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Bedroom Bravado

RECOGNISE THE BENEFITS OF BEDROOM ATHLETICS

"If sex is becoming a chore, try to blot out the negatives and start recognising that your bedroom athletics have a lot of positive health benefits," says Brett McCann, Senior Lecturer in Sexual Health at Sydney University.

"Recent research shows sex lowers the frequency of fatal heart attacks, it burns kilo joules, it decreases breast cancer in men and it keeps the vagina toned in women."

Another study suggests frequent ejaculations in young men decrease the risk of prostate cancer in later life, while other research concludes that those who have regular intercourse have better stress responses and lower blood pressure.

Even the chances of being laid low with the sniffles may be reduced with a bit of rumpy-pumpy, according to a study reported in New Scientist.

"Sexually active people can be exposed to many more infectious agents than sexually non-active people, immunologist Clifford Lowell from the University of California, San Francisco, told New Scientist. This may boost the production of an immune substance that also helps fight colds and flu. 

  
STOP YOURSELF EYEBALLING THE COMPETION 

"In today's super hyped sexual environment. everyone we see in the media seems to be gloriously sexually competent in a Sex and the City kind of way," says McCann. "As a result, everyday people tend to eyeball the competition instead of running their own race." McCann says that when men or women suffer sexual dysfunction, they feel somehow inferior and think, there's something wrong with me.

Instead of blaming ourselves, McCann suggests we should consider the "dysfunction" itself. For instance, could it be a side effect of an illness or medication? Or simply the result of a frantic life? When looked at this way, it becomes clear that it's not the person who's the problem, but the issue.

 "And if you seek help, many sexual problems can often easily be tackled with medication modification, or some lifestyle change," adds McCann.

GO BACK TO BASICS

If you want to break the drought under the doona, go back to courting basics, suggests McCann. "Just because penetrative sex is off the agenda for whatever reason, it doesn't mean everything else has to be.

 "To reclaim that space, you need to make a concerted effort to find time out together every week. Make sure there's plenty of kissing, touching and handhold; but most of all, look at each other and tell your partner how attractive you find them. This kind of connection is the basic glue of any relationship. If that goes everything else goes too."

DISGUISE YOUR FLAWS

If you want to get the tiger back in your tank, it's a good idea to start learning to love your body again. "Instead of worrying about the sexuality you feel you've lost, celebrate what you do have," McCann suggests.

"Celebrities and movie stars often look nothing like how they are portrayed. Images are touched up, body extras are used and quite often they have as many flaws as we do."

He adds that we also can disguise common body issues. "Wobbly bits flatten out when you lie on your back. A black neglige can make most tummies disappear and soft lights or candles can make any body look beautiful."

And what about the gents? "Don't worry! Men are just as concerned - about how their bald patch looks from that angle, or whether you can see his nose hairs. The key is simply to have fun, have respect and make the other person feel special!"

BABY-PROOF YOUR SEX LIFE.

"Straight after having a baby when vaginal tissue is tender, hormones are haywire, or perhaps there are stitches - sex is probably the last thing on many women's minds," says Sex and Relationship Therapist Pamela Supple from Sex Therapy Australia. "Often it takes months or up to a year for women to feel comfortable about penetrative sex again.

"Many women also suffer from postnatal depression, which certainly affects libido; and some men also find themselves depressed because, all of a sudden, much of the love and focus is on the baby and there's no time left for him."

So how do you baby proof your sex life? Start slowly and make opportunities for sex to happen. At least twice a year have a weekend getaway, and on top of that a good ten-day holiday with your partner every year.

"If you think you can't afford it, ask yourself can you afford not to go?" says Supple. "Think of it as an investment in your relationship."

She also recommends planning your sex nights. Once or twice a month, hire a babysitter and go on a "sex date" with your partner - no matter how tired or un sexy you feel.

"Like everything in life, practice makes perfect. Go to dinner or a movie, come home with the kids hopefully asleep, turn your phones and TVs off, and leave the worries of work, bills or anything else at the bedroom door."

CHANGE YOUR MEDS

If it's depression that's ruining your libido - either depression itself, or antidepressants, which can dampen sex drive tell your doctor. "Quite often, switching to a different antidepressant, or adjusting the dose of your current drug, is enough to get the libido pumping again," says McCann.

