Is it safe to masturbate with thrush?

It creeps up on you when you least expect it, and before you know it, what was just a niggling itch becomes an intense one. The opening of your vagina starts to feel sore and you might start passing cottage cheese-looking discharge.

Most women will have vaginal thrush at least once in their lifetime. Some women suffer with it chronically, experiencing more than four episodes in a year, or have what is known as ‘complicated thrush’ — which is defined as a persistent infection that doesn’t clear up with the standard treatment, or as thrush caused by an uncommon strain of yeast.1

Thrush may be uncomfortable, but doesn’t necessarily make your sex drive disappear. It’s perfectly normal to still want to have sex — including with yourself.

But, is it safe to do so?

Don’t work against your treatment

General practitioner Dr Diana Gall advises sticking to purely clitoral masturbation if you’re worried about disrupting intra-vaginal treatment, as vaginal penetration with toys or fingers could disrupt fungal treatment that has been inserted into the vagina.

“Oral capsules won’t be affected by masturbating, as they work within your body to fight the infection,” she says. “However, pessaries may be. If you’re worried about intra-vaginal treatment being affected by masturbation, you can avoid penetration by focusing on the clitoris, or just wait until the infection has cleared.”

However, GP Dr Tom Micklewright adds, pessaries normally dissolve overnight so should be unaffected.

“Masturbating shouldn’t reduce the effectiveness of any thrush treatment,” he says. “Some women using a pessary to treat their thrush may be worried about what happens to this, but a pessary will usually dissolve overnight in the moisture of the vagina, so this shouldn’t be something to worry about.

“But there is a possibility of reinfection if you are using penetrative toys while undergoing thrush treatment.”

Preventing reinfection or new infection

Introducing fingers, toys or objects into your vaginal canal while a thrush infection is still present — even if you are treating it — could prolong or even worsen the current infection, or reintroduce a new one. For this reason, Dr Mickleright says that “most doctors wouldn’t recommend it until that infection has cleared up”.

Sexual intercourse can be a trigger for vaginal thrush, especially when there is vaginal dryness or tightness. Some studies have suggested that this may be due to small cuts being made on the vulva and vagina, creating conditions suitable for the yeast to invade the tissue.2 It has also been suggested that exposure to semen, which has a high pH (alkaline), can alter the balance within the vagina and so introduce bacteria into the environment.3

Vaginal thrush is caused by a fungal overgrowth, usually of yeasts within a family called candida. The yeast penetrates the lining of the vagina and causes inflammation, which may bring on itching discharge, swelling, or other uncomfortable symptoms.4 Women get thrush when their vaginal environment enables this overgrowth.

If engaging in anal penetration with toys, make sure not to insert the same toys into your vagina without thoroughly washing them first: bacteria from the anal passage can spark or worsen thrush if transmitted to the vagina

Dr Mickleright says it’s likely that penetrative masturbation can also carry this risk, as well as potentially worsening an infection or carrying the risk of re-infection.

“Thrush can make masturbation painful and there is the possibility that penetrative masturbation may cause the infection to last longer or to worsen,” he says. “Clitoral masturbation is likely to be safer and more comfortable, although this could also feel tender.”

But Dr Gall stresses that reinfection or worsening of a thrush infection is unlikely with the right precautions. She explains that masturbation while you have thrush is “fairly safe”, provided you practice good hygiene, which includes thoroughly washing your hands before and after, along with any toys you have used.

If engaging in anal penetration with toys, make sure not to insert the same toys into your vagina without thoroughly washing them first: bacteria from the anal passage can spark or worsen thrush if transmitted to the vagina.5

Though it’s rare, It’s also possible for vaginal thrush to be transmitted to the anal area — if your anal area becomes persistently and intensely itchy, you could be experiencing anal thrush, too. Using seperate toys for both these areas might help you to prevent cross contamination.

Dr Gall suggests using a condom to cut the risk of reintroducing thrush or worsening existing thrush while penetrating the vagina with toys

As long as your toys are safe for being inserted into the vagina, Dr Gall says “they shouldn’t pose any more of a threat than your hands”. Be sure to check the cleaning instructions on each of your sex toys, because different toys may require different methods.

Dr Gall suggests using a condom to cut the risk of reintroducing thrush or worsening existing thrush while penetrating the vagina with toys. She also advises taking a second look at the label of your lubricant products to make sure they don’t contain any irritants or perfumes “that can sometimes make thrush worse”.

Glycerin, a common ingredient in many vaginal lubricant products, can act as food for yeast, which could worsen a current infection or cause the start of a new one. It also draws water away from the mucous membranes of your vaginal walls, causing vaginal dryness. This can also make thrush more likely.

Avoiding lubricants that contain yeast-friendly ingredients or irritants is especially important if you’re in the throes of a thrush infection or have just recovered from one. Consider switching to lubricants that have a pH level of 3.5 to four and avoid using glycerin ingredients at all.

Reducing discomfort

Thrush is described by being irritatingly itchy, sometimes debilitatingly so. But soreness or sensitivity of the vulva, particularly around the vaginal opening, is also a telltale sign of a yeast infection. Thrush can either accompany the first signs of itching, or develop later once the infection has progressed.

These particular symptoms can make masturbation uncomfortable or less enjoyable. This can reduce sexual desire for some women or mean that they are less sexually sensitive to touch in the vulva area while an infection is present.

