July 23, 2024

The Complete Guide to Sexual Wellness: Nurturing Your Sexual Health

What is Sexual Health?

Sexual health refers to a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.

Causes of Poor Sexual Health

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are among the most common and easily preventable of all health problems. Despite this fact, STIs remain a major public health challenge for most countries. STIs place a significant economic and social burden on individuals and societies. Some of the most common STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. If unattended, they can lead to serious long-term health consequences including infertility, complications during childbirth and increased risk of HIV. Using condoms, limiting the number of sexual partners and regular STI screening especially for high-risk groups can help prevent the spread of STIs.

Unintended Pregnancy

Unintended pregnancy is often the result of non-use or incorrect use of modern contraceptive methods despite the desire to avoid or delay pregnancy. Globally, around 121 million pregnancies occur each year of which 40% are unintended or unplanned. Unintended pregnancy, especially in adolescents, can compromise educational and career opportunities besides threatening the health of both mother and child. While modern contraception helps meet the need for planned families in developed countries, access remains limited in developing nations. Reducing stigma around sexuality and scaling up family planning services can reduce unintended pregnancies.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence including assault, harassment and coercion undermines the sexual health and well-being of victims. It is estimated that globally 1 in 3 women experience some form of physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime usually committed by an intimate partner. Sexual violence has severe short and long-term mental, physical and reproductive consequences. Apart from taking legal measures, promoting gender equality, non-violent relationships and empowering survivors are important to end sexual violence. Sensitising communities and changing social norms that tolerate violence can significantly reduce incidences of sexual violence.

Lack of Sexual Education

Comprehensive sexuality education equips young people with accurate information about human development, relationships, decision-making, consent and other aspects of sexuality in a manner that is relevant to the lives of adolescents and youth. However, in some communities, the topic of sexuality continues to remain a taboo. As a result, many lack basic knowledge about their own sexuality leading to negative health outcomes. With rising internet use, lack of guidance leaves youth vulnerable to misinformation online. Imparting age-appropriate sexuality education has proven benefits and must be strengthened globally.

Promoting Positive Sexual Health

Safe Sex Practices

Practicing safe sex through proper use of condoms and dental dams during all sexual acts is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of STIs including HIV. Condoms also provide effective barrier contraception when used correctly. Regular STI screening, limiting numbers of sexual partners, being in mutually monogamous relationships, delaying age at sexual debut especially in girls also help promote sexual safety. Comprehensive sexuality education empowers youth to adopt safer sex practices and make informed choices.

Contraceptive Use

Accessing and using modern contraceptive methods of choice effectively helps achieve desired family size and spacing between pregnancies. Contraceptives play a huge role in empowering women, reducing maternal deaths and population growth in developing nations. Apart from condoms, other effective long term reversible options include oral pills, injectables, implants and IUDs. Permanent sterilization is also available. Contraceptive counselling and community outreach can improve modern contraceptive uptake.

Sexual Consent and Respect

Respecting each other’s mutual consent, autonomy and boundaries during sexual acts is a basic human right and important aspect of sexual health promotion. Discussing likes, dislikes and ensuring partners are equally comfortable helps establish trusting relationships based on care, respect and consent. It is also imperative to respect other’s decision to not engage in any sexual act without their consent. Teaching and practicing affirmative consent from a young age through social and legal systems can promote healthy sexual behaviour.

Self-Care and Self-Awareness

Learning to value and care for one’s physical and mental health individually promotes sexual well-being. Self-care includes eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, pursuing hobbies, getting health check ups done and engaging in safe relaxing activities. It also requires being introspective and increasing awareness about one’s sexuality, desires, boundaries and needs through masturbation and open communication without judgement. Seeking professional help for sexual dysfunctions, trauma or disorders should be encouraged to enhance sexual satisfaction and relationships.

Conclusion

In conclusion, adopting comprehensive preventive measures and promoting factors that enable positive sexuality are key to achieving sexual health and rights for individuals worldwide. A multisectoral approach is needed involving education, healthcare access, social and legal reforms to address socio-cultural barriers and enable environments where sexual wellness is prioritised for all.

 *Note :
1.     Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2.     We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile