians can opt for whole grains, nuts, and dairy products.

2. Oysters

sex and food

You’ve probably heard about the aphrodisiac properties of oysters. Research shared at a 2005 conference of the American Chemical Society that oysters, clams, and scallops contain compounds that raise testosterone and estrogen levels.

A boost in hormone production translates into heightened sexual desire in many cases. Oysters are also an excellent source of zinc, which aids blood flow to sexual organs in both genders. Don’t care for mollusks? Feast on lobster or crab instead. Both types of shellfish are loaded with zinc.

sex and food

Salmon is well-known for having heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The pink-fleshed fish, as well as tuna and halibut, might be the key to enhancing your sex life. Omega-3s help prevent the buildup of plaque in your arteries, thus improving blood flow throughout your body. A diet of fatty fish may not be a love potion for guys who are at risk for high-grade prostate cancer, however. Studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggest that omega-3 fatty acids could increase risk for an aggressive form of the disease. Low-grade, slow-moving prostate cancer is not affected by eating foods rich in omega-3s.

4. Nuts and seeds

sex and food

Showering your beloved with chocolates is a romantic gesture, but it won’t necessarily take them to new heights in the bedroom. Instead of candy, snack on a handful of nuts and seeds. Cashews and almonds are chock-full of zinc, while a host of healthy snacks contain L-arginine to get your blood flowing. Try the following:

  • walnuts
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • pecans
  • hazelnuts
  • peanuts

Walnuts are doubly helpful in the love department, as they are also rich in omega-3s.

5. Apples

sex and food

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and it could also improve your love life. Apples, along with berries, cherries, onions, and dark-colored grapes, are rich in quercetin. This antioxidant, a type of flavonoid, may offer a number of health benefits. As far as sex goes, quercetin plays a role in controlling symptoms of prostatitis and interstitial cystitis (IC), and it promotes circulation. Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate gland. It sometimes causes testicular discomfort and pain with ejaculation. IC, or painful bladder syndrome, may also make sex difficult for men and women. Sexual-related symptoms of IC include genital pain, erectile dysfunction, painful intercourse, and low desire.

sex and food

Your mother might have warned you never to eat garlic before a date. This is one piece of advice you can ignore. The pungent herb is a natural blood thinner often used to prevent high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. The anticoagulant properties help ensure plenty of blood flow to your nether regions. You and your partner can both benefit from a healthy dose of garlic before an amorous evening. If you’re both eating it, nobody will mind the strong breath.

7. Red wine

sex and food

This one seems pretty obvious. A glass of red wine may help ladies get in the mood. Research published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that one to two glasses of red wine a day increased sexual desire and lubrication in women. Red wine contains quercetin, which might account for the positive response. Researchers noted that drinking more than two glasses of red wine daily or indulging in other types of alcoholic beverages didn’t produce the same results.

Bottom line

While certain foods can keep your blood pumping and boost hormone levels, diet alone isn’t always enough to improve your sex life. Speak to your doctor if lack of desire, pain during intercourse, or impotence is holding you back from enjoying an intimate relationship with your partner.

Can You Get Pregnant if You Have Sex on Your Period?

If you’re trying to get pregnant (or trying not to get pregnant), tracking your cycle is important. It will help you keep track of the most fertile days when you can more easily conceive.

A common fertility myth is that a woman can’t get pregnant when she’s on her period. While the odds for pregnancy are lower on the days you’re on your period, they aren’t zero.

Here’s what you need to know about fertility and having sex on your period.

How Does Conception Occur?

The ability to conceive is miraculous. It requires the meeting of a male’s sperm with a female’s egg. Once a woman’s ovary releases an egg, the egg lives for only between 12 and 24 hours. The male sperm can live for about three days.

The typical female cycle is 28 days. Day 1 is when she starts her period. A woman typically ovulates around day 14 (but it could be around days 12, 13, or 14).

Ovulation is when a woman’s ovary releases an egg for fertilization. If a sperm is available in the uterus, pregnancy can occur.

Ovulation can vary based on a woman’s cycle. Some women have a longer cycle of around 35 days between periods. Ovulation would then happen around day 21. Women with a shorter cycle of 21 days ovulate around day 7.

How Can a Woman Get Pregnant on Her Period?

It’s easy to mistake vaginal bleeding for the beginning of a period. It’s possible you could bleed during ovulation when you’re most fertile. This could easily be mistaken for a period. Having unprotected sex at this time dramatically increases your chances of becoming pregnant.

For the average woman, the ovulation cycle is somewhere between 28 and 30 days. This means that if you have sex while on your period, you won’t likely ovulate until several days later. But women with a shorter cycle wouldn’t have the same amount of time between having their periods and ovulating.

