Harlem Word: Dr. Hilda Hutcherson-- Sex and Stress

Dr. Hutcherson sheds light on how sex can help manage stress.  Dr. Hutcherson is a gynecologist and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center.

Q: In your books, you talk about sex as an important stress-buster. How does sex help to manage stress?

A: Well it is well known when you have sex there are certain endorphins, chemicals and hormones that are released and these endorphins, these ‘feel good' hormones make you feel happy and they make you feel relaxed. And everyone knows when you have great sex you want to go to sleep and that's a very deep and relaxing sleep. So for insomnia sometimes I will tell people that that's a great way of getting a good night's sleep as long as it's done safely with the right person of course. But because of those chemicals, those hormones, the oxytocin, the norepinepherine, the endorphins that we talked about, those chemicals and hormones help to make one relaxed and happy.

Q: So sex can be a stress-buster, but what if there are stresses within a romantic relationship?

A: Well then they can increase the stress, of course. I mean if you're having sex because someone is forcing you to have sex or you're doing it just to keep somebody else happy but you're unhappy, that can increase your stress. What I like to say to women is that satisfying sex is good for you, for women. It's been shown that satisfying sex can decrease your risk of heart attack. But it's also been shown that unsatisfying sex can increase your risk of heart attack. So if your sex life is causing you stress and anxiety, then perhaps that is something that you should change and perhaps you shouldn't be having sex with that person.

More on our interview with Dr. Hutcherson...

Harlem Word is a series of interviews with Northern Manhattan health experts, written by HHPC and reviewed by our Health Advisory Board.

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