You may have heard that sex can be good for your health, especially for women. It improves libido and can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which are important for preventing incontinence.
But does having sex really change your hormones? Sex doesn’t typically cause a major change in your menstrual cycle, but arousal can delay it by up to a day.
Libido is your overall sexual desire and interest, including sex with a partner or masturbation. Libido is influenced by several factors, such as hormones (testosterone and estrogen), neurotransmitters, and more. It is normal for libido to decrease or increase at different times. It’s also normal for people to think about sex a lot, regardless of whether they have high or low libido.
Men and women both have a natural sex drive, but their sex drives can be affected by various things such as diet, stress, sleep, and drug use. Many sex drive changes occur during puberty, when hormones such as testosterone and estrogen rise. Libido typically peaks in young adults, and then slowly declines over time.
Both sex and other activities can boost libido, such as physical activity, a healthy diet, and social connections. However, if your sex drive is low and interferes with your daily life or relationships, talk to your doctor for advice.
Some medications can affect libido, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). For example, citalopram and escitalopram (Celexa) have been shown to reduce libido, while bupropion (Wellbutrin) may enhance it. Other medications that affect libido include opiates, antihistamines, beta blockers, and some oral contraceptives. A doctor can find safe alternatives to these medications if they are affecting your sex drive. Also, certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disease, can affect libido in both men and women.
During orgasms, your body releases hormones that calm you down by decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. During sex, you also increase your levels of the love hormone oxytocin, which boosts intimacy between partners and helps you bond with your baby during childbirth. Oxytocin can even help reduce the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your body. Cortisol is essential to your health, but if it becomes elevated it can cause an imbalance that affects the thyroid and adrenal glands.
For women, the hormonal shifts in oxytocin during sexual activity can decrease the pain and stress of menstrual symptoms like cramps. For men, sex can also increase libido by increasing testosterone levels.
A lot of things can affect your cortisol level, including diet, exercise, and stress. But if you have high or low levels of it that lasts for too long, it can lead to some unwanted effects, including anxiety, insomnia, and a slower recovery from illness.
If you have sex too soon before your period, it can cause you to start your cycle a little earlier because of the sudden surge of hormones. However, this can be temporary and won’t have a big impact on your period’s length. Some variation in your period is completely normal; 46% of menstrual cycles vary by seven days or more.
Female sex hormones, including estrogen, play key roles in sexual development and reproduction. Like all hormones, they are chemical messengers that trigger your body to start or stop processes. The ovaries make most of the estrogen, although adrenal glands and fat cells also produce small amounts. Estrogen is responsible for the growth of secondary sex characteristics like breasts and pubic hair during puberty, as well as regulating the menstrual cycle and the uterus’s lining during pregnancy.
Estrogen levels are highest during the ovulation process, when an empty egg follicle is replaced with tissue called the corpus luteum. It also regulates the menstrual cycle, controlling the uterine lining during the first part of each cycle. During pregnancy, the placenta produces a form of estrogen called estriol.
Both males and females produce estrogen, but levels of the hormone are much higher in women. High levels of the sex hormone increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, and they can also cause changes in breasts and other parts of the body. In women, high estrogen can contribute to early menstruation, and it can lead to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, mood swings, and weight gain.
High estrogen levels may also raise a woman’s risk of certain cancers, such as breast and ovarian. It can also contribute to abnormal periods, such as irregular or missed ones (amenorrhea), and it can cause dense breast tissue, which makes mammograms harder to read.
Progesterone is a sex hormone that plays an important role in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. It helps create a healthy uterine lining for implantation, and it also prepares the body for breastfeeding. It is also responsible for balancing estrogen, the primary sex hormone in those assigned female at birth, and it helps the body produce testosterone, the primary sex hormone in males.
Progesterone levels rise in the ovary and adrenal glands after ovulation. It then enters the bloodstream and travels to cells throughout the body that have the appropriate receptors. In females, it binds to receptors in the uterus, vagina, cervix, and breasts. It works to prevent early uterine contractions, suppresses ovulation and sperm production, and promotes mammary development in preparation for breastfeeding.
In pregnancy, it maintains the health of the uterine lining and provides the fetus with essential nutrients and oxygen. During this time, it also suppresses ovulation, and reduces the chances of an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy where the embryo or fetus develops outside the uterus).
It is important to have balanced Estrogen and Progesterone levels to ensure a successful and healthy pregnancy. For those who have low progesterone levels, a healthcare professional may prescribe supplemental progesterone. The term progestogen can also be used to describe synthetic steroid hormones that have a similar action as natural progesterone, including those found in combination HRT and oral contraceptive pills (birth control pills). Foods that naturally increase progesterone include: Zinc: beef, shellfish, cashews and almonds; Vitamin C: citrus fruits, peppers and broccoli; Vitamin B: eggs, nuts, vegetables, avocado and spinach; and Magnesium: beans, avocado, leafy greens and nuts.