Both Dr Gall and Dr Micklewright suggest clitoral instead of penetrative masturbation if you’re worried about tenderness and soreness.

“Some women find that they aren’t as sensitive to touch with a yeast infection, while others find it more painful or unbearably itchy”

“Thrush is notorious for being itchy and uncomfortable, so masturbating whilst you have the
infection might be uncomfortable,” says Dr Gall. “Some women find that they aren’t as sensitive to touch with a yeast infection, while others find it more painful or unbearably itchy.

“If you feel pain or discomfort without masturbating, it might be best to wait until you feel better or until the infection has gone.”

Masturbating with thrush can still be pleasurable, even though it may be uncomfortable, and is nothing to be ashamed of if it’s something you want and feels good — as long as you make sure you proceed safely.

The featured image shows a female’s body in a suggestive position and muted tones to indicate self pleasure, and possible apprehension or hesitation

Page last updated July 2019

4 Reasons Masturbation Is Good for You

Corbis Images

While female masturbation may not get the lip service that it deserves, that certainly doesn’t mean solo sex isn’t happening behind closed doors. In fact, research published in the Journal of Sex Research finds that most women report masturbating at least once a week.

Not quite hitting that quota yet? You may want to consider devoting more time: Masturbation not only feels, well, orgasmic, but it also has a slew of health benefits. (Not sure where to start? Follow these 5 Masturbation Tips for a Mind-Blowing Solo Session.)

Send Cramps Packing!

In the early stages of arousal, norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter that’s secreted in response to stress) is released in your brain, lubricating the pathways of your sympathetic nervous system, says Erin Basler-Francis, content and brand manager at The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, a non-profit sexuality education and advocacy organization in Rhode Island. When sexual activity starts-in this case, masturbation-the body releases a flood of endorphins, which bind to opiate receptors, increasing your pain threshold.

“As the norepinephrine begins to wear off, serotonin and oxytocin levels increase, leading to the muscle contractions that typically indicate getting off,” says Basler-Francis. When these three neurotransmitters work together, they act as the perfect chemical cocktail to ease period pain.

Learn What You Love

“Don’t underestimate the importance of knowing what you like before trying to experience pleasure with someone else,” says Emily Morse, sexologist, and host of the Sex With Emily podcast. Since masturbation makes you more familiar with what makes you tick, this knowledge will come in handy when you’re trying to teach your partner how to bring you to climax, she explains.

Masturbation also counts as a workout for your pelvic floor (PC) muscles, which pays off in between the sheets: “Stronger PC muscles lead to more frequent orgasms not only during masturbation but also during sex,” says Morse.

Sleep Soundly

There’s a common cliché that men need to pass out immediately after sex. Interestingly enough, your brain is hardwired to crave those post-sex zzz’s too. Once you reach climax, the hormone prolactin is released in your brain, which leads to the refractory period after orgasm-where you’re so spent you can’t climax again-as well as an increase in drowsiness. (Find out how to Have an Amazing Orgasm: Achieve Multiple Os.)

What’s more, within 60 seconds of orgasm, the feel-good hormone oxytocin surges through your system-ultimately lowering the stress hormone cortisol to promote better sleep, according to Sara Gottfried, M.D., author of The Hormone Cure.

Stop Infections in Their Tracks

Masturbation itself may not prevent a urinary tract infections (UTIs), but the post-orgasm need-to-pee helps flush bacteria from the urethra (which ultimately keeps UTIs at bay), says Basler-Francis. (Also find out 4 Surprising Causes of Urinary Tract Infections.)

The same idea comes into play with yeast infections-meaning the actual self-love isn’t working wonders, but instead it’s what happening in the body after you get off. During orgasm, the pH of the vagina changes, prompting good bacteria to grow, preventing the undesirable bacteria responsible for vaginitis-which encompasses both yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis-from moving in, explains Basler-Francis.

  • By Marie Gartee

Someone asked us:

I have a yeast infection. Can I still masturbate?

You can totally still masturbate as long as you follow a few easy guidelines to make sure your yeast infection doesn’t get worse.

  1. Wash your hands or any sex toys you want to use beforehand so you won’t irritate your poor genitals any more than they already are. (Wash them after, too!)
  2. Avoid using anything other than plain, unscented, water-based or silicone lubes to again, prevent your infection from getting worse. Flavored lubes sometimes have sugar in them, which, like most of us, yeast infections love. Oil-based lubes are harder for your body to get rid of and may not be fun if you have a yeast infection.
  3. Make sure you’re still following the directions for any yeast infection treatment you’re using. If you’re using suppositories (putting medicine in your vagina), for example, don’t put anything else in your vagina because you can remove some of the medicine before it does its job.
  4. Don’t do anything that hurts or feels uncomfortable — it can irritate your vulva/vagina even more.
  5. Dry yourself off after masturbating, and keep things dry and breezy by wearing 100% cotton underwear. Read more about yeast infections.

-Emily at Planned Parenthood

It’s totally normal to masturbate (touch yourself for sexual pleasure) whether you’re sexually active with other people or not. Masturbation even has health benefits, like reducing stress.

Do most people masturbate?

Lots of people masturbate! Even if they don’t talk about it, it’s common for people of any gender or age to do it. Even before puberty, children sometimes discover that touching their genitals feels good. If you have kids and notice them touching their genitals, let them know that masturbating is completely normal, but something they should do in private.

