Sex is certainly considered one the most pleasurable things in life, but it is not without its risks. The Doctors explain the health hazards associated with doing the deed.
Sex Toy Dangers
When used correctly, sex toys can enhance the bedroom experience. But there are potential risks that come with the pleasure they provide. Are there dangers to using a personal massager or other sex toys?
Cleanliness is essential because many adult novelties can carry sexually transmitted diseases and cause other infections. "When it comes to certain sex toy devices," ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says, "Planned Parenthood and other organizations recommend using condoms on your sex toys to keep them clean. It's really important."
Knowing what your device is made out of is important as well. Many toys are made from plastics, such as PVCs, which contain phthalates. "[Phthalates] are known to, at times, to be hormone disrupters, can cause kidney, liver and other damage in too great of a quantity," Dr. Travis says. "There are some people making sex toys now that are moving away from using these types of plastics because of the theoretical concerns."
"Also, none of these should be used directly on the clitoris," sex expert Dr. Ruth Westheimer says. "The clitoris is too sensitive. It should be used around the area of the clitoris in order to really feel sexually aroused and to have an orgasm."
"[Sex toys] can actually be dangerous if you don't use them correctly," Dr. Travis says. "You really do need to know what you're doing with these things."
OB-GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson reveals common causes of vaginal pain during intercourse and treatments available.
Fitness trainer Jeanette Jenkins demonstrates exercises to help improve sexual fitness and alleviate back pains, sore thighs and cramps caused by sexual activity.
Anal Sex Risks
Anal sex can cause lacerations and tears to the area, and STDs that can be contracted through vaginal intercourse can also be passed through anal sex.
"That area is very vascular and it can bleed, so you may have a lot of bleeding," Dr. Lisa says. "That's also why it's not safe sex, because [there is] a high risk of passing sexually transmitted diseases."
Using lubricants will help avoid abrasions to the sensitive tissue, and latex condoms should always be used to safeguard against STDs and infections. Women who have anal sex must also get regular rectal pap smears in addition to vaginal pap smears.
The Doctors discuss the risks involved when having anal sex.
Oral Sex Risks
Oral sex is not a risk-free act. The human papillomavirus (HPV) can be passed through both oral and genital contact. The American Cancer Society states that in 2008, 39 percent of cases of oral cancers were linked to HPV. The Gardasil vaccine, intended to protect against four types of HPV, is currently available for girls and young women.
"The thing about the HPV vaccine is that it only covers four of the viruses," Dr. Lisa says. "There are a lot of other high-risk HPV viruses out there. It's not complete protection against it. The HPV vaccine does not cancel you out from [getting] STDs, and there are a lot of other STDs that are out there."
“There are so many consequences [to unprotected sex] for both men and women for sexually transmitted disease contraction,” Dr. Lisa says. “You can contract everything from HIV to hepatitis, syphilis, herpes, Chlamydia, gonorrhea, etc. You can contract these vaginally, orally and anally.”
No Sex = Health Risks?
Having regular, safe sex can relieve stress, boost immunity, burn calories, reduce pain and improve cardiovascular health. But can abstinence put your health at risk?
"It doesn't mean [you will have] health problems," Dr. Lisa says. "We talk so much about the health benefits of sex on the show ... but the good news is, you can get those benefits just from yourself, without a partner. Push your own buttons!"
Sex and Heart Attacks
Many heart attack survivors say they’re afraid to have sex for fear of dying in the throes of passion. Dr. Travis says that intercourse is relatively safe and can actually be beneficial for your ticker. Energy expended in the bedroom is the equivalent of climbing two flights of stairs. The flip side is that heart disease patients often have problems with erectile dysfunction and decreased libido. If you’re worried, consult with your physician.
• More on cardiovascular health.
Shower Before Sex?
Is it necessary to shower before sex? The Doctors all have differing opinions, but in the end, it comes down to personal preference. Dr. Lisa assures that health-wise, having sex when one or both partners are sweaty is perfectly safe.
“But if you find that after sex, your boyfriend is always sweaty, and you’re getting a lot of bladder infections or vaginal infections, then you might want to say, ‘We need to shower first,’” Dr. Lisa notes.
Learn more about urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder infections.