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Sex, Fertility and Contraception

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH
JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

Sex is defined as the physical activity in which people touch each other’s bodies, kiss each other and insertion and thrusting of the penis into the vagina for sexual pleasure, reproduction or both. Sex is an abominable word in many cultures. It has synonyms such as sexual intercourse, lovemaking, fornication, coitus, manliness, sexuality and many others with each one being used according to the individual’s perception. Whether it is a foul thing or not, people are actively engaged in it. Sex is a relevant activity to human life and appears to impact the mental, physical and social health of individuals. However, people have such a large misconception about this word which ends in some bad decisions.

Sex is good for cardiovascular exercise. This is because the energy expended during sex is comparable to the energy lost during some cardiovascular exercise. So yes, sex is not enough exercise but it is considered as a light exercise. It may reduce your risk of heart diseases, stroke and hypertension. It also lowers blood pressure, burns calories and strengthens muscles.

Sex is good for mental health because, it reduces stress, anxiety and increase happiness. Having one sexual partner creates a level of intimacy, trust and love in one’s relationships.

Sex is good for an individual’s social health because it helps you to connect to your partner thanks to oxytocin released during sexual activity. Couples who have good sexual health relate well to others and generally have a decent quality of life.

If sex has such good advantages, then why is it considered a foul act especially in our traditions.

Side effects of sex

One reason why individuals engage in sex is for pleasure, some times that don’t happen. Physically, one may feel sore or fatigued after the sexual act especially with our muscles. The reason why sex is frowned upon is the risk of infection such as a urinary tract infection and other sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital warts, genital herpes, scabies, HIV/AIDS, syphilis and so on. Sex is recommended to married couples mainly because of this reason. The risk of infection is low as compared to individuals or couples who have multiple partners. Sex could also end in unwanted pregnancies.

Mentally, one is meant to feel joyful after an act of sex but this is overshadowed with guilts and embarrassment, sometimes sadness in people with postcoital dysphoria. This is because, in some cultures and religion, sex is frowned upon and individuals are put to shame. Their families may even suffer from such consequences and overall affect the mental state of such individuals.

The bottom line is that almost everything we do has potential risks and advantages. With sex, if planned well, the benefit can outweigh the potential side effects. This leads to the next term- fertility.

Fertility

The ability to conceive and bear children, the ability to become pregnant through normal sexual activity. It has been asserted that males are solely responsible or contribute to approximately 40% of infertility cases. Infertility is a disease of the male or female reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.

Infertility in males

Infertility in males arises when there is an issue with the production of sperm, storage and transportation into the female. Problems with production and storage could lead to the absence or low levels of sperm in the semen due to the failure of the testes to produce sperms. The typical male will produce about 525 billion sperm cells over a lifetime and release between 40 million and 1.2 billion sperm cells in a single ejaculation.

Other times, sperms may be present but they might have abnormal shapes which will hamper their movement to the fallopian tube. Abnormal sperms have head or tails defects such as a large or misshapen head or a crooked or double tail which makes the flexibility of the sperm to succeed and penetrate an egg minimal. Normal sperm have an oval head with a long tail.

Also, obstruction within the reproductive tract that result in dysfunctions and the release of semen into the female reproductive tract. This blockage can happen in tubes that carry sperms such as seminal vesicles and ejaculatory ducts.

Causes are usually lifestyle, genetics, injury and chemicals (some pesticides and plastics). Fortunately, most of these can be controlled and managed.

Infertility in women

In females, infertility may arise from abnormalities in the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, the endocrine system(hormones) etc.

Fertilization process

The human egg is viable for about 8-24 hours after ovulation. This means that an individual must have sexual intercourse within that period or have sperms that are already present to fertilize the egg. Hence, for couples who are looking forward to getting pregnant, sexual intercourse is recommended regularly three times a week because you will not get the timing right. The sperms will be alive for about 3 days after intercourse.

During ovulation, the cervix which is the opening of the womb partially opens for sperms to enter. The cervix supplies the sperms with nutrient-rich fluid to continue the journey. The uterus(womb) propels the sperms to the fallopian tube where they can meet an egg and one can fertilize it to form a zygote. The zygote moves to the uterus and attaches to the thick uterine wall, that is when pregnancy occurs. Sometimes, the timing is simply not right but that is not the difficulty in many infertility cases. Also, a lot can go wrong within those processes.

Females have a fixed number of immature cells at the time they are born about 2 million immature egg cells. By the time, an individual reaches puberty, she would have lost all with about 300-400,000 eggs remaining. Each month, one egg matures and a 1000 or so die off with it. That is why females mostly find it difficult to give birth after a certain period because they would have lost most if not all of their eggs.

Disorders of the ovaries such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and other follicular disorders can cause infertility. An egg could also be released but the fallopian tube can be obstructed hampering the sperm from reaching an egg usually from STIs. Fertilization may occur but as the zygote travels into the uterus, the lining of the uterus may be too thin to support implantation as well as hormonal imbalances.

Research has been extensively done in females, such that there is almost a cure for every stage. You have to visit your doctor if you tried on your own and could not get pregnant.

As some couples are trying to get fertile, others want to have pleasure due to many reasons leading to the utilization of contraceptives.

Contraception

Contraception also referred to as birth control, is created to prevent pregnancy. It works in several ways:

1. Preventing the sperm from reaching the eggs. Types include diaphragms, cervical caps and contraceptive sponges.

2. Inhibiting the woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs that are likely to be fertilized. Types include birth control pills, vaginal rings, emergency contraceptive pills, shots and patches.

3. IUDs, which are implanted into the uterus prevent the sperm from fertilizing an egg and also makes a fertilized egg harder to implant in the uterus.

4. Sterilization. e.g., tubal ligation which involves the cutting of the fallopian tubes. It blocks the sperms from reaching any egg. And vasectomy in males, which involves the cutting of the tubes that carry sperms from the testes. Both involve surgery and are permanent.

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

A young lady who is excited to influence the society and world with the knowledge she has acquired.