Is masturbation healthy? Benefits and side effects
- Masturbation is healthy, and the benefits include less stress, better sleep, and even fewer headaches.
- For women, masturbation can relieve menstrual cramps and increase orgasms.
- Side effects of masturbation can include feeling guilty or not having as much sex with a partner.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference Library for more tips.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding masturbation – for both men and women. Yet, most doctors consider it not only healthy sexual behavior, but also healthy sexual behavior and an important part of overall sexual health. Here are the many health benefits of masturbation.
Health Benefits of Masturbation
A lot of evidence of the benefits of masturbation for men and women is related more to orgasm than masturbation, says Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist who studies sexual behavior and physiology and founder of the sexual biotechnology company Liberos.
When you cum, your body releases a flood of hormones, including:
- endorphins, which are known to reduce pain
- oxytocin, which helps regulate stress, pain, fear, and well-being
- serotonin, which reduces stress and helps balance mood
As a result, masturbation that results in orgasm can come with many health benefits, such as:
- increased relaxation
- reduced stress and anxiety
- Better sleep
- relieved headaches
- improved couple sex
- increased sexual satisfaction
There is also some evidence to suggest that masturbation can boost the immune system.
Masturbation can also be more pleasurable than engaging in sex acts with a partner because it relieves all kinds of pressure.
“For many people, when masturbating, especially solo, there is an element of relaxation,” says Susan Milstein, certified sexuality educator and professor of health and kinesiology at Texas A&M University. “They don’t feel the need to perform when they’re just there for themselves.”
If you’re trying to abstain from sex or are worried about the risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), masturbation is also great.
“It really is one of the safest forms of sex, as long as you don’t share toys and clean up in between,” Milstein says.
Benefits of masturbation for women
Masturbation has several unique benefits for women.
No more orgasms
Women generally enjoy faster and easier during masturbation than during sex. For example, a 2017 study of over 52,000 adults found that only 65% of heterosexual women and 66% of bisexual women typically reached orgasm during sex. In contrast, 95% of straight men ejaculate regularly during sex.
The reason women come less frequently during sex could be because they have a hard time discovering their preferences, Milstein says, let alone communicating them. But masturbation can help with this as it gives women the opportunity to be more in touch with their bodies, so that they know what they are feeling and what they need.
For a small study published in 2014 in the International Journal of Impotence Research, researchers reported that 35% of women who enjoyed regularly during sex also masturbated, compared with only 9% of women who enjoyed during sex and did not. did not masturbate.
During your period, your uterus contracts to shed its lining, which can cause painful cramps. But an orgasm increases blood flow to the genitals and releases endorphins, which can relieve cramps. This is a similar reason why exercise can also help get rid of menstrual cramps.
Alternative to pregnancy sex
Pregnant women may enjoy masturbation more than partner sex, Milstein says. This is because sex with a partner can be more embarrassing depending on what stage of pregnancy you are in.
Additionally, some male partners are worried about harming the fetus, so masturbation can be less nerve-racking. But sex during pregnancy is perfectly safe for both mother and child.
Benefits of masturbation for men
There are fewer benefits specific to masturbation for men, but they are still worth noting.
Reduced risk of prostate cancer
There is some evidence, including a 10-year study of nearly 32,000 men published in 2016 in European Urology, that masturbation may help reduce a man’s risk of prostate cancer.
Milstein says most research shows that ejaculation is what lowers the risk of cancer, whether through “partner sex, even wet dreams, or masturbation.” The theory is that “you’re sort of purging the system” or getting rid of potentially problematic bacteria or toxins that can cause cancer, she says.
Milstein and Prause both say prostate cancer research has been mixed. A study published in 2016 found that certain factors, such as the age range of study participants, could complicate a clear verdict about whether ejaculation is linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer.
Satisfy a high libido
Due to the higher levels of testosterone in men, which contributes to libido, libido is generally higher in men than in women. Therefore, masturbation can be a great way for men in heterosexual relationships to deal with their increased urges. Prause says some men say they use masturbation as a way to reduce the sexual burden on their partners.
Side effects of masturbation
Of course, there are a few potential downsides to masturbation if you’re not careful.
Sexually transmitted diseases and infections
While masturbation is generally safer when it comes to spreading a sexually transmitted infection, there is always a risk. When sharing toys, opt for hard, non-porous materials for easier cleaning. If your toy is porous, like a jelly dildo, Milstein says to use a condom, then after each use, throw out the condom and clean the toy.
Masturbation can sometimes have a negative effect on mental health. Sometimes people feel guilty when masturbating, which can prevent them from fully relaxing and enjoying the experience.
“It’s one of those things that we need to start normalizing and discussing, especially with women,” Milstein said. “I think we need to make room for this conversation. If that feels good for you, that’s the important part, and it doesn’t threaten your relationship.”
Some may see personal pleasure as a threat to their romantic relationship. But Milstein says they shouldn’t let that be an inconvenience. Rather: “Masturbation is a valuable part of what people can do to improve their relationship with themselves and enjoy sexual activity on their own, but also with their partners. I think it can help their relationship. if there is any communication about what you find of it. “
Sexual pleasure is very individualized. What pleasures you can be different from another. Masturbation is a healthy way to explore your unique sexual interests. And along the way, you might feel more relaxed, less stressed, and improve your sex life.
The more we can encourage people to know about their own bodies, the more they can communicate what feels good to their partners, says Milstein.
If you are having problems with orgasm, whether through masturbation or sex, you may want to consider seeking medical advice. A sex therapist can help you explore the cause.