Being sexually healthy means:
- Having access to up-to-date educational information and care
- Recognizing the sexual rights everyone shares
- Understanding that sexuality goes beyond sexual behavior
- Making efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections
- Knowing when to seek medical help regarding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases
- Understanding how and when to express concerns about sexual health with your partner or doctor
- Being educated enough to identify misinformation related to sexual health
- Being able to participate in sexual relationships, intimacy, and sexual pleasure
- Understanding the importance of communication, consent, and emotional and physical health with regards to sexual relationships to avoid coercion or violence
- Avoiding sexually risky behaviors
Sexual health impacts other aspects of health. For example, the ability to have a healthy sexual relationship with your partner helps you stay emotionally healthy. Similarly, knowing how to avoid unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections helps you stay mentally and physically healthy as well.
What is sexual health?
According to the World Health Organization, good sexual health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being in all matters regarding the functions of sexuality and not merely an absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity.
Unfortunately, not everyone has access to accurate information about sexual and reproductive health. It’s important to be empowered to protect yourself from STIs and unwanted pregnancy, as well as be aware of how to approach sexuality with positivity and respect.
What are issues related to sexual health?
Sexual health is a vast term encompassing various issues including:
- Sexual relationships
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Pregnancy, childbirth, and abortion
- Sexual expression
- Sexual pleasure
- Sexually transmitted infections, their treatment, prevention, and complications
- Sexual violence
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sexually risky behavior
- Harmful practices (such as female genital mutilation)
When should I talk to my child about sexual health?
Children are especially vulnerable to misinformation about sexual and reproductive health. This may make them vulnerable to dangerous situations or have a negative impact on their mental, emotional, and physical health.
Although there is no specific recommended age to discuss sexual health with your child, experts suggest that it is better to break the ice before they hit puberty. The reason for this is that at that age, your child will be exposed to a lot of misinformation about sex from the internet or their peers.
Thus, you may consider talking to your child about sex when they are old enough to understand (ages 8-9). You can start earlier (ages 4-5), by telling them about their body parts. By the time they get older (ages 9-10), you can take time to explain healthy sexual behavior.
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