- Sex can release stress, boost your mood, and strengthen romantic relationships, according to Leah Millheiser, MD, an OB/GYN at Stanford University.
- As a woman ages, sex can look and feel different since hormones that play a role in sexual drive and vaginal dryness may fluctuate.
- Sex can still be enjoyable after menopause and actually boost confidence.
Having regular sex offers a variety of health benefits, including the release of mood-boosting hormones and a closer connection with your partner.
“The endorphin release [from orgasm] boosts your mood and makes you feel good, similar to what you feel during and after exercise,” said Leah Millheiser, MD, a gynecologist at Stanford University. She added that oxytocin, another hormone linked to improved mood, is released during orgasm, which helps create a bonding experience between partners.
These benefits are lifelong, but others, like gaining body confidence and reducing stress, become increasingly important during specific ages. Here are the ways sex can be beneficial to your health in your 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond.
In your 20s, sex helps you learn about your body and what you want from a partner.
Sexual experiences vary from person to person at any age, but generally speaking, someone in their 20s is fairly new to regular sex, Millheiser told INSIDER. “Think of these as formative years. There may be more sexual experimentation during this decade,” she said.
During your 20s, sex offers a way to learn more about your body and your sexual preferences, whether that includes acting on sexual fantasies, exploring sexual orientation, or figuring out which sex positions help you reach orgasm.
It’s also a time to address any sex-related health concerns, like painful sex. “[You] may experience issues related to discomfort during sex, which is oftentimes limited,” Millheiser said. But if the pain won’t go away or you can’t reach orgasm, see your gynecologist in case there is a more serious underlying health issue.
In your 30s, focusing on sex can strengthen romantic relationships and relieve stress.
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When you hit your 30s, marriage, family, and work may become greater priorities, which can add additional stress to your life. During this life stage, sex can become an afterthought, but Millheiser stressed the importance of keeping it front and center.
Read more: 14 ways sex is good for the body and brain
“It’s important to remember that sex is very important to the intimacy of many relationships and it’s important to continue making it a priority,” she said.
In doing so, you’ll release hormones like oxytocin that help you feel bonded to your partner. Plus, sex can act as a form of stress relief . Lastly, Millheiser said sex releases the hormone prolactin, which can make you feel sleepy and therefore help you get a better night of rest.
One study suggests having oral sex with men could reduce the risk of miscarriage.
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In addition to penetrative sex, oral sex with men could have benefits, according to a small study published in April in the Journal of Reproductive Immunology.
Researchers found that women who had recurrent miscarriages (defined as three or more miscarriages) had less oral sex with men than those who had no history of miscarriages or pregnancy complications.
Recurrent miscarriages affect 1% of women.
In your 40s, sex continues to offer benefits like stress relief and intimacy, and it might become more of a carefree experience.
People in their 40s tend to be sexually confident because they have a better understanding of their bodies and their preferences. Sex in your 40s still offers benefits like stress relief and greater intimacy, Millheiser said, but also might be more enjoyable since you probably know how to ask for what you want.
Additionally, sex in your 40s offers time for you and your partner to refocus on your intimate connection, as other priorities begin to wane. “[People] have the emotional energy to focus on their partner as they aren’t zapped from caring for the kids or trying to establish a career,” Laura Berman, an assistant clinical professor at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, told Reader’s Digest.
Read more: 6 signs you’re in a rebound relationship
In your 50s, vaginal dryness may make it more difficult to have sex, but doing so can increase blood flow and body confidence.
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A a person enters their 50s, they’ll begin to experience menopause if they haven’t already. Usually, menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Menopause causes estrogen and progesterone levels to fluctuate greatly, and can lead to hot flashes, trouble sleeping, and vaginal dryness.
Vaginal dryness and a lower sex drive can make it more difficult to enjoy sexual experiences, Millheiser said, but using lubricants can help.
“It takes more work to have a healthy sex life after menopause, but doing so increases blood flow to the vagina which helps keep the vagina healthy over time,” she said. Using a vibrator during sex can be especially helpful if it becomes harder to reach orgasm.
The less a person has penetrative vaginal sex as they age, the more likely their vagina is to narrow and atrophy. Vaginal atrophy can cause pain during sex and while urinating, as well as urinary incontinence, according to the Mayo Clinic. Having sex after 50 may help prevent these symptoms.