Raise your hand if you remember Salt-n-Pepa's '90s hit "Let's Talk About Sex." Well, either way, let's talk. To put it simply, sex encompasses a lot. It's one of those large-scale subjects that can take the conversation in several different directions. In short, sex is all the feels: It affects us emotionally, physically, and mentally. Yes, physically speaking, a lot is happening to our bodies during sex, but sex literally affects the frequencies in our brain.
There are so many benefits of good sex. It gives you energy, makes you happier, allows you to feel more comfortable with your body, and is an overall empowering experience. Wendy Strgar, sex expert and author of Sex That Works: An Intimate Guide to Awakening Your Erotic Life, said it best to Byrdie: "When you're having good sex, you're responsible for your sexual needs and have no problem asking for them. When you give up trying to prove something, there's space to really feel what it's like to be sensual with someone. Your body will then become a symphony of sensation."
A large part of responsible sex is being aware of the sexual health mistakes you could be missing. These mistakes could negatively affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically. And we're dedicated to uncovering it all so that you're well-informed to have the best sex you deserve. For both a reproductive health point of view and a wellness standpoint, we reached out to several experts who brought the most common sexual health mistakes to the surface.
Ahead, find a wealth of knowledge from Sheeva Talebian, MD, fertility specialist at CCRM New York; Lauren Steinberg, the founder of feminine wellness brand Queen V; Jordana Kier, the co-founder of tampon and reproductive care startup Lola; and Prudence Hall, MD, practicing gynecologist at The Hall Center.
"If a couple is trying to have a baby, there is a common belief that if you don't ejaculate for a couple weeks, then the 'important' ejaculation around the ovulation will be better," explains Talebian. "However, a lack of ejaculation for over seven days may actually compromise the quality of the sperm." If you're trying to get pregnant, Talebian recommends regular ejaculations leading up to the fertile window.
Kier believes that the safety of the sexual health products we use is often dismissed. Major mistake. "Staying informed is a key component to setting the groundwork for safe sex," says Kier. "Lots of women never stop to think about what ingredients are in the products that are used during our most intimate moments, from our periods to sex lives."
"Before we launched Sex by Lola, we conducted a State of Sex survey, where we tapped over 1000 women for their honest insights and thoughts on what's happening during sex," explains Kier. "The biggest thing we learned is that a healthy sex life comes down to honest communication between partners. Open communication can help you describe what you do and don't like in the moment, and it's a crucial aspect of setting boundaries. Additionally, consenting to one sexual activity does not imply consent of another, so make sure to check in with your partner before and, most importantly, throughout a sexual experience to keep the communication open along the way. The fear of 'ruining the mood' is totally understandable, but it's important to ensure everyone is on the same page."
If you're trying to conceive, Talebian points out the importance of using safe lubricants since many aren't "fertility friendly." "Many common lubricants are detrimental to sperm function," says Talebian. With more knowledge of ingredients and the increased products on the market, you are able to find what products work best for your sex life. "There are several commercially available lubricants that are specifically for those trying to conceive. People also commonly think certain positions are better if trying to conceive, but no one position is more successful."
Generally, after sex, it's important to urinate, cleanse, and wash your vagina. Be aware of any signs of pain or bleeding, drink cranberry juice, check the condom, and get tested.
"Always make sure to urinate after intercourse," says Steinberg. "If you are using a lubricant, be sure to use a lubricant that does not have glycerin or propylene glycol in it like Queen V's PS I Lube You ($9). In addition, make sure to use a pH-balanced wipe to keep your vagina clean post-sex. Our Swipe Right Wipes are pH-balanced and have no fragrance."
Prudence also stresses the importance of urinating post-sex to flush out any unwanted bacteria in your system. "I recommend urinating an hour or two after sex because any bacteria that is pushed into the urethra, which drains the bladder, is rinsed out," Prudence reiterates. "If women are prone to urinary infections after sex, they should drink a glass of water so [they] urinate and also take 1000 milligrams of D-Manose ($26), which will help with these symptoms."
For fertility purposes, Talebian has noticed throughout her practice that many women are afraid to urinate post-sex out of the fear that they'll "loose" sperm. This is not true and oftentimes this mistake can lead to UTIs, as pointed out above.
Beyond the physical mistakes, Kier shines a light on the importance of checking in with how you feel after a sexual encounter, which is an honorable act we owe to ourselves that often gets neglected. "It's important to reflect on your preferences and desires following a sexual encounter," says Kier. "Be sure to check back in with yourself, and if you're in a long-term relationship, continue an open dialogue with your partner, too. It's your right to have the sex life you want, so don't forget that you're in control of your own body. Self-care and the relationship you have with yourself is just as important as the relationship you have with others."
To Ensure You Have the Healthiest Sex…
"Make sure your partner is STD-free," advises Talebian. "Until you get that confirmation, which is done best by blood tests, use condoms. And be sure to investigate UTIs, infections, and any pain or abnormal discharge after intercourse. The best practice to avoid all of the above is to see your gynecologist and make sure you are both healthy."
"For too long, brands have dominated the sexual health market with products that cater to men and their desires," Kier calls out. "But men are only one half of the equation. We believe women deserve to know what's going inside their bodies and should be empowered to drive decisions in their sex lives, from the products they use to the act itself. Learning what you do and don't like and cultivating an ongoing dialogue with your partner plays a major role in having the healthiest sex life."
Kier continues: "Put your health first by staying in tune with yourself and your body before, during, and after sex. Symptoms such as increased or unusual vaginal discharge or pain during urination should be paid attention to. However, many common STIs don't show any symptoms. It's important to talk openly to your gynecologist about your sex life and to ensure you're consistently and proactively getting tested to protect your health now and in the future. Make sure you always have your preferred method of contraception on hand to prevent transmission between you and your partner."
Next, add this to your reading list: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Taking an At-Home Pregnancy Test.