People masturbate for different reasons — it helps them relax, they want to understand their body better, they want to release sexual tension, or their partner isn’t around. But most people masturbate because it feels good. Many people think that masturbation is only something you do when you don’t have a sex partner. But both single people and people in relationships masturbate.

Some people masturbate often, others rarely, and some people don’t masturbate at all. Different people masturbate in different ways, for different reasons. Masturbation is a totally personal decision, and there’s no “normal” way to go about it.

Is masturbation healthy?

You may have heard some crazy things about masturbation being bad for you, like it makes you grow hair in weird places; it causes infertility; it shrinks your genitals; or once you start masturbating you’ll become addicted to it. None of that’s true. Masturbation isn’t unhealthy or bad for you at all. Masturbation can actually be good for your health, both mentally and physically. And it’s pretty much the safest sex out there — there’s no risk of getting pregnant or getting an STD.

When you have an orgasm, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that block pain and make you feel good. The good feelings that accompany an orgasm happen whether you’re by yourself or having sex with a partner.

Plenty of research has shown the health benefits of masturbation. Masturbation can:

  • release sexual tension

  • reduce stress

  • help you sleep better

  • improve your self-esteem and body image

  • help treat sexual problems

  • relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension

  • strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic and anal areas

Masturbation also helps you figure out what you like sexually. Where do you want to be touched? How much pressure feels good? How fast or slow? Learning how to have orgasms on your own can make it easier to have one with a partner, because you can tell or show them what feels good. And when you’re comfortable with sex, your body, and talking to your partner, you’re more likely to feel comfortable protecting yourself against STDs and pregnancy.

How much masturbation is too much?

Some people masturbate often — every day, or even more than once a day. Some people masturbate closer to once a week, once every few weeks, or every now and then. Some people never masturbate, and that’s fine too. All of these are perfectly normal.

Masturbation only becomes “too much” if it gets in the way of your job, your responsibilities, or your social life. If that’s a problem for you, you may want to talk to a counselor or therapist.

Some people learn when they’re young that masturbating is wrong or bad, so they feel guilty about doing it. If you feel that way, try to remember that most people masturbate. It’s perfectly normal, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Talking to a counselor or therapist may help if you have trouble getting over guilty feelings.

Is it OK to masturbate if you’re in a relationship?

Definitely. Lots of people in relationships masturbate. Masturbating when you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean your partner isn’t satisfying you. It’s a great way to figure out what you like and what makes you have an orgasm. Then you can show or tell your partner what feels good. Talking about sex with your partner can make it more fun and can even make your relationship stronger. Some people masturbate at the same time as their partner. It’s a way to be sexual together without having any risk of STDs or pregnancy.

More questions from patients:

What are some masturbation tips?

Masturbation is a great way to get to know your body. It’s totally healthy and normal — most people masturbate at some point in their lives.

There are tons of myths meant to scare you into thinking masturbation is wrong or bad. The truth is, it’s perfectly safe. Masturbating won’t make you blind, crazy, or stupid. It won’t damage your genitals, cause pimples, or stunt your growth. It doesn’t use up all your orgasms or ruin other kinds of sex.

Here are some masturbation tips:

  • Wash your hands before touching your penis, vulva, vagina, or anus.

  • Use a good lubricant. It lowers friction, which helps prevent small tears in your skin and makes things more comfortable.

  • Clean your sex toys. Otherwise bacteria can build up and cause an infection. The best way to protect sex toys is with a condom that you change whenever the toy is passed from partner to partner or from one body opening to another — mouth, anus, or vagina. If you don’t use condoms, clean sex toys before and after every use. Read the instructions on the package for how to clean your toy.

  • Don’t share sex toys with multiple partners without cleaning/using new condoms every time. They can pass along STDs.

Is there a difference between male and female masturbation?

There are more similarities than differences between male and female masturbation. That’s because everyone masturbates differently and there’s no single “right” way to do it.

You might think that guys are the only ones who masturbate. But that’s just not true!

Regardless of your gender, masturbation is totally healthy and normal. It’s a great way to get to know your body and what feels good. It’s also 100% safe — no risk of pregnancy or STDs.

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Health Benefits of Solo Female Sexuality

Age may not be the only reason for vaginal dryness and pain during sex. A lack of sexual arousal can also contribute to these problems. Practicing masturbation techniques and becoming sexually aroused more frequently can be especially beneficial for older women who are experiencing less lubrication and more discomfort during sex.

And for women who no longer have an active sexual partner because they are divorced, widowed, or have a partner who is ill, masturbation can be a satisfying substitute for sexual intercourse.

Sexual Arousal in Older Women

The good news is that researchers say there are no differences between premenopausal and postmenopausal women when it comes to being physically able to get sexually aroused. When researchers have looked at vaginal congestion — increased blood circulation to the walls of the vagina, which is a marker of sexual arousal — in response to erotic stimulation, they have found that older women are just as able to become aroused when they are sexually stimulated as are younger women are.

If problems such as vaginal dryness are making you uncomfortable or are interfering with your sex life, you may want to try masturbation techniques. But be sure to address any feelings of guilt you may have when it comes to masturbating. And since female masturbation can be used to compensate for a lack of sexual satisfaction, avoid using masturbation to mask problems you may be having in your sex life with your partner.

“From a medical perspective, masturbation is physically safe and can offer individuals practice and sexual self-esteem,” says Dr. Naughton. “However, it may be problematic if it is associated with excessive guilt or used compulsively to avoid intimacy.”

