September is Sexual Health Awareness Month! To celebrate, wisp is turning up the volume on conversations about sexual health by featuring some of our favorite topics and the sexperts who know them best.
So you've gotten treatment and are on the mend from some unpleasant vaginal symptoms due to bacterial vaginosis, UTI, or a yeast infection. You're taking your prescription meds as directed, but now you're starting to feel a different kind of tingle and you're wondering, "When can I get back to orgasms??" If you're asking yourself this question you certainly aren't alone—most of us aren't thinking about getting down when we're in the middle of itchy, painful, or plain uncomfortable symptoms. But once you start feeling a little better you're ready to get back to your life, including masturbation. Let's get into some of your most common sex-related vaginal health questions.
"Can I masturbate...?"
The short answer? Most likely, yes. But let's explore a few specific scenarios so you can feel relaxed and secure during your next self-pleasure session.
Can I masturbate with a UTI?
If you've been treated for UTIs in the past, you know that UTI antibiotics work fast—like, same-day fast. Taking a dose in the morning probably means you'll be feeling much better by dinner time and maybe even ready for a little fun before bed. While masturbation during your UTI treatment is perfectly safe, you may want to err on the side of caution while you're recovering. Very often UTIs happen when bacteria are pushed into the urethra during intercourse and your risk can increase during anal play or rougher sex. If you decide to masturbate, you may want to avoid activities that could cause irritation, like using toys meant to be inserted, and stick to external fun, like clitoral stimulation. Once you've finished your round of antibiotics, you'll be all set to return to your regularly scheduled programming (always remember to pee after sex and masturbation to prevent UTIs)!
Can I masturbate with a yeast infection or with BV?
Yes, it's definitely safe to masturbate when you have a yeast infection or BV, as long as you take steps not to further irritate your genitals or make your symptoms worse. Both of these infections are caused by imbalances in your vaginal environment—typically this means a disruption of your vaginal pH (possibly by sex or lifestyle factors) led to an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria. When you're masturbating you'll want to keep things clean (while you're getting dirty 😉):
Wash your hands and any toys you use before and after your session (wash your genitals afterward, too).
Make sure any lube or washes you use are fragrance-free and body safe—fragrances and flavored lubes and condoms tend to include ingredients that can be irritating and make infections worse.
If you're using a gel or cream treatment, give it time to work before inserting anything else into your vagina.
Stay dry once you're done! Moist environments trap bacteria so once you clean up and dry off, throw on a pair of cotton undies to let things breathe.
Is it ok to masturbate while pregnant?
Ok, this one's a little bit different, but we couldn't let it go unanswered! You should always follow the advice of your OBGYN, but yes, masturbation during a healthy, low-risk pregnancy can be a great way to relieve stress and break through some of pregnancy's unpleasant side effects. Orgasm is even one popular method of attempting to kickstart labor for a baby who's overstayed their welcome!
How to play safely
Masturbation is one of the safest forms of sex: it's the only form that can guarantee you will not become pregnant or contract an STI. But that doesn't mean there aren't other risks you should be aware of! When masturbating there's a few key tips you can use to make sure your experience stays enjoyable and safe.
Keep it clean: As we mentioned earlier, washing up before and after your session will help prevent bacteria from causing problems for your later. That includes making sure to wash and disinfect sex toys.
Be careful when sharing toys: If you have toys you share with a partner or multiple partners (for use together or separately), stick to toys that can be thoroughly disinfected and disinfect thoroughly between sessions to avoid spreading STIs. This typically means sticking to toys that can be washed and/or boiled—waterproof and nonporous materials like pure silicone, metal, and glass are safe bets. Another option is to cover toys with a condom before use!
Doublecheck ingredients: Vaginas tend to be very sensitive and it's always possible that a new product may cause irritation or trigger a yeast infection or BV. If you use lube or condoms during masturbation (and during sex generally!), stick to non-edible and fragrance-free options to avoid health concerns down the line.
Doublecheck materials: The materials of your toys are important too! Materials like metal, borosilicate glass, ABS hard plastic, and pure silicone are non-porous which means they are easy to clean. Bacteria isn't able to build up on these materials the way it can in porous materials (PVC, jelly, silicone blends, and rubber, to name a few).
What the sexperts have to say
You may remember that we chatted with a few sex educators earlier in our Sexual Health Awareness Month series about their experiences in the sexual health field. When we asked about sexual misconceptions, the topic that they brought up over and over again was masturbation! Many of the educators we talked to emphasized that masturbation was a topic that was very taboo—people didn't know a lot about it and they were often afraid to talk about it. To end Sexual Health Awareness Month, we want to give our sex educators some space to sound off about masturbation and how important it can be for your health and wellbeing.
"One of the biggest misconceptions I encounter in my work is that masturbation is shameful. I love to whip out the research that shows that humans masturbate in utero to self-soothe. Masturbation can feel wonderful, no matter how old you are!" - Caitlin Chow-Ise, @thes3xtalk
"For me, the biggest misconception I run into is that masturbation is unnecessary. Forget the folks who may think masturbation is sinful or unhealthy, let's focus on the ones who don't have a solo sex practice because they haven't don't see a purpose to getting off alone...yet. When clients come to me saying they haven't been interested in sex with their partner for a while, I can pretty much count on them saying they almost never masturbate.
"Desire isn't like a light switch, it's more like a fire. That fire can be a roaring bonfire or tiny embers. Think of masturbation as putting a log on the fire so you can keep your coals going. You need all those feel-good neurotransmitters flowing through your body consistently to stoke your desire. I also coach clients through the concept of sexual autonomy - you are a unique sexual being, as is your partner. Sometimes you have sex alone and sometimes you have sex together. Your orgasm is no one's responsibility but your own, and you owe it to yourself to understand how your body orgasm's best. My clients know my mantra for good health and connectedness is 'exercise, meditate, masturbate.'" - Kristen Thomas, @openthedoorskc
"The most asked questions I get from followers is about masturbation. Masturbation is a wildly popular, yet still very misunderstood topic. Many people think that masturbating will desensitize their genitalia, cause changes in their anatomy if they do it for many years or in most cases, don't know how to masturbate and are ultimately unable to achieve orgasm. Many possible causes for sexual dysfunction can be a result of psycho-social issues, which essentially means, it's in our heads! Masturbation and sex still tend to be taboo topics in our society, so addressing the stigma we have about ourselves and our bodies is critical in becoming satisfied with our sex lives and the relationships we form with ourselves and others!" - Dr. Olivia Richman, @droliviarichman
You heard it from the pros! Never be afraid to get to know your body. Masturbation is just as much a part of your sexual health as birth control and STI prevention (and a lot more fun!).