Strange Things That Happen To Your Body When You Have Sex For The First Time In A While

Abstaining from sex is a very personal choice. Sometimes, the reasons are religious or cultural; other times, they're just the way things are; and still other times, a particularly disturbing sexual encounter could've thrown you off sex altogether. 

Whatever the reason, what happens to your body when you stop having sex is an area of interest among scientists. In fact, everything from your cardiovascular health, sleep, and immunity to your mental health and memory can be influenced by sexual activity and inactivity. But what happens when you decide to hit "play" on paused sexual activity? 

For women, sexual inactivity for long periods of time can cause lubrication issues and vaginal muscle constriction, especially when menopause is also in the picture. According to an OB/GYN at Avon Pointe Family Health Center in Avon, Ohio, Dr. Salena Zanotti (via Prevention), menopause means less production of estrogen and this can lead to vaginal dryness and tighter vaginas. In fact, health professionals often recommend regular sexual activity during menopause to mitigate this. Vaginal atrophy — the thinning, drying, and inflammation of vaginal walls after menopause — can cause pain during sex too. For pre-menopausal women, however, this isn't a concern. At most, there might be some amount of discomfort from not having used those muscles in a long time but this is temporary. You can lose sensation in your clitoris too owing to a lack of blood flow to the region. You'll regain feeling down there, though, when you resume sex. 

Your sex drive and mental image around sex might be impacted

A dip in libido is possible too when you're not having sex. This has to do with what happens to your brain when you're having sex — it releases feel-good chemicals that you'll want more of. Abstinence might have the opposite effect. While for some, this might mean a few attempts at boosting things — sex drive-wise — for others, it might be as simple as getting back on the bicycle when you start having sex again. 

Psychological consequences of abstaining from sex, like wondering if lubrication will be an issue, thinking things will hurt, awkwardness, and even trauma attached to your last sexual encounter can all play a part too when it comes to how pleasurable (or not) your current sexual experience is going to be. While open communication, some laughter and light-heartedness, and trial and error can help when it comes to some things, other instances, like resuming sex after abuse or rape, might require therapy and professional support. 

Vaginismus, an involuntary bodily reaction where your vagina contracts at the thought of penetration, is one example. Treatment involves a combination of mental health and physical exercise to help ease your fear of penetrative sex. Vaginismus can be unrelated to sexual trauma as well. "I recommend seeing a gynecologist to get a diagnosis and a recommendation for a pelvic-floor physical therapist," shared sex therapist Holly Richmond (via Women's Health). 

Men and sex after abstinence: What's the science?

What happens to men when they resume intimacy after swearing off sex for a while is a little nuanced. While some studies point toward a link between erectile dysfunction and lack of regular sex, the director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, Dr. Irwin Goldstein, thinks there's no truth to this claim (via WebMD). "Having sex is good, masturbating is good, but the concept that men have to go out and have sex to preserve erectile function is bogus," shared the expert. 

That being said, how do you approach sex after a long period of abstinence? Experts recommend taking things slow, if needed, and engaging in a lot of communication with your partner. Lowering the bar expectations-wise could help too. As for the menopausal symptoms of vaginal dryness and tightening vaginal tissue, there is always lubrication, regular masturbation and sexual activity, and again, patient trial and error. It might take some time to undo what happens to your pelvic region muscles when you stop having sex, but with the help of foreplay, sex tools like vibrators, and time, you can enjoy sex again.