Bottom line? Having a healthy sex life includes masturbation, well into your golden years.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Sexual Health Center.

10 health benefits of female masturbation

Image: Corbis

Even in the 21st century, female masturbation is still a (pardon the pun) touchy subject, unlike its male counterpart. Not a lot is said about it and women generally flush with embarrassment when asked about it. The more women realise that it’s a normal and, in fact, healthy experience, the more they’ll begin to enjoy it. While sex with a partner is generally satisfying and pleasurable, you’ll be surprised by the physical and mental health benefits of masturbation. Here are 10 of them.

Let’s Talk About Stress
It’s commonly acknowledged that sex helps to reduce stress and the same can be said about masturbation. It’s a bit of ‘me time’ where you enjoy your own company and forget about all of life’s stresses so why wouldn’t it make you feel more relaxed? Think of it as getting a massage or doing yoga…you tune out to your surroundings and simply relax. And, because you’re the only one involved in the act, there is no pressure or rush to get anywhere – if you even want to get there.

Goodnight, Sweetheart
If you have problems falling asleep, masturbation is a great, natural sleep aid. It’s a healthy way to get to sleep, as opposed to using any kind of prescription drugs. This is because the ‘feel good’ hormone, dopamine, is released in anticipation of a sexual climax, after which oxytocin is released, which calms you, along with the endorphins that help to lull you to sleep.

Relationship Enhancer
If you’re in a relationship and think that you shouldn’t be masturbating because you’re already having sex, you’re wrong. Not only does masturbation add to your overall sexual satisfaction, it also helps you to better communicate your sexual needs to your partner. Once you know exactly what turns you on – literally – it will improve your sexual escapades with your man too.

Feel That Body
Masturbation is not just about sexual pleasure, it also helps you to explore your body and appreciate what you have. You’ll feel more comfortable about your body and, thus, improve your body image which, in itself, leads to a whole other list of positive connotations, such as an increase in self-esteem.

Help Your Heart
Several studies have been conducted on the connection between masturbation and heart health and the results are promising. Female masturbation is good for heart health and also reduces the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. In general, women who have more or regular orgasms are more resistant to coronary heart disease and have a lower chance of developing type-2 diabetes, so the more you climax, the more your heart will thank you.

Work That Cervix
Masturbation provides relief for women who suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs) as it lubricates the vagina and flushes out bacteria from your cervix, through the process of ‘tenting’, or the opening of the cervix, which happens when you’re aroused. Clearing out bacteria from that area is healthy and could also precent cervical infections.

In A (Better) Mood
The process of masturbation increases blood flow throughout your body and also releases endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals that make you, well, feel good. As a result, your mood is improved and these endorphins in your bloodstream also help to prevent depression in the long run.

Get More Immune
Masturbation results in an increase in cortisol levels, which improves your immune system. This means that it indirectly lowers your chance of getting pesky colds which, face it, nobody enjoys.

Build Those Muscles
Having an orgasm is a great work out for your pelvic floor muscles. The act itself lifts your uterus and contracts, which results in the strengthening of that whole area. Stronger pelvic floor muscles also leads to better sexual satisfaction so don’t just stop at those recommended exercises to strengthen them, add some DIY action into your schedule too.

Come Again?
Two words – multiple orgasms. That’s got to make ANY woman feel good!

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I had my first orgasm swimming alone one summer evening in the neighborhood pool. I didn’t even know what female masturbation was yet but wading up to a jet, I instinctively rested my heels on the tiled edge, opened my legs, and felt the benefits of female masturbation in all their glory. Afterward, walking home in my damp one-piece, I decided to never tell anyone, somehow aware that what I’d just experienced was too taboo.

Here’s the thing: Women masturbate. Perhaps your first foray into masturbating wasn’t with a pool jet but a stuffed panda bear with one eye—looking at you, Booksmart—or My Little Pony à la Pen15 (truly a seminal show). Whatever it was, it doesn’t matter who or what turns you on, it matters that we talk about it—and that we feel free to do it without shame.

The benefits of masturbation are plenty (more on those in a moment), for women especially. “We become powerful” when we masturbate, says Nan Wise, a cognitive neuroscientist, licensed sex therapist, and author of the forthcoming Why Good Sex Matters. “We stand up and say, ‘Hands off my body, let me put my own hands on my body.’” It’s not just a physical act but a psychological one.

Here are the most powerful benefits of masturbation that will convince you to make some time for yourself ASAP.

1. Let’s cut to the chase: masturbation feels damn good.

Obviously, masturbating feels amazing—your clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings—reason enough to reach for the vibrator. There are actual pleasure pathways in the brain that are strengthened by masturbation, Wise explains. She’s devoted years of research to mapping them out specifically for women—something that (not shockingly) hadn’t been done before. “I noticed that when women simply thought about those regions , they were able to activate the pathways,” she says. With enough practice, “these pathways become well-tuned highways for sensations in the body,” especially pleasurable ones.

Pleasure alone is reason enough to masturbate—something women don’t always feel comfortable with. “Really give yourself permission for pleasure so that when you do experience the biophysical benefits, you can actually bask in them,” says Jenni Skyler, a certified sex therapist and sexologist at the Intimacy Institute in Colorado.

So go ahead: Own your orgasm; be its primary contact, its first number on speed dial. It belongs to you before it belongs to anyone else.

