8 possible side effects of not having sex

Abstinence can help you focus on yourself without intimate attachments. However, if you are curious to know more, read this article to find out what can happen if you stay off sex for long.

Couple sleeping naked after sex

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. Sex is not even the only way to build intimacy or feel closer to a partner! But, it is one of the ways.

It is similar to when you lack vitamin C. You can source your vitamin C from oranges. Alternatively, you can opt for 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.

Side effects of not having sex for long

So, what may be the side effects of abstaining from sex for long? Below is a list of what can happen to your body if you don't have sex for long.

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 reducing cortisol (stress hormone) levels during sexual arousal. This suggests that sex may reduce the amount of hormone the body releases in response to stress.

Not having sex can also cause 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 long, your body may experience increased stress and anxiety. However, when you have an active sex 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 long is increased menstrual pain. If you are a woman and you stop having sex, your menstrual cramps may worsen. Up to 80% of women experience menstrual pain and cramps, and if you are one of them, you know how discomforting the cramps can be.

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

During orgasm, the body releases endorphins, which act as natural analgesics, relieving pain and relaxing 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 uses 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 prostanglandins which can worsen cramping.

3. Thinner and drier vaginal wall

A thinner, drier wall is one of the possible side effects of abstinence in females. Orgasm increases blood flow to the vagina. In ageing women, estrogen levels drop, causing reduced libido. The vaginal walls, too, get thinner and less lubricated. 

According to Cleveland Clinic, 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.

The thinning and thickening of the vaginal tissues can increase the likelihood of tear and bleeding 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 long 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 in the male reproductive system located between the penis and the rectum, which supplies part of the seminal fluid (semen) that mixes with sperm produced in the testes. Men may be putting their prostate health on the line when they stay off sex for long. 

However, having unprotected sex with a random person or sex with multiple partners can also increase the risk of prostate cancer, so caution must be taken when having sex.

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 one of the possible side effects of not having sex is a weaker immune system.

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

A study of college students showed that people who had sex once or twice a week had a 30 per cent 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 seldom 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.

Hence, a possible side effect of abstaining from sex for long is a lower memory and reduced 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 promotes restful sleep. Lovemaking has a sedative effect, and women also get an additional oestrogen boost which helps 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 sleep 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 is only possible side effects some people may experience when they abstain from sex for long. Many people live well and healthily without having sex. It all boils down to personal choice or desire.