As a sex educator, I’ve been asked many times whether it’s safe to have sex during pregnancy. I’ve answered this question before on the blog and, although the research is pretty clear that it’s safe to do so long as the pregnancy isn’t high risk, a lot of pregnant women who aren't in that high-risk category are still given subtle and not-so-subtle cues that they should probably avoid sex anyway. So why is that?Read More
A reader submitted the following question:
"Is it OK to have sex if you're pregnant? Especially during the later months?"
You're not alone in wondering about this. In fact, survey studies have found that 25-50% of pregnant women and 25% of their partners are concerned that sex could potentially hurt or "traumatize" a developing fetus . Such concerns have the effect of causing many pregnant couples to have sex less often than they'd like, or perhaps to have sex that is less satisfying than usual because they are anxious or worried. Fortunately, research suggests that these concerns are largely unfounded.Read More
Scientists have been hard at work for decades trying to develop a safe, highly effective, and reversible contraceptive for men—something akin to the birth control pill that has been available to American women since 1960. Thus far, nothing they’ve tested has been remotely ready for prime time. However, a new study just published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests that they may be nearing a breakthrough.Read More
A reader submitted the following question:
“I have read several blogs and magazines saying that having sex during menstruation can help to alleviate cramps. Is there any truth to this? Is there any research? Also is there any risk in having sex in those moments?”
Thanks for these great questions! With respect to the idea that sex reduces cramping and pain during menstruation, you’re right—there are a TON of websites out there making this claim. I did a quick search and saw it mentioned on WebMD, Kinsey Confidential, Medical Daily, and ABC News, among many, many others.
However, not a single one pointed to a specific study or source to back this idea up.Read More
A reader submitted the following question:
“What is more probable in a random heterosexual encounter without protection: getting an STD or getting pregnant? I assume the answer will change with age (higher chances of STD for older people, higher chances of pregnancy for younger women) but I think would be interesting to know the answer for an average person.”
Thanks for this very interesting, but very complex question! There’s not a simple answer because there are a lot of unaccounted for variables here.Read More
A reader asked the following:
“Are there any health effects of swallowing semen? Is it better to spit it out instead of swallowing?"
Thanks for these very interesting questions. Let me start by saying that if you perform oral sex on a man who has an STI (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis), you run the risk of contracting that infection. It doesn't matter whether his semen is actually swallowed—the risk comes from simply having his ejaculate in your mouth. So, if you know your partner has an infection or you aren’t sure of his status, it would be advisable to use a condom to prevent contact with his semen, thereby lowering your infection risk (read more about the potential STI risks of oral sex in this article).Read More
Many women (and their partners) have concerns about sex during pregnancy. For instance, survey research has found that 25-50% of pregnant women and 25% of their male partners have concerns about potentially hurting or "traumatizing" the baby by having intercourse . Another common concern is whether there is a certain point during a pregnancy at which sexual activity should cease. These concerns lead many pregnant couples to have sex less often than they would like, or to have sex that is less satisfying than usual because they are distracted or anxious. So what does the research have to say with regard to these concerns?Read More
Evolutionary psychologists have long argued that many of the physical features heterosexual men are drawn to in women reflect traits that signify female health and fertility status. The basic argument is that our male ancestors developed an attraction to these traits because it enhanced their odds of reproductive success. These mating preferences are thought to have been passed down across generations and still influence what men are attracted to today on some primal level. In a new study just published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, researchers examined whether men’s attraction to women with more prominent rear ends might represent one such evolved mating preference.Read More
Did you know that Lysol and Coca-Cola used to be used as contraceptives? Or that usage of birth control pills is related not only to what women pay attention to when watching pornography, but also to the amount of money that a female stripper makes in tips? Read on to learn more about these and other surprising facts about the past, present, and future of birth control.
1. In the not-too-distant past, some women used to flush out their vaginas with Coca-Cola after sex in an attempt to prevent pregnancy. Believe it or not, there was even a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1985 claiming that this technique actually worked (and not only that, but it also claimed that Diet Coke worked better than regular Coke!) . However, subsequent research found that soda isn’t all that effective as a contraceptive and can potentially lead to vaginal infections .Read More
Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know more about the topic of menopause:
“Are humans the only species in which the females experience menopause? Why does menopause exist?”
Thanks for these great questions! As it turns out, human females are not unique in having what some scientists term a “post-reproductive lifespan” (or PRLS for short). In fact, studies have found that many primate and non-primate species show evidence of a PRLS .Read More
Premenstrual syndrome (or PMS as it is more commonly known) is a catchall term for any unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms a woman might experience just prior to getting her period. Research suggests that as many as 80% of women experience PMS; however, the nature and severity of the symptoms varies dramatically across individuals . On the surface, PMS might not appear to be an adaptive trait, especially considering that, at least for a very small percentage of women, the symptoms are so severe as to become debilitating (in which case it may be referred to as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD). But if PMS is so widespread, is it possible that perhaps it came to exist for some evolutionary reason? That’s what Dr. Michael Gillings argues in a controversial new paper just published in Evolutionary Applications .Read More
So this is Christmas, and what have you done? In all likelihood, you’ve probably had some sex. Research has found that there are seasonal peaks in sexual activity, with one of the biggest spikes occurring right around the Christmas holiday . In a lot of ways, this makes sense. Most people are off work for a couple of days and college students are out of school for a couple of weeks. Without the stress and distraction of deadlines and homework, people have more time and energy to "get it on." However, it turns out that while people are having lots of holiday sex, it appears that they aren’t having very safe sex, which may result in some unexpected outcomes.Read More
Although “safe sex” means different things to different people, the most common thing people associate with this term is the male condom. We have been told time and again by sexual health educators and condom manufacturers alike that condoms can be highly effective at preventing unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—and there is no disputing that. However, research has found that people tend to overestimate how effective condoms are in practice  and for that reason, it is important to step back and look at what condoms do and don’t do, and reconsider our usage of the term “safe sex.”
Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader of the blog who wanted to know whether it is safe for women to have sex during pregnancy and, if so, how often it is okay to do it.
If a woman is pregnant, how often can she have sex until she can’t anymore? And does the penis poke the baby or placenta and possibly cause complications or damage?
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” – Todd Akin, Republican Senate Candidate from Missouri
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably seen a ton of headlines over the past few days referencing Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments about rape. Akin’s remarks were asinine on multiple levels because not only is it patently offensive to suggest that some rapes are “legitimate” while others are not, but there is absolutely nothing to back up his provocative claim that women’s bodies have mechanisms in place to prevent rape-related pregnancies from occurring. In fact, research has actually found the opposite of what Akin suggested: specifically, the per-incident pregnancy rate is higher for rapes than it is for consensual sex.1
Although the Akin controversy has stoked a lot of public anger, the silver lining is that his remarks have prompted a public dialogue about sexual assault that we desperately need to have. I have read so many excellent articles this week that are providing some much-needed attention to this important issue. If I may add one small bit to this, I would like to talk briefly about the definition of rape and how the wide variability in legal definitions of this crime may be contributing to confusion about what rape is and distracting us from the bigger issues at stake here.
Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week, we’re talking about whether you can pick the sex of your baby by having sex in certain positions or by timing how closely you have sex to when a woman ovulates. It appears that a lot of people are interested in learning about this topic because questions of this nature have come up with surprising frequency among students in my classes!
Can different sexual positions determine the sex of a child?
Can timing intercourse in relation to ovulation affect whether you have a boy or girl?