2. Self-pleasure can help improve your sex life with a partner—how’s that for a win-win?

Knowing what feels good is important for more than the obvious reason—once you know what gets you off, you can teach your partner.

“If you feel like bringing an outsider into the circle of trust, masturbating will help you know which moves don’t cut it and which to advocate for,” says Skyler. “There’s a lot of utility to just knowing yourself and advocating for your own needs.”

3. Masturbating can help increase a stagnant libido.

It’s Tuesday night and you’re tired; your partner wants to Netflix and chill, but you would rather Netflix and sleep. Raise your hand if this situation sounds familiar.

If it does, it’s totally normal. “A falling off of desire happens for lots of people, in particular women in long-term relationships,” says Wise. But making time for masturbation can actually increase your sexual appetite when you’re with a partner.

Let’s go back to the concept of pleasure pathways—the more you walk down them on your own, the easier it will be to find them when you’re with a partner. When women masturbate, “we’re activating the systems that will turn on our appetite for sex and, in a bigger way, even our appetite for life,” says Wise. “Seeking pleasure from ourselves with ourselves is a really good way to keep those neurochemical and hormonal systems primed.”

4. All that self-love can help you destress and relax the same way meditation or mindfulness might.

There are four stages to the sexual-response cycle—desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution—each of which comes with waves of hormonal fluctuations. Put simply, genital stimulation—orgasm or no orgasm—lowers the bad (the stress hormone cortisol) and heightens the good (endorphins), triggering that rush and release feeling. In studying pleasure and the brain, Wise’s research also shows widespread brain activations during stimulation, which means “the brain is getting oxygen, which is really good for it,” she says. (One 2017 study even suggests that higher levels of sexual activity can help protect your cognitive functioning as you age.)

For centuries, adolescents have been warned that the sin of self-gratification can lead to blindness, impotence, acne, and even furry palms, and in fact, some people still believe that masturbation can cause mental health problems or damage to your genitals.

But that is blatantly untrue — getting sexy with yourself is actually good for you. Here, clinical sexologist Dr. Tanginika Cuascud shares eight reasons to let go of any shame and embrace your inner cochina:

1. It helps you love yourself more. Knowledge of your own body can be incredibly empowering — and the more you tune in to your mind and body, the happier you’ll be in your relationships. Dr. Cuascud suggests that you first get a mirror and try looking at your own genitals. If you’re shy, begin in a slow, nonsexual manner and work your way up as you become more comfortable.

2. It can make sex with others better. Some people think that women who use vibrators or other toys will have a hard time orgasming with someone else, but experts say that masturbation is one of the best ways to figure out what you like in bed, and subsequently, how to guide your sexual partners. Do yourself and your partner a favor by carving out some “me” time.

3. It can boost your confidence and body image. It’s like the saying goes: Masturbation is sex with a person you love, right? Bust out your gadgets, videos, or do it the old-fashioned way to build up your self-esteem, because, believe it or not, pleasing yourself is an easy way to improve your outlook on life. “You cultivate very good feelings with yourself, and you can transfer that to the rest of the world,” says Dr. Cuascud. “Confidence is the most potent aphrodisiac.”

4. It’s good for your vagina. While many women already know the benefits of kegels, some don’t know that they can get similar benefits from masturbation. Orgasms help keep your pelvic floor strong and healthy, which can prevent urinary incontinence and promote your overall sexual health. Contracting your muscles can also help relieve cramps during your period.

5. It’ll help you sleep better. You know that amazing feeling after sex when all you want to do is roll over and close your eyes? Dr. Cuascud attributes that to the flood of endorphins released after you have an orgasm, which promote deeper sleep (and getting enough sleep is really important in your 20s). You can get the same benefit with masturbation, and you’ll be going mimis in no time.

6. It’s good for your heart. Heart disease is the no. 1 killer of women, but fitting in a regular exercise regime is easier said than done. Luckily, self-stimulation can get your blood flowing too. In fact, several studies suggest that women who experience more orgasms, alone or with a partner, are less susceptible to heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

7. It’s safe. Unless you start to feel that masturbating is negatively impacting other aspects of your life (such as relationships with friends or family), it’s one of the safest ways to satisfy your sexual needs, so whether you’re going through a dry spell or simply want to indulge in some alone time, masturbation is one of the best ways to do that and not have to worry about STDs or pregnancy.

8. It reduces stress. You get a natural high when you orgasm and you don’t have to rely on another person for this wonderful feeling. Some (though not all) studies suggest it can even help prevent depression. Feeling down? That’s the perfect time to show yourself some love.

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Is Masturbation Bad for You?

It’s funny how many people feel awkward talking about masturbation. Because of that awkwardness, there are also a lot of false beliefs concerning the pros and cons of masturbation.

Masturbation is simply the act of self-stimulation for sexual pleasure. There’s nothing mysterious or weird about it. In fact, although virtually nobody talks about it, most people have masturbated.

Masturbation is a completely normal behavior associated with our own sexuality. Whether done with or without the aid of a vibrator or other sex toy, when done in moderation, masturbation is a common, healthy sexual practice. Which people engage in this behavior depends upon their cultural and religious background.

How Common is Masturbation?

In the U.S., studies show that masturbation is common.

In one study of 1,047 men, over 69 percent had reported masturbating in the past four weeks. Of those men, nearly 32 percent reported masturbating one-three times per week, 22 percent acknowledged doing so less than once per week, ten percent said they did it most days of the week, and five percent acknowledged doing it daily (Reece et al., 2009).

