Sex: Top Surprising Health Benefits
An active sex life can have a range of health benefits.Corbis Images
A healthy sex life boosts self-esteem, reduces stress and contributes to emotional and physical well-being, said licensed psychologist and L.A.-based sex therapist Linda De Villers, author of Love Skills and Simple Sexy Food.
"It makes people feel more alive and vibrant," she said.
Sex can relieve even some ailments. Earlier this week, research finding that sex could reduce migraine pain made headlines. That feel-good story made us wonder: What other health benefits might sex have?
It turns out quite a few. Here are some of the most surprising.
An active sex life and a healthy pregnancy can go hand in hand.Corbis Images
All of that positive sexual energy that produced a pregnancy comes full circle at childbirth, helping to stimulate labor and more, said Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom.
"The energy that gets the baby in gets the baby out," she said. "For 5,000 years, we've had a culture that separates sex from pregnancy, and that's our whole problem."
Indeed, the second trimester of pregnancy pushes more blood to the pelvic region, sometimes helping women become orgasmic for the first time, Northrup said.
The documentary Orgasmic Birth made headlines for revealing that some women have orgasms during labor. Many doctors, midwives and doulas also recommend sex and/or nipple stimulation as a method for triggering labor.
And when women give birth in a sensual atmosphere, Northrup said, they're less likely to experience postpartum depression. "Talk about imprinting something positive on your body for the rest of its life," she said.
Sex during menstruation can not only potentially relieve migraines but also cramping.Corbis Images
Orgasms make the uterus contract, which can relieve pain of menstrual cramping.
"There are both men and women who are skittish about sex during menstruation," De Villers said. But that can be solved with menstrual cups designed to catch flow, a diaphragm, a condom or everyday items like towels, she said.
Even kissing has its potential health benefits.Corbis Images
Kiss with caution. A healthy flow of saliva is great for your mouth, teeth and gums, and kissing gets it flowing.
But, beware a partner with cavities: Their cavity-causing bacteria could wind up in your mouth.
Though it can occasionally be a source of heartache, sex has also been proven to reduce instances of heart disease.Corbis Images
Men who had sex twice a week were up to 45 percent less likely to have heart attacks than men who had sex once a month or less, scientists at the New England Research Institute found.
Whether the benefits are a result of physical or emotional effects -- or a combination of the two -- is unknown.
A healthy sex life can help get you through cold and flu season.Corbis Images
Weekly or twice-weekly sex gives your immune system a boost; specifically, it raises the antibody immunoglobulin A by as much as a third, researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found.
Sex also increases phagocytes, which, in turn, kill cold germs, research from Switzerland has shown.
Stronger pelvic muscles can decrease the likelihood of incontinence.Getty Images
Sex helps tone pelvic floor muscles. A strong pelvic floor means less likelihood of incontinence, frequent urination and pelvic organ prolapse. Like kegel exercises, but more fun.
A doctor and patient discuss prostate health.Corbis Images
Men who ejaculate at least five times a week had a lessened risk of prostate cancer, research at the National Cancer Institute has shown.
Of course, if a man is reaching that number by having frequent partnered sex, he should make sure he's not putting himself at risk for a sexually transmitted infection. "Make sure they are all safe," De Villers said.