How to Avoid 8 Common Sexual Health Mistakes

A young woman sitting on a bed in a white bedroom.

Sex. We all do it (well, most of us do it). It’s one of those natural things that we do intuitively, without needing a lesson on the subject (although some of us got that too, either from an awkward teacher in health class or during an awkward conversation with one of our parents). But while you may know what you’re doing in the bedroom, do you know how to take care of your body afterward? Here are some of the most common mistakes for your sexual health—and how you can avoid them.

1. Get into the Nitty-Gritty

In the heat of the moment, no one wants to stop and talk about what’s going on “down there.” But whether you’re planning for your honeymoon or sneaking in a quickie while the kids are napping, it’s important to make sure both parties are on the same page regarding boundaries, contraception, and issues like STIs. How can you avoid this failure to communicate? It’s simple: talk to your partner. If something doesn’t seem right, take a break from the action and start a conversation. Don’t move forward with something if you don’t feel totally comfortable.

2. Pee After Sex

The bottom half of a woman's legs as she sits on a toilet.

There is a very natural exchange of bacteria that happens during sex. For the most part, it’s no big deal—but it does require a little post-coital maintenance. One easy way to prevent bacteria from sticking around is by urinating after sex. This can stop bacteria from traveling up the urinary tract, causing a UTI. So, while it may seem super romantic to snuggle up to your partner and fall asleep in their arms after sex, you really should take a quick bathroom break first.

3. Clean up Properly

Of course, your post-sex cleanup doesn’t end after you go to the bathroom. There are still other things you can do to prevent the spread of bacteria, which can cause yeast infections and other complications. Make sure to take a shower and wash your genitals (ideally with fragrance-free soap). If there’s not enough time, use some feminine hygiene wipes—and please, please, please wipe front to back and wash your hands thoroughly.

4. …But Don’t Clean too Much

You’ve probably heard this metaphor before, but it bears repeating: the vagina is like a self-cleaning oven. It doesn’t need much help to keep itself clean and functioning! So while it is important to clear away bacteria from your pubic region, you don’t need to worry about what’s going on inside. Steer clear of douches and other intravaginal washes. Not only are these things unnecessary, but they can actually be harmful! Douches can interfere with your body’s natural pH balance, which can ultimately lead to uncomfortable yeast infections.

5. Don’t Ignore Red Flags

A young woman talking to a female doctor.

You’ve lived in your body for a long time, and you probably know what is normal for you and what’s not. Your partner, on the other hand, may not be so sure, which is why it’s critical for you to notice when something seems off. If you’re experiencing any pain during or after sex, any unusual bleeding or discharge, or anything else that doesn’t feel right, don’t let it go! Pay attention to your symptoms and contact your doctor if they don’t subside quickly.

6. Never Neglect Your Kegels

When we think of exercise, most folks think about lifting weights in the gym, an upbeat aerobics class, or a particularly intense yoga practice. However, that’s not the only exercises you should be doing! Kegels, which strengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor, are an important exercise for your sexual health. Fitting them into your routine (even while you’re driving to work or watching TV) will help prevent issues like urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

7. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

A woman drinking a glass of water.

Missy Elliot said it best: “Work it, I need a glass of water.” Sex is a physical activity, and that means your body will need some water to replenish itself. Once you and your partner are done, make sure you take the time to rehydrate. A “tall glass of water” also has an additional benefit for women. Drinking fluids will help you urinate more frequently, which ensures that any lingering bacteria are flushed out of your urinary tract! By keeping hydrated, you’re really benefiting your entire body.

8. Sanitize Your Toys

As they say, sometimes the best defense is a good offense. If you want to keep bacteria out of the bedroom, it’s best to make sure everything is nice and clean before your next rendezvous, and that includes any toys you might use. So, how do you clean your toys? It depends on what they’re made of. For silicone, stainless steel, or glass toys with a motor, a fragrance-free soap and a warm washcloth will do the trick. For toys that aren’t battery-operated, 10 minutes in boiling water or a run in the dishwasher is great for sterilization.

These tips will help make your sexual experience safer and, by extension, even more fun! So enjoy yourself with your spouse, but make sure you take care of your health in the process.

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