Human beings are unique among animals in having the capacity for sexual desire even when the female is not fertile and in retaining desire into old age, long after conception has ceased to be possible. The explanation may be that sex helps to maintain partnerships. Regular sex also seems to improve cardiovascular fitness and prolong life. People who are involved in stable sexual relationships live longer than those without sexual partners.
A satisfying sexual relationship is an important part of life but not always easy to achieve, and sexual contact may be risky. In particular, casual sex and sex with multiple partners carry the risks of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The first article in the section covers the basic elements of a healthy sexual relationship. The article on safe sex discusses ways to reduce your risk of exposure to sexually transmitted infections. The final article provides an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of contraception. Education about sex, pregnancy, and STIs is particularly important for teenagers, who often fail to make use of contraceptives and ignore advice about safe sex. In the UK, this has resulted in the highest rate of teenage conceptions in Western Europe.
Specific sexual problems and the symptoms and treatment of sexually transmitted infections are discussed in other sections of the guide (see Sexual problems, and Sexually transmitted infections), as are possible problems in conceiving (see Infertility)
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.