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What is Reproductive and Sexual Health?

By Nicole Long
Updated May 17, 2024
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Reproductive and sexual health refers to various aspects of physical, social, and mental health related to the reproductive system and sex. Diseases, options, and problems associated with reproduction are the focus of reproductive health. Sexual health deals with diseases and discussion surrounding sex and the associated risks.

Both men and women are the focus of initiatives to increase the reproductive and sexual health and well-being of the world’s population. Groups such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN) develop and support these initiatives. Among the initiatives are programs related to education and human rights.

Reproductive health has to do with supporting healthy development and healthy choices. For both women and men, reproductive health issues can impact fertility and the chance to have a family. Reproductive health focuses on promoting regular screenings and encouraging treatment for various issues effecting reproductive health, such as cervical cancer. Staying healthy and living in a supportive environment is the goal of reproductive health programs around the world.

Education surrounding conception, pregnancy, and birth is a specific focus of reproductive health initiatives. This includes taking a stand against cultural and regional practices, such as female genital mutilation. Other programs focus on preventing pregnancy through education about abstinence and the use of contraception. Reproductive health programs also provide information on healthy nutrition during pregnancy and options available for child birth.

Sexual health focuses on ensuring healthy sexual practices across all genders. This includes efforts to protect youth against sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia and HIV. Proper education surrounding the consequences related to sex, such as pregnancy and disease, can occur through school programs and at home.

Programs related to sexual health also focus on ensuring those with low income or living in countries with limited access to health care facilities understand the implications related to unhealthy sexual practices. Sexual health programs also seek to ensure these groups have access to basic medical care, preventative measures, and treatment options for sexually transmitted diseases. These programs exist on a local, national, and global level.

When discussing reproductive and sexual health, a discussion surrounding the freedom of choice is often included. Countries and various cultures differ when it comes to beliefs on childbirth, sexual health, and woman’s rights. At the root of all reproductive and sexual health programs is honoring and respecting tradition while encouraging the safety and health of those in local, national, and global communities.

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Discussion Comments
By irontoenail — On Nov 06, 2014

@KoiwiGal - Actually, in some ways, we're starting to go backwards. And I'm not just talking about reproductive rights, although that's a whole other story.

Gonorrhea has recently developed a strain that is resistant to all current antibiotics. Which means it could start to run rampant through the population again and there will be no means to stop it at all.

By KoiwiGal — On Nov 05, 2014

@browncoat - Fertility issues might also be occurring because people are choosing to have children later in life. It was once true that most people wouldn't even live to age forty let alone decide to start having babies at that point. Not that the choice is wrong, but one of the factors to consider is that fertility does tend to go down over the years.

I actually don't think, with all the medical advancements we've got in modern times, that a reduction in fertility will make that much impact on population growth. It was once kept under control by a bevy of diseases, many of them sexually transmitted, as well as the by the dangers of child-birth and poor nutrition in general.

Not to make light of fertility issues that people might be experiencing but reproductive health in the modern age is in far better shape than it ever used to be, taken as a whole.

By browncoat — On Nov 05, 2014

Apparently fertility has been undergoing a general decline all over the world for a while now and scientists aren't sure why. Sperm counts in particular tend to be smaller and less mobile than they used to be. I guess it might be something to do with levels of pollution, since sperm in particular are very vulnerable to changes in the environment, since they are created on the spot, while egg cells exist already and are just released at certain times.

In a way, I guess it's a good thing in some ways, as the Earth doesn't exactly need an increase in the human population, but I think it would be better if we were reducing it through education and contraception rather than because we're sterilizing ourselves inadvertently.

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