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If You Stop Having Sex, 5 Things That Happen To Your Body

A bout of celibacy won’t have lasting effects on your overall health, but you still could be in for some unexpected changes.

You may feel a change in your libido

How not having sex affects your body can vary based on your health, how old you are, and even what kind of sex you were having. But if you’re generally healthy and have only stopped having sex because of a lack of a partner or a conscious choice (and not some other physical reason), there are some changes you could experience. You may feel either a loss of sex drive—or an increase in libido! “For some people who refrain from sex, they begin to feel more sluggish, with less vitality and hunger for sex,” says Sari Cooper, LCSW, certified sex therapist.

You may feel more down in the dumps

Sex is part physical, part mental. “When people have sex they’re usually having skin-to-skin contact, and this kind of contact is the first primal way we as humans get comforted [as babies with our mothers],” Cooper says. “Sexual connection give partners loads of skin-to-skin caressing and touch, and can help to regulate one another’s moods,” through the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Dr. Streicher also says sex can help boost your spirits through mood-elevating endorphins. Without the benefit of these natural pick-me-ups, you might be prone to feeling low—but that doesn’t mean you’ll become clinically depressed.

Your vaginal walls may weaken

In women entering menopause, not having vaginal penetration can be a “use it or lose it” type of thing. “Without regular frequency of intercourse as you get older the walls of your vagina thin out and can lead to painful sex when you finally get back into the sack,” Cooper says. According to the North American Menopause Society, regular intercourse is important for vaginal health after menopause. “Older women who are not having intercourse are more likely to have thinning and drying of the tissues,” Dr. Streicher says. “A big part of this is blood flow, and we know increased activity increases blood flow.”

You may have less lubrication

For older women, the vagina can also have a hard time getting lubricated when you do start having intercourse again. As with thinning of the vaginal walls, this happens as women age because of the lack of hormones such as estrogen. “If you take a young woman who’s 20 or 30 years old she’s going to have plenty of estrogen around to make sure those tissues stay healthy, elastic, and lubricated” when she’s not having sex, Dr. Streicher says. “If you take someone who’s 60 and has no estrogen, she has lost that piece of it.” Cooper says it’s important to keep things flowing, even in the absence of a partner: “The vaginal lubrication lessens with age, and if you’re not being turned on through self-pleasure, erotic books, videos, or a partner, the juice can begin to lessen more quickly.” Here are more secrets your vagina wishes it could tell you.

You may feel more—or less—stressed

Like the other psychological effects of a lack of sex, this one is tricky. “People who are less stressed tend to have more sex, but again it’s an association, not cause and effect,” Dr. Streicher says. That said, if sex is a stress reliever for you, not having could it, in fact, cause an increase in your stress level. One small study from Scotland even showed that blood pressure reactivity to stress was lower among people who had had intercourse than those who abstained. But, Dr. Steicher says, “for some women sex is actually stressful for a variety of reasons: It may be painful, or it could be one more thing on their to-do list.”

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