Sexual health is an important aspect in our lives. It impacts our overall health and wellbeing as well as our relationships. Psychological and physiological factors influence our intimate health, which include important variations between men and woman.
Women may experience vaginal dryness because of the reduced lubrication and the pain following it. Other factors, including stress, treatment with antidepressants, long-term contraceptive usage, age-related hormonal changes may also influence vulvovaginal health.
Men’s performance, desire and intimate health are related to testosterone levels, stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, relationship issues, smoking, alcohol consumption, and others.
To maintain sexual health, it is recommended to eat a healthy diet, avoid smoking, maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol consumption, and communicate with a partner openly.
Hormones perform many essential functions and have a huge effect on women’s health. The best-known hormones are estrogen and progesterone. They influence woman’s reproductive health, including menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and more. Estrogen also affects the brain, cardiovascular system, hair, skin and musculoskeletal system. Progesterone prepares the lining of the uterus for a fertilized egg, supports pregnancy, suppresses estrogen production after ovulation.
Hormones involving the reproductive cycle play a critical role in women’s lives, beginning with menstruation.
Pregnancy is a period in a woman’s life when she is carrying a baby and is preparing to give birth. Pregnancy usually lasts for 40 weeks. During the nine-month pregnancy, many changes happen within a woman’s body. Some of the physical changes are visible, like gaining weight or an increasing belly. Other changes like the expansion of the uterus, morning sickness and backaches are not seen, but are felt intensively by pregnant women.
Sometimes pregnancy brings issues such as constipation; anaemia; stretch marks; and changes in the skin. Each of these conditions is due to the changing biochemistry of the body.
Menopause is defined as the period in woman’s life when the woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. It is caused by the natural process that occurs as the ovaries age and produce fewer reproductive hormones.
Menopause is a natural part of ageing and is related with the decline of woman’s oestrogen levels. It usually begins between the ages of 45 – 55, but can develop before or after this age range. The median age for menopause is 51 but approximately 1% of women begin menopause before the age of 40.
Vaginal infections usually are caused by bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses. They usually appear due to an imbalance of yeast and bacteria that normally live in the vagina. This disbalance may cause discomfort like itchiness or soreness in and around the vagina; pain during intimate intercourse; or an unusual smell. Sometimes chemicals in soaps, sprays, or even clothing may irritate this area’s delicate skin and tissues.
To avoid vaginal infections, it is crucial to keep yourself clean and dry but not to overuse vaginal sprays or perfumed soaps. It is also important to avoid clothes that hold heat and moisture.
Some women experience problems with vaginal dryness during intimate intercourse. Though this problem is more common to women facing menopause, younger women may experience vaginal dryness too. Pre-menopausal women or breastfeeding mothers may experience vaginal dryness because of the low levels of estrogen.
The reasons for vaginal dryness before menopause are linked to hygiene products such as feminine sprays, swimming pools, or hot tub chemicals. Drug treatments such as allergy and cold medications may also be a reason for vaginal dryness, for they dry out mucous membranes.
Vaginal dryness may cause pain during sexual intercourse. In some cases, it can make it uncomfortable to sit or exercise.
Testosterone is an important male sex hormone. Its function is to regulate fertility, muscle mass, fat distribution and red blood cell production. Testosterone also regulates sex drive and bone mass. Low levels of testosterone may lead to infertility. Men with low levels of testosterone may experience reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, enlarged breast tissue. Low testosterone may also lead to osteoporosis, mood swings and reduced energy.
Testosterone levels decreases with ageing. Starting around 40s. The following symptoms indicate that testosterone levels are getting lower: diminished erectile quality, decreased libido, mood changes, fatique, decreased body hair, skin changes or increased abdominal fat.
Male libido changes with age. Men’s libido is high at their 20s when the level of testosterone increases. Mens’ libido continues to be strong through their 30s until their 40s. However, the stress of work, family and other responsibilities and commitments may decrease the interest in sex. In their 50s, men can stay physically active and enjoy their sex life if they are in good physical and mental health, though erections may happen less often.
Libido also depends on the factors such as psychological state, social and physical condition. Alcohol consumption and smoking may also affect libido.
The prostate is a small gland located between the bladder and the penis. It produces and contains fluid that forms part of semen. The prostate grows naturally with age and usually doesn’t cause any problems. However sometimes men face problems related to the prostate.
The most common problems are:
An enlarged prostate. It compresses the urethra and makes men urinate frequently, especially at night and the feeling of inability to get all the urine out.
Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate caused by bacteria.
Prostate cancer often has no symptoms. Therefore, men need to visit a medical specialist for a prostate check-up.