Another consideration is that a man’s sperm can live inside a woman for up to 72 hours after ejaculation. Toward the end of your period, your chances of becoming pregnant will increase.

If you’re curious about your ovulation patterns, you can track the number of days between your periods. This includes when you start your period, and then when you start your period again. Over several months, you can identify a pattern to determine roughly when your ovulation cycle occurs.

What Are the Chances a Woman Can Get Pregnant on Her Period?

A woman’s likelihood of getting pregnant can rise and fall throughout her ovulation cycle. While the average female’s monthly cycle may be 29 days, others may have a cycle that varies from 20 to 40 days, or longer.

The likelihood that a woman will get pregnant one to two days after she starts bleeding is nearly zero. But the likelihood starts to increase again with each successive day, even though she’s still bleeding. At roughly day 13 after starting her period, her chance of pregnancy is an estimated 9 percent.

While these numbers may be low, it doesn’t mean a woman can ever be 100 percent assured that she won’t get pregnant on her period.

Birth Control Precautions

If you’re trying to get pregnant, having sex on your period won’t likely help you to conceive unless your menstrual cycle is less than 28 days. But it’s always possible that you could become pregnant.

If you’re not trying to become pregnant, it’s important to have protected sex every time. This includes using some form of contraception like wearing a condom or taking birth control pills.

Birth control pills will not provide a barrier against sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. To protect yourself from unwanted infections, have your partner wear a condom.

The Takeaway

A woman’s ovulation cycles can vary, so it’s statistically possible you could become pregnant while on your period. While pregnancy is less likely in the earlier days of your period, the chances increase in the later days.

If you’re trying to become pregnant and haven’t conceived after a year or more of having unprotected sex, contact your doctor. They can recommend methods of tracking your ovulation, as well as fertility experts. They can provide testing and treatments that will help you increase your chances of conception.

Is It Safe to Have Sex During Your Periods? Tips, Benefits, and Side Effects

Can you have sex during your period?

During your reproductive years, you’ll get a menstrual period about once a month. Unless you’re especially squeamish, there’s no need to avoid sexual activity during your period. Though period sex can be a bit messy, it is safe. And, having sex when you’re menstruating can actually offer a few advantages, including relief from menstrual cramps.

Read on to learn more about sex during your period.

What are the benefits?

Having sex during your period has a few upsides:

1. Relief from cramps

Orgasms may relieve menstrual cramps. Menstrual cramps are a result of your uterus contracting to release its lining. When you have an orgasm, the muscles of your uterus also contract. Then they release. That release should bring some relief from period cramps.

Sex also triggers the release of chemicals called endorphins, which make you feel good. Plus, engaging in sexual activity occupies your mind, which may help take it off your menstrual discomfort.

2. Shorter periods

Having sex may make your periods shorter. Muscle contractions during an orgasm push out the uterine contents faster. That could result in shorter periods.

3. Increased sex drive

Your libido changes throughout your menstrual cycle, thanks to hormonal fluctuations. While many women say their sex drive increases during ovulation, which is about two weeks before your period, others report feeling more turned on during their period.

4. Natural lubrication

You can put away the KY during your period. Blood acts as a natural lubricant.

5. It might relieve your headache

About half of women with migraine headaches get them during their periods. Although most women with menstrual migraines avoid sex during their attacks, many of those who do have sex say it partially or completely relieves their headaches.

What are the possible side effects?

The biggest downside to having sex during your period is the mess. Blood can get on you, your partner, and the sheets, especially if you have a heavy flow. Aside from dirtying the bed, bleeding may make you feel self-conscious. Anxiety over making a mess can take some or all of the fun out of sex.

Another worry about having sex during your period is the risk of spreading a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like HIV or hepatitis. These viruses live in blood, and they can spread through contact with infected menstrual blood. Using condoms every time you have sex can reduce your risk of spreading or catching an STI.

If you plan to have sex during your period and you’re wearing a tampon, you need to remove it beforehand. A forgotten tampon can get pushed so far up into your vagina during sex that you’ll need to see a doctor to have it removed.

If you aren’t actively trying to conceive, using protection is a good idea, no matter what part of your menstrual cycle you’re in. Your odds of conceiving are lower during your period, but it’s still possible to become pregnant at this time.

You’re most likely to get pregnant during ovulation, which happens about 14 days before your period starts. Yet every woman’s cycle length is different, and your cycle length can change monthly. If you have a short menstrual cycle, your risk of getting pregnant during your period is higher.

Also consider that sperm can stay alive in your body for up to seven days. So, if you have a 22-day cycle and you ovulate soon after getting your period, there’s a chance you’ll be releasing an egg while sperm are still in your reproductive tract.

Do you need to use protection?

Using protection will also guard you against STIs. Not only can you catch an STI during your period, but you can also more easily transmit one to your partner because viruses like HIV live in menstrual blood.

Have your partner wear a latex condom every time you have sex to reduce your odds of getting pregnant and catching an STI. If you or your partner are allergic to latex, there are other forms of protection you can use. You can ask your pharmacist or doctor for recommendations.

Tips on having sex during your period

Here are a few tips to make period sex a more comfortable and less messy experience:

  • Be open and honest with your partner. Tell them how you feel about having sex during your period, and ask how they feel about it. If either of you is hesitant, talk about the reasons behind the discomfort.
  • If you have a tampon in, remove it before you start fooling around.
  • Spread a dark-colored towel on the bed to catch any blood leaks. Or, have sex in the shower or bath to avoid the mess entirely.
  • Keep a wet washcloth or wet wipes by the bed to clean up afterward.
  • Have your partner wear a latex condom. It will protect against pregnancy and STIs.
  • If your usual sexual position is uncomfortable, try something different. For example, you may want to try lying on your side with your partner behind you.

Don’t let your period put a halt to your sex life. If you do a little prep work, sex can be just as enjoyable during those five or so days as it is the rest of the month. You might be surprised to find that sex is even more exciting during your period.

12 Ways Sex Helps You Live Longer

Is sex really that important?

As more and more research is done on the subject, it’s becoming clearer that having healthy sex is essential to a healthy life. Sex can even help you to live longer. According to Dr. Irwin Goldstein, Director of Sexual Medicine at Alvarado Hospital, if you read the latest research, “you can’t conclude anything else but that it’s healthy to have sexual activity.”

The research being done pinpoints a few specific — and surprising — health benefits that result from having a healthy and active sex life. Healthline examines a dozen of the most proven and interesting findings.

Sex fights colds and the flu

According to a study done at Wilkes University, people who have sex a couple of times a week tend to have much higher amounts of the antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA) than those who have sex less than once a week. What does that mean? “IgA is the first line of defense against colds and flu,” says Carl Charnetski, one of the researchers on the Wilkes study.

Sex burns calories

Sex increases blood flow and gets your heart pumping. Simply put, sex is a form of exercise, and it’s more fun than running laps. Sex doesn’t burn a ton of calories. According to a 2013 article in The New England Journal of Medicine, a man in his mid-30s might expend 21 kilocalories during intercourse. However, it’s still more exercise than you’d get sitting on the couch in front of your TV.

Numerous studies have shown that an active sex life is closely correlated with a longer life. Specifically, it seems like sex may lower the risk for heart attacks, strokes, and other heart diseases. In 2010, the New England Research Institute conducted a massive study. Its results suggested that regular sexual activity may reduce heart disease risk.

Sex regulates hormone levels

Why should you care? Among other things, a healthy hormone profile promotes regular menstrual cycles and decreases negative menopause symptoms.

Sex can cure headaches and reduce physical pain

Although it doesn’t seem like sex would help relieve a headache, it actually can. How? During sex, the hormone oxytocin is released in your body. Oxytocin reduces pain. In a study published in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, volunteers who inhaled oxytocin vapor and then had their fingers pricked felt only half as much pain as others who did not inhale any oxytocin.

There is another benefit of the oxytocin released during orgasm: it calms the nerves. Studies done on lab rats have shown that oxytocin counteracts the effects of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Sex also helps you sleep better. When your partner rolls over and starts snoring after a good bout in the bed, it’s not just from physical exhaustion. Oxytocin not only calms you down, but it also specifically promotes sleep.

Sex reduces risk for prostate cancer

In 2003, Australian researchers published a study showing that the more often men ejaculate between the ages of 20 and 50, the less likely they are to develop prostate cancer. According to the author of the study, men in their 20s should probably be ejaculating once a day. A similar study performed a year later by the National Cancer Institute showed that men who ejaculated at least five times a week, whether through sex or masturbation, were less likely to get prostate cancer. “The claim physiologically,” Goldstein told us, “is that if you empty out the tank every so often, it’s healthier than holding onto the material within the tank.”

Sex reduces risk for breast cancer

Women can get in on this sex-as-preventive-care thing too. According to Goldstein, studies show that “women who have vaginal intercourse often have less risk of breast cancer than those who don’t.” Goldstein added that it’s “pretty interesting and exciting and needs to be studied more.”

Sex boosts self-esteem and improves mood

The psychological benefits of a healthy sex life are many. The feeling of walking around on cloud nine after sex lasts longer than you think. According to Goldstein, a healthy sex life leads to long-term satisfaction with one’s mental health and enhances your ability to communicate honestly and intimately. People who are sexually active are less likely to have alexithymia. This is a personality trait characterized by the inability to express or understand emotions.