You also need to be frank with your partner, he adds. "Depression can completely kill several desires, so don't feel guilty and force yourself to go further than you want to. Accept you'll need to move gradually, and start with some kissing and canoodling or champagne in bed, and see how far you get."

McCann points out that while antidepressant medications can affect the intensity of the female orgasm, or cause men to take longer to ejaculate, these problems are often nowhere near as bad as untreated depression.

"At least when people treat their depression they can start to have sexual thoughts again. Untreated, they can go for months or years before feeling the desire for sex."

WHERE THERE'S A WILLY THERE'S A WAY

About one in three men have erectile dysfunction at some stage, according to McCann. "For many men this is devastating. They become embarrassed and sometimes severely depressed because they feel they can no longer perform.

"People with obesity and diabetes are particularly at risk. Just as these conditions cause large blood vessel damage that leads to heart disease, they may also harm sensitive vessels and nerves in the genital area."

Continues McCann, "This can cause impotence, less firm erections and reduced sensation in the genital nerves." He also points out that smokers may experience erectile dysfunction because the chemicals in cigarettes can affect penile blood flow.

The good news? A pill may make all the difference. "Drugs such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, which sustain erections, have a good success rate in most people," says McCann

"About 60% of people with diabetes who use these drugs report an improved sex life. While Viagra and Levitra have a duration of four to eight hours, Cialis stays in the system for up to two days.

 "These drugs are generally well tolerated. However, all men should speak to their doctor before taking any of these medications. Those with heart problems should avoid these drugs because they can lower blood pressure to a fatal degree."

DON'T SWEAT IT, GIRLS

For women, there are a few below-the-belt issues that can affect sexual drive, with menopause at the top of the list. "A lot of women suffer menopause-associated vaginal dryness in silence," says McCann.

While men's problems are often visually obvious, "men can't easily tell if a woman is in pain during intercourse. And many women feel embarrassed to tell their partners sex is uncomfortable."

McCann says lubricants are very useful. Sex therapists often recommend Wet Stuff Gold, sold over the counter, because it tends to dry out less quickly than other brands. And what about other problems?

"Don't ignore anything. If there's any pain during intercourse, bleeding or other symptoms, see your doctor straightaway."

She continues, "Untreated thrush infections are another issue. It's very important not to self diagnose, which is what a lot of women do.

"But the itchy symptoms of thrush can often mimic other problems such as herpes, thinning of the vaginal walls from menopause, or skin allergies to latex or lubricants. So make sure you ask your doctor to get to the bottom of the problem."

DRINK, EAT AND SMELL YOURSELF SEXY

Oysters and chocolate are well-known nookie nosh, but if you need a little extra help, try some of these novel aphrodisiac: 

  • Coffee, girls. If rodents are anything to go by, coffee could boost our sexual desire. One US study found caffeine stimulated rats were more "sexually motivated". So bean me up, coffee!
  • Or pomegranate juice, lads. Another study in the International Journal of Impotence Research, found that men were better able to maintain an erection after drinking pomegranate juice every day for just eight weeks.
  • According to Dr Alan Hirsch from the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, when it comes to improving erectile flow blood flow in men, a pumpkin pie and lavender combination was the scent men responded to the most. So bake a pumpkin pie and have some lavender wafting in the bedroom.

TRY SOMETHTING NEW

It's important to try novel ways to get sexually connected again, says Supple.Try these ideas:

  • Start foreplay early. Write a note on a steamy mirror after your shower; linger over a morning kiss rather than a perfunctory peck; send a loving text to your partner at work; massage his shoulders briefly when he gets home. "By increasing your emotional connection in the day you'll gradually increase your level of arousal all day and into the night," says Supple.
  • Don't forget the power of touch. Learn how to give a good massage: rub your hands together first so they're not too cold and experiment with some edible massage oil in, say chocolate or vanilla.
  • Have fun. "Have a champagne bath together; play your favorite music; experiment with lingerie and sex toys; read poetry in bed together; buy the Karma Sutra if you're game and laugh as you try new positions in different rooms," says Supple. "But rather than obsess about the mechanics of sex too much, focus on the fun, love and understanding of being together. Start slow and see how far you go!"

From HealthSmart Magazine - Apr/May - 2009