Sexual health basics

Sexuality is part of being human. Love, affection and intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships from childhood through old age.

You often hear about the importance of physical, mental and spiritual health, but feeling confident about your sexuality also is important. Achieving sexual health allows for:

  • Healthy relationships
  • Planned pregnancies
  • Disease prevention

It's essential to be well-informed about all aspects of sexual health and what it takes to have a fulfilling sex life. Similarly, it's important to be aware of factors that can complicate your sexual health. Don't let embarrassment keep you from bringing up concerns or asking questions of your doctor or other health care providers.

STD prevention

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are infections usually acquired though unprotected sexual contact with someone who's infected.

But, you can't always tell if someone is infected, because many STIs cause no symptoms. In fact, many people who have an STI don't know it.

That's why you have to be vigilant about STI prevention. Barrier methods of birth control, such as condoms, also help reduce your risk of getting most STIs. If you're sexually active, having just one partner who agrees to remain sexually exclusive with you can also help prevent STIs.

Women's sexual health

Sexual health is important for a woman's well-being, whether you're trying to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections or you're worried about low sex drive, painful intercourse or other problems related to women's sexual health.

Learn how to achieve a fulfilling sexual relationship, and know how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections. As you get older, understand common changes in women's sexual health — and how to maintain a healthy and enjoyable sex life at any age.

Men's sexual health

Sexual health is important for a man's well-being, whether you're trying to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections or you're worried about erectile dysfunction or other problems related to men's sexual health.

For some men, worries about penis size top the list of their sexual health concerns. However, you're probably more normal than you think — and penis-enlargement products and procedures aren't likely to be effective and may have risks.

As you get older, understand common changes in men's sexual health — and how to maintain a healthy and enjoyable sex life at any age.

Sex and aging

Adults can remain sexually active regardless of their age. In fact, many older adults desire and enjoy an active sex life.

An ongoing interest in sex, as well as satisfaction with the frequency and quality of sexual activity, is positively associated with health in later life. Of course, there are some challenges when it comes to sex and aging. Physical changes, illness, disabilities and some medicines can make sex challenging or difficult to enjoy.

There are many resources available to older adults to help them achieve a satisfying sex life. Don't be afraid to bring up concerns with your doctor or other health care provider. And remember, whatever your age, take precautions to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections.

Talking to kids about sex

Kids and sexuality — those words strike fear into the hearts of many parents. But talking to kids about sex is an important part of parenting. Children and teens get a lot of information from peers and media sources, so they need your guidance to help them make healthy and appropriate decisions about their sexual behavior.

When it comes to talking to kids about sex, there's no standard script. Your decision to educate your children about sexuality will likely be based on the child's maturity, as well as your personal goals and values.

Look for everyday opportunities and let your child set the pace with his or her questions. As your child matures, you can provide more-detailed responses.

It's normal to feel uncomfortable when talking to kids about sex. But by providing accurate and open communication, you increase the odds that your child will understand your values and make appropriate choices about sex.

Oct. 08, 2019