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Anal Sex Health Risks

Anal Sex Is Fun, but Keep in Mind These Potential Health Risks

Anal sex can be very pleasurable and a fun change from the usual for everyone involved, but as with any form of intimacy, there are some risks involved. "Remember that genitals fill with blood from front to back, so it's important to begin with lots of stimulation and foreplay," says Antonia Hall, MA, a psychologist, relationship expert, and sexpert, and the award-winning author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life.

Lubricant Is Important

Lube is an important part of sex in many cases, and this is especially true for anal play. "Unlike the vagina, the anus does not lubricate itself, so it's very important to use a good lubricant," says Hall. "Be very slow and gentle to prevent injury to the anal sphincter muscles, which can weaken from frequent anal sex, especially without proper lubrication. In rare cases, the colon can be punctured, so be mindful about your approach and keep adding lubrication."

Use Protection

Using a condom is also wise because small tears can form from anal penetration, which puts both of you at a higher risk for STIs, HIV, and HPV. "One of the biggest health concerns is HPV," says San Diego-based gynecologist Christine Sterling. The human papillomavirus is most well known for causing cervical cancer. "Unfortunately, HPV can also be transmitted to the anus through anal intercourse and cause cancer there," says Dr. Sterling.

Cervical cancer is largely a treatable illness because of the widespread availability and use of pap smears to screen for pre-cancer and cancer of the cervix. There is no such routine screening for anal cancers. "Although pap smears can be performed on the anus, many physicians are not trained to perform anal paps, nor is it part of a routine well-person exam. Fortunately, a vaccine against this cancer-causing virus is available," says Dr. Sterling.

Bringing Toys Into the Mix

Tight muscles can lead to pain and discomfort, especially if you are new to anal sex. "Dual stimulation can be helpful to relax muscles, so feel free to add fingers or a toy," suggests Hall.

Time For Cleanup

Keeping things clean is a good way to keep things safe and avoid health risks. "The anus is also full of bacteria, so it's important to wash up carefully after any anal activities, especially prior to any other sexual activities you may wish to engage in," says Hall.

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