Among women, masturbation is less common, with only about 38 percent of women reporting they masturbated in the past month (ages 18-60), rising to about 63 percent when looking at the past year (ages 18-60; Herbenick et al., 2010). This same research found higher numbers in men ages 18-60 — just over 62 percent in the past month, rising to 79 percent when looking at the past year (Herbenick et al., 2010).

In teens ages 14-17 in the U.S., 74 percent of males and 48 percent of females reported ever having masturbated. When looking at just the past three months, that number drops to 58 percent for teen boys and 36 percent for teen girls (Kott, 2011).

In a British survey sample of 11,161 people from the early 2000s, just under 37 percent of women and 73 percent of men reported masturbating in the past four weeks (Gerressu et al., 2008).

Is it Bad to Masturbate?

There are virtually no negative consequences from masturbation, and in fact, many sexual health researchers and experts suggest it is a normal part of human sexuality that can have many benefits.

The myths that surround masturbation (or masturbating too frequently) include: automatic addiction, it’ll make regular partnered sex uninteresting, numbing of your sexual organs, causes infertility, or shrinks your genitals.

None of these are true.

Masturbation, however, does have many health benefits.

First and foremost, it is an important stress-reliever, helping to relax a person and take their mind off of other things. It also helps relieve sexual tension and can help strengthen your pelvic muscles. Some research has shown an improvement in a person’s self-image and self-esteem, as well as helping a person get a better night’s sleep.

Humans gain new skills through practice and knowledge. Masturbation helps a person gain positive sexual health skills by learning how your body responds and what you like sexually, without the complications of another person’s feelings or reactions influencing your own feelings and responses. Self-knowledge is important in every aspect of your life, and so naturally this includes your sexuality. If you know what works best for you sexually, there’ll be less confusion and fewer misunderstandings in future sexual encounters with others.

Ultimately, though, people masturbate because it feels good. For those who masturbate to orgasm (not everyone does!), it also provides a release of endorphins, the brain’s “feel good” hormones. And while it’s not uncommon, especially at an earlier age, to feel guilty about masturbating, that’s a feeling that’s often tangled up in the cultural or religious dogma we’ve been taught. Such guilt can be unlearned through practice and a reminder that you’re engaging in a normal, health, human behavior.

Masturbation and Relationships

Masturbation is also both common and normal when a person is in a long- or short-term relationship — even marriage. There’s nothing wrong with masturbation in a relationship, unless one partner has a problem with this behavior. In that case, it may be helpful to learn why it’s okay and normal to masturbate in a relationship or marriage.

Most importantly, masturbating takes the pressure off of the relationship to meet all of the sexual needs of both partners, since partners — no matter how perfect they are for one another — rarely share the exact same sexual drives. Masturbation allows the more sexually active partner to release his or her own sexual tension without constantly requesting sex from their partner. This is empowering and can result in a healthier overall relationship.

When is Masturbating Bad for You?

Masturbation, like any human behavior, becomes a drawback in a person’s life when it’s done too frequently, or in an inappropriate manner (such as in public, or in front of non-consenting others). In terms of frequency, there’s no number that’s too often (although some might argue that masturbating multiple times a day, every day, for months on end is “too much”).

Instead, what therapists counsel is that when the behavior starts interfering and negatively impacting other areas of your life — or feels like a compulsion — it’s become a problematic behavior that needs attention. For instance, if you’re missing school or work due to your need to masturbate, that’s likely a problem. If you’re staying home rather than hanging out with friends all the time in order to masturbate, that’s likely a problem.

* * *

Remember, masturbation is a normal, healthy human behavior.

Psychological research has shown for decades that this behavior improves most people’s sexual health and self-knowledge. Masturbation is rarely bad for a person, unless they’re doing it to the point of negatively impacting other areas of their life. And remember — not everyone masturbates. That’s okay too, because we all have different sexual needs and drives. Just remember that if you do choose to masturbate, it’s okay to do so without any long-term negative psychological consequences.

Kott, A. (2011). Masturbation is associated with partnered sex among adolescent males and females. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 43(4), 264.

Reece M, Herbenick D, Sanders SA, Dodge B, Ghassemi A, and Fortenberry JD. (2009). Prevalence and characteristics of vibrator use by men in the United States. J Sex Med, 6, 1867–1874.

Thanks to Elsevier and ScienceDirect for access to their research database that helps make articles like this possible.

Is Masturbation Bad for You?

This post is part of Mashable’s Masturbation Week. May is National Masturbation Month, so we’re celebrating by exploring the many facets of self-love.

For as long as people have been masturbating, there have been misconceptions surrounding the act. Thankfully, most of the assumptions held about self-pleasure (no, it won’t kill you — and no, it’s nothing to be ashamed about) have been debunked over the years.

SEE ALSO: How mutual masturbation can help close the orgasm gap

Here are six common misunderstandings about masturbation to ease your nerves, once and for all.

1. Masturbating ___ amount of times a week/month/year is bad for you

As long as you aren’t inflicting physical harm on yourself or detracting from your life in a negative way — or using a piping hot cucumber as a DIY Fleshlight — then masturbate as many times as you please. There’s no magical number that you should or shouldn’t reach, and everyone’s bodies are different. Masturbating in moderation is of course, suggested by various sources. However, you should be mindful of your needs and aware of the risks, such as its affect on IRL relationships and intensity of orgasms. And definitely give it a break if your skin becomes raw at any point.

