What happens to your body when you stop having sex

Couple sleeping naked after sex

Key takeaways:

  • Many people feel more lively and more connected to their partners after sex.
  • Staying off sex is not bad, it doesn't mean you are unhealthy either. However, it may affect your body in certain ways.
  • When you stop having sex, your body may be affected in the following ways: increased menstrual cramps, dry vagina, increased stress and less sleep.

You might be wondering if there is a side effect of not having sex. Sex is an optional healthy activity; it should not be seen as a necessity for good health. While sex is one way to build intimacy and feel closer to your partner, it's not the only way.

It is similar to when you lack vitamin C. You can source your vitamin C from oranges. Alternatively, you can gain vitamin C by taking strawberries or even supplements instead.

Not everyone needs or wants to have sex, and in some cases, that is okay. It is okay if someone is asexual.

Asexuality is not a disorder and doesn’t call for medical attention. However, a low sex drive can sometimes point to an underlying sexual problem such as sexual dysfunction, cancer, diabetes, and mental disorders.

While sex is not a health necessity, it can be helpful in some situations. Sex can help ease your mind off stress, reduce anxiety and make you happier.

Things that can happen to your body if you don't have sex for long include:

1. Increased stress and anxiety

Stress may be one of the side effects of not having sex. When people are stressed, sex is usually the last thing on their minds. But, what most people don’t know is that sex can help ease stress and reduce anxiety. 

According to a study, researchers have found a pattern of reduced cortisol (stress hormone) levels during sexual arousal. This suggests that sex may reduce the amount of stress hormones that the body produces.

Not having sex can also cause a reduced feeling of connection and intimacy in relationships. This can, in turn, lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. 

When you don't have sex for a long time, your body may experience increased stress and anxiety. However, when you have an active sexual life, it tends to make you happier, which in turn helps reduce anxiety. 

2. Increased menstrual cramps

One possible side effect of not having sex for a long time is increased menstrual pain. If you are a woman and you stop having sex, your menstrual cramps may worsen. Menstrual pain and cramps affect up to 80% of people, and if you're one of them, you know how uncomfortable the cramps can be.

One of the things you can do to relieve menstrual pain and cramps is to have sex. Orgasms may help relieve cramps, pain, and tension.

During an orgasm, the body lets out endorphins, which work like natural painkillers to relieve pain and calm the body. A woman may experience increased cramping in the absence of sex. 

When having sex during your period, it is vital that your partner use a condom to reduce the risk of getting or spreading STIs. Some health experts also believe that ejaculating on the cervix can increase inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins, which can worsen cramping.

3. Thinner and drier vaginal wall

Another thing that can happen to your body when you stop having sex is that your vaginal walls may get thinner and drier. Orgasm increases blood flow to the vagina. In aging women, estrogen levels drop, causing reduced libido. The vaginal walls, too, get thinner and less lubricated. 

According to Cleveland Clinic, a lack of sexual intercourse can increase the likelihood of developing vaginal atrophy (thinning and drying of the vagina).

Increased blood flow to the pelvic region helps keep the vagina and external genitalia (vulva) lubricated, elastic, and supple. Not having sex for a long time diminishes blood flow to this area, such that the dryness can cause pain when sex does happen.

When the vaginal tissues get thinner and thicker, it can make it more likely that they will tear and bleed during sex. This is one of the possible side effects of not having sex.

4. Prostate health may be affected

For males, one of the possible side effects of not having sex for a long time is prostate cancer. How sex affects the prostate is still vague; however, some studies have shown that men who ejaculated 4–7 times per month were more likely to develop prostate cancer compared to those who ejaculated as often as 21 times a month.

The prostate is a small gland between the penis and the rectum in a man's reproductive system. It makes some of the seminal fluid (semen) that mixes with sperm made in the testes. People with prostate may be putting their prostate health on the line when they stay off sex for a long time. 

But having sex without protection with a stranger or with more than one partner can also raise the risk of prostate cancer, so it's important to be careful about your sexual life.

5. Weaker immune system

This sounds shocking, but having sex weekly may boost your immune system by raising the level of immunoglobulin A (IgA). This means that not having sex can affect your body by weakening the immune system.

According to the British Society for Immunology, “immunoglobulin A is the first line of defense in the resistance against infection”. 

A study of college students showed that people who had sex once or twice a week had a 30 percent boost in IgA compared to those who rarely or never had sex.

6. The heart may not function well

According to a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, people who rarely have sex develop heart disease more than those who have sex about twice a week.

This is likely because sex is a way of being physically active (just like exercise). Sex improves mental and physical health. For people who seldom have time to work out, sex may be important to their heart health. Hence, developing heart disease is a possible side effect of not having sex.

A study from the University of Quebec found that sex caused men to burn 4.2 calories per minute and women to burn 3.1 calories per minute. This form of physical activity can help keep the emotional and physical heart healthy. 

Another 2019 study showed that people who had sex at least once a week were more likely to survive a heart attack.

7. Lower memory

There is a connection between the mind, body, and cognition. When one of them is affected, the other two will be affected. One example of this body-mind-cognition connection can be seen in how the body responds to stress. Another rare example of this connection can be seen in how sex affects memory.

A study of middle-aged rats showed that sex could enhance brain function and the growth of brain cells. The study showed that cognitive improvements significantly declined when a sex withdrawal period was introduced.

As a result, abstaining from sex for an extended period of time may result in impaired memory and cognitive function.

While some experts believe that a study conducted on rats is not enough proof, other research in humans has shown that people who have frequent sex recall things better and have improved memory. Sex could be another way to reduce memory loss.

8. Less sleep

One thing that can happen to your body when you abstain from sex is that you may experience less sleep. Sex causes the release of relaxation hormones like oxytocin and prolactin, which promote restful sleep. Lovemaking has a sedative effect, and women benefit from an extra oestrogen boost, which helps even more. 

Fatigue can reduce libido and overall interest in sex. It can also reduce the quality of sleep. But then, there is a two-way relationship between sex and sleep.

Sex can help improve the quality of sleep, enabling you to rest well. On the other hand, when you sleep well and for a longer duration, your sexual desire tends to increase the following day. This shows that poor sleep quality is a possible side effect of not having sex.

Note that everything listed here are only possible ways not having sex may affect your body. It doesn't mean not having sex is unhealthy. Many people live well and healthily without having sex. It all boils down to personal choice or desire.