How Sexual Health & Mental Health Are Connected + What We Should Be Talking About in Sex Education (with Dr. Sherry Ross, OB/GYN)
In this podcast (episode #311) and blog, I interview award-winning OB-GYN, best-selling author and woman’s health expert Dr. Sherry Ross about the relationship between sexual health and mental health, the importance of healthy attitudes towards sex, how sex is good for your brain, and more!
Sexual health is not something we should be hiding. It is something we should be open and honest about, because it plays such an important role in our lives AND mental wellbeing. As Dr. Sherry points out, our sexual health is often a barometer for our mental health.
Desire is the most important thing when it comes to sexual health—it is the foundation of a good sex life! Yet our mental health can have a dramatic effect on our desire for sex, especially if we are battling with issues like depression and anxiety. Sexual wellness and mental wellness go together.
It is estimated that up to 20% of women have never had an orgasm. This is incredibly sad, and a symptom of the stigma that often surrounds talking about woman’s sexual health and desire. For women, orgasms often take some time to figure out, especially because they are deeply connected to how we feel mentally. The average time it takes for a woman to get an orgasm is 13 to 20 minutes!
Of course, hormonal changes can also greatly impact our libido, such as before and after pregnancy or when taking certain hormones. We go through different sexual stages in life—our desire will not always be the same, and this is okay. Indeed, it is normal for desire to go up or down at different times.
One thing that is often overlooked when it comes to sexual desire is knowing what pleases you as an individual, and how to communicate this to your partner. You should know yourself first and what you like before you can communicate this sexually in a relationship.
Don’t just assume that the way sex is portrayed on TV or in books and movies is the “only” way when it comes to sex. It is estimated that around 25% of women only have an orgasm with penetration, for example, although many people assume this is the way you should have an orgasm based on what they see or have been told! This is why healthy sex education is so important to reduce stigma and help women realize that there is nothing wrong with them physically or mentally if they don’t feel the way our culture often tells them they should feel when it comes to sex.
Indeed, when it comes to our sexual and mental wellbeing, we need to understand our sexual response cycle. First comes desire, which increases blood flow to the vulva that lubricates the vagina, which leads to arousal and orgasm. This is why being in a peaceful and calm setting when you want to be in a good sexual state is so important. We need to be mindful about how we want to be sexual and the impact our environment can have on us. Our mental state will impact how we feel physically. We all need to learn these different stages and understand our unique bodies. As Dr. Sherry notes, good sex is all about paying attention to your mind and body! Desire is mental wellness.
For many people, sex doesn’t just “happen”—especially for women. The preparation is so important. We can’t just ignore or disregard the build-up before a sexual act. Mindfulness is part of getting into the mood.
Yet what comes after sex is equally important. The final stage of sexual response is known as resolution. This leads to an overall sense of wellbeing and calm, which can help create a deep and lasting bond between you and your partner. This is not only good for your relationship, but also your mental health!
In fact, what happens outside the bedroom is important for what happens inside the bedroom. What we do before and after sex can set the stage for a new and beautiful intimacy between you and your partner.
If you want to learn more about sexual health and mental wellbeing, listen to my podcast with Dr. Sherry (episode #311), and check out her work, Instagram, books and show Lady Parts. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
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2:20 Why Dr. Sherry loves educating women about sexual health
3:36 How sexual health is a barometer for our mental health
4:30 The difference between male & female sexual desire
5:00 The importance of talking about desire & mental health
6:30 What we should know about our sexual organs & what turns us on
8:20 How hormonal changes affect sexual desire in women
11:14 What causes low sexual desire in women?
12:10, 14:40 The relationship between mental health & orgasms
13:20 Overcoming the stigma surround female sexual desire
14:00, 15:50 The importance of sexual education for women
16:12 How should we talk about the relationship between sexual & mental health?
17:40 Why we need to understand & learn about our sexual response cycle
21:05 The importance of preparing for a sexual act
22:30 Mental health & intimacy after a sexual act
25:00 Why what happens outside the bedroom is important for what happens inside the bedroom
26:55 The mental & physical effects of sex
28:40 Why do women seem to battle more with sexual desire & is this changing?
36:03 The mental health benefits of organisms
37:10 The different stages of sexual desire
39:40 How different medications can affect libido
43:20 Why is sex painful for some people?
44:30 Why you should treat your vagina like you treat your face: take care of it daily!
This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.
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