The best rule to follow is the one that’s applicable to most things in life: Too much of anything isn’t good for you.

2. Masturbating makes you infertile

To repeat the important point above, safe masturbating in appropriate doses is not bad for you — and it won’t make you infertile. There is a lot of misinformation around this issue, but according to Mayo Clinic, male masturbation does not decrease sperm count and female masturbation “isn’t likely to have much effect on your fertility.”

For healthy men, masturbating in excess, may impact sperm count. But fear not, it’s only temporary.

“It takes most men about 12 to 24 hours to regenerate a good sperm count after a previous ejaculation,” Dr. Ira D. Sharlip, clinical professor of urology at UCSF, told Men’s Journal. “So if a patient is masturbating very frequently — and by that I mean multiple times every day — that will suppress the sperm count and reduce the chance for fertility.”

But, give yourself a bit of a break and you should bounce back.

3. Men are the only ones who masturbate

If you consume a lot of pop culture, it’s easy to believe this outdated myth. But we have some news for you: Women do masturbate! Can you believe it? Yes? Good. Most of what we see in films, music and television unfortunately shows women’s sexuality only in the service of others. But no, women do masturbate —and according to one survey by TENGA nearly a third of women prefer it to sex. Oh, and in case you weren’t aware, trans and gender non-conforming people masturbate too. Orgasms for everyone!

4. There’s no right way to masturbate

Just like there is no right way to eat a pizza (go ahead and fold it, you New York monsters), there’s no one correct way to masturbate. Whether you use your own hands or your favorite sex toy, it’s all fair game when it comes down to doing the deed. There aren’t rules you should follow except ensuring that you are practicing good hygiene. As many before me have suggested, masturbation is an opportunity to explore your body and what makes you feel good.

“Masturbation can be a self-soothing behavior that calms down our minds…gets us in touch with our bodies, and gives us time to focus on ourselves instead of worrying about what others think,” sexologist and sexuality educator Megan Andelloux told Greatist.

Everyone has their own path towards orgasm, and the various ways you masturbate can help you uncover or fine-tune your journey.

5. There are no benefits to masturbating

This is just straight-up wrong.

There are benefits to masturbating other than it feeling good. According to Planned Parenthood, masturbation can help alleviate a variety of issues like stress, menstrual cramps, and muscle tension.

“When you have an orgasm, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that block pain and make you feel good,” Planned Parenthood states. “The good feelings that accompany an orgasm happen whether you’re by yourself or having sex with a partner.”

That orgasm also releases dopamine and helps you sleep better — something everyone can use.

6. Masturbating causes blindness

Please do not listen to anyone who has told you this. Masturbation does not cause blindness. That is a myth that has spiraled out of control, and according to Everyday Health, it’s one that’s existed for a while.

“Many myths about masturbation, such as this one, come from beliefs back when people believed sex was only meant for procreation,” director of female sexual medicine Susan Kellog-Spadt, PhD at the Center for Pelvic Medicine told Everyday Health. Phew!

7. You have to masturbate alone

If you want to, sure, but mutual consensual masturbation is also something you can try with a partner. Whether you want to spice things up in your sex life or to simply explore new terrain together.

Jenny Block, author of The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex, suggests that for mutual masturbation with women may give insight into how women reach orgasm.

“Women don’t actually take longer than men to come if you’re talking about going from totally unaroused to orgasm,” she wrote. “Masturbating together can be the perfect tool for explaining this and a great way to show a male partner that when the right things are done to the right places on your body, you are just as likely as he is get to the nish line in no time.”

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It does your body good…

Paddling the pink canoe (or whatever you want to call it) not only feels ah-mazing, but it also has a ton of research-proven health benefits. That’s because it releases feel-good endorphins, which do everything from ease stress to relieve menstrual cramps. One recent study published in Sleep Medicine even found that masturbation can treat restless leg syndrome (a neurological disorder that causes your legs to jerk around in bed). Uh, we’d love to see the doctor’s prescription form for that.

…but not if you do it this way.

A University of Michigan study found that women who masturbate with saliva (i.e., wetting your fingers before you give yourself a hand) have a higher risk of developing frequent yeast infections. Researchers think it’s because the saliva may disrupt the balance of bacteria down there. If you want to lube up before you get on with your horny self, choose the bottled kind instead.

We’re still keeping it on the DL.

Apparently we can’t let go and allow our self-love flag to fly. According to research from Penn State University, women talk more about sex than men do…except when it comes to masturbation. Men are more likely to trade info among themselves on how they do it and what they think about (or watch). We’re not saying you need to start updating your Facebook status every time you give yourself an O, but occasionally discussing it with a few close gf’s can help you figure out new ways to experience even hotter pleasure.

Lady monkeys need self-loving too.

Scientists have observed a wide variety of animals masturbating in the wild, including deer, monkeys, walruses, and squirrels. In fact, female apes and monkeys have been known to use sticks for, ahem, added pleasure down there.

That old wive’s tale about masturbation causing acne? It’s kinda true.

That’s because when you climax, your body experiences a spike in the hormone testosterone, which can cause zits. The increase in testosterone is (very) small, though, so it’s unlikely that you’ll have a breakout.

It’s possible to think your way to a party for one.