Sex prevents preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a fairly common condition in which hypertension arises during pregnancy. A number of studies have shown that if a woman has had enough exposure to her partner’s semen prior to conception, she is significantly less likely to get preeclampsia. Tests conducted by Dutch biologists in 2000 confirmed that women who regularly practice oral sex — particularly those who swallow their partner’s semen — have a much lower risk of preeclampsia.

Sex improves sense of smell

Scientists knew for a long time that the hormone prolactin surges in both men and women after orgasm. In 2003, a team of Canadian researchers did a test on mice. They discovered that prolactin causes stem cells in the brain to develop new neurons in the brain’s olfactory bulb — its smell center. Dr. Samuel Weiss, one of the researchers, said that he suspects that the increase in prolactin levels after sex helps “forge memories that are part of mating behaviors.”


Sex increases bladder control

The pelvic thrusting involved in sex exercises the Kegel muscles. These are the same set of muscles that controls urine flow. So lots of sex now may help prevent the onset of incontinence later.

How Many Calories Does Sex Burn?

When you think about physical activity, running, hitting the weights, or even swimming may come to mind. But what about sex? You may have heard it before: Getting busy with your partner makes for a great workout.

Is there validity to this claim? Not really. Sex as a significant form of exercise is an exaggeration. It does get your blood pumping. But caloric expenditure from sex is not as high as many people think.

What does the research say?

Several studies published in the last few years have discussed sex and calorie expenditure. One of them, from the University of Quebec at Montreal, studied 21 heterosexual couples in their early 20s. Researchers tracked energy expenditure during exercise and sexual activity. They used armbands to track activity.

Perceived energy expenditure, perception of effort, fatigue, and pleasure were also assessed after sexual activity.

All participants completed a 30-minute endurance exercise session on a treadmill at a moderate intensity to compare caloric expenditure.

Results showed that men burned 101 calories (4.2 calories per minute) on average during the 24-minute session. Women burned 69 calories (3.1 calories per minute). Mean intensity was 6.0 METS in men and 5.6 METS in women, which represents moderate intensity. During the 30-minute moderate-intensity treadmill session, men burned 276 calories and women burned 213 calories. Also, it was noted that perceived energy expenditure during sexual activity was similar in men and women when compared to measured energy expenditure.

What do these results mean? Sex doesn’t burn as many calories as moderate-intensity exercise, but the number of calories burned was still notable.

Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine isn’t quite as forgiving with caloric expenditure estimations for sexual activity. The study says that a man weighing 154 pounds would, at 3 METs, expend approximately 3.5 calories per minute (210 calories per hour) during a stimulation and orgasm session.

This level of expenditure is similar to that achieved by walking at a moderate pace (approximately 2.5 miles per hour). But the study says that the average bout of sexual activity lasts for only about six minutes. This means that a man in his early-to-mid 30s could burn approximately 21 calories during sexual intercourse.

How to burn more calories during sex

Given the research, “average” sexual activity won’t make much of a dent in your caloric expenditure. If you want to increase the benefit of your next round of sex, how can you up the amount burned?

Go longer

Rationale follows that if you want to burn more calories, participate in sexual activity for a longer amount of time.

Make it steamy

The warmer it is, the more you’ll sweat, and the more calories you will burn.

Try different positions

There is such a thing as a sex calculator. You can enter you and your partner’s gender and weight, along with what positions you executed, and calories burned is tallied.

For a woman who weighs 140 pounds and her male partner who weighs 190 pounds, the missionary position with her on the bottom for 10 minutes will burn 14 calories for her. It will burn 47 calories for him.

If they were standing during sex with her in front, she would burn 30 calories and he would burn 51 in 10 minutes. Lastly, if he was holding her up for 10 minutes during sex, he would burn 65 calories and she would burn 40.

Other benefits of sex

Besides caloric expenditure, sex has plenty of other benefits that improve your health.

Healthy heart

According to an American Journal of Cardiology study, men who had sex at least twice a week were less likely to develop heart disease, as compared to men who only had sex once per month.

Stress relief and better sleep

After orgasm, hormones called oxytocin and prolactin are released. Both oxytocin and prolactin have strong links to satiety, relaxation, and sleepiness.

Stronger pelvic floor muscles

Pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, bowel, and uterus. When they contract, these organs are lifted and the openings to the vagina, anus, and urethra are tightened.

Strengthening these muscles supports control over bodily functions such as urination. It can also increase the ability to achieve pleasurable sensations during sex.

Evidence varies on the number of calories burned during sex, but a safe estimate is 3 to 4 calories per minute. Sex has many other health benefits beyond burning calories, but don’t count on it for your quota of physical activity.