Researchers at Rutgers University have documented women who can climax without touching themselves. In a study, these women “thought” their way to climax while inside an MRI machine; scans revealed that their brains lit up during orgasm in the exact same spots as did women who peaked the old-fashioned way.

And, uh, exercise your way there too.

Some women can hit the high note just by doing crunches that include a leg raise — it causes the pelvic muscles to tighten and release, which can unleash a wave of blissful contractions down there.

Sources: Yvonne Fulbright, PhD, author of Sultry Sex Talk to Seduce Any Lover

Sexual Behaviors Linked to Recurrent Candida Vaginitis

Dec. 22, 2003 — Oral sex and masturbating with saliva are risk factors associated with recurrent Candida vaginitis, according to the results of a prospective cohort trial published in the December issue of the Journal of Women’s Health.

“Many physicians, and many women, believe that women get recurrent yeast infections because their partner passes the yeast back to them during intercourse. This study refutes that belief,” lead author Barbara D. Reed, MD, MsPH, from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, says in a news release. “This study suggests the risk for recurrent infections is related to something else — perhaps the woman’s immune response to the yeast.”

Dr. Reed’s group followed 148 women with Candida albicans vulvovaginitis and 78 of their male sexual partners enrolled at two primary care practices in the Ann Arbor area.

Within one year of follow-up, 33 women developed at least one additional episode of Candida vulvovaginitis. Candida species cultured from the woman’s tongue, feces, vulva, and vagina or from her partner’s tongue, feces, urine, and semen did not predict recurrence.

“We’re not saying that oral sex is a problem for everyone, but if a women is experiencing recurrent yeast infections, those activities put her at an increased risk,” Dr. Reed says.

Study limitations include only 39% of the women returning for at least four follow-up visits, only half of the male partners submitting questionnaires and specimens, limited power to assess factors in the combined male/female analysis, self-collection of male specimens, and inaccurate recall of sexual activities, evidenced by the disparity in the reported frequency of activities between the women and their partners.

The authors suggest that application of saliva to the vulvovaginal area may disrupt the balance of Candida to other resident organisms and immune components, predisposing to yeast infection. “The risks identified may be related to immune characteristics of the women and their partners,” the authors write. “Further evaluation of the association between recurrent Candida vulvovaginitis, sexual activities, and immune characteristics of women and their partners is warranted.”

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases funded this study.

J Women’s Health. 2003;12:000-000

Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

How Much Masturbation is Too Much?

Oh, the classic masturbation question — how much is too much? Do people who are in a relationship masturbate? Oops, Delilah’s getting carried away here and asking the questions instead of answering them…

More to the point: Individuals vary tremendously in how much they masturbate. Some folks wouldn’t dream of it, while others masturbate two or three times in their lives, and others two or three times a day. (And those aren’t the only options!) There are no deleterious effects of masturbation itself, and it shouldn’t matter whether you’re single or in a relationship.

On the other hand, since you’re worried about how your masturbation may be affecting your relationship with your partner, here are a few things to think about to help you decide if it’s a problem or not:

  • How is your health? Has it changed in any way since you increased your masturbation?
  • Are you satisfied with your life — career, relationship, friendships — or are you using masturbation as an escape from things that are bothering you?
  • Is your penis or clitoris sore or bruised?
  • Do you have any problem orgasming or ejaculating alone or with your partner?
  • Do you still have sex with your partner? Are you having an amount of sex that you’re both content with?

You see, it’s not about how often you masturbate but about how you’re living the rest of your life. As long as masturbation is a part of your life and not instead of your life, you’re fine. When masturbation becomes an escape from problems in your relationship, or it begins to affect your health, or turn into a substitute for real life experiences, then you should consider slowing down on your stroking and dealing with who and what’s around you.

Is It Okay to Masturbate with a Shower Massager?

Masturbation is a normal and healthy part of human sexuality. More men than women masturbate, but it doesn’t matter what gender you identify with — if you’re human, it’s likely you’ve given it a try at some point. It’s the perfect way to release one’s sexual tension, and you don’t need anything more than a good imagination and some time in order to do it.

Women often start masturbating later in life than men, and approach masturbation more tentatively. Many women feel uncomfortable touching themselves directly and prefer to instead rely on either a vibrator or some other object to masturbate with. This is completely natural and normal. There is no “right” way to masturbate — it’s different for every person. Many women can reach orgasm more readily while masturbating than when having sex. This may be due to many reasons, including the fact that we know what we like best (and can most easily do it ourselves).

Like most men, most women prefer masturbating in private, and the shower or bath is often one perfect place to do so. It affords a certain amount of privacy that a person can be assured won’t readily be broken (especially if you lock the door beforehand!).

Using a shower massager is one of the tried-and-true ways of reaching orgasm for many women. In fact, one study showed this method to be the third most common way that women discovered orgasm (just after hands and rubbing against an object).

It is very hard to cause damage to your body by masturbating, no matter how you do it. Just use your body as a guide: If something feels painful, then stop. (That’s a good rule for anything in life — if it’s something you don’t like or feels painful, then stop doing it.)

But there is no harm from using a shower massager in order to masturbate. About the worst thing that could happen is that if a lot of water were to enter your vagina it could upset the natural balance and make you susceptible to a yeast infection. If you want to avoid this, concentrate the water on the outside and don’t put the shower massager directly up against or inside your vagina.

Otherwise, relax and enjoy!

How Much Masturbation is Too Much?

Can you masturbate with a yeast infection

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