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Health Risks of Anal Sex, Leading to Complications: Report

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Anal sex has ascended to a position of cultural intrigue. Movies, shows, and the people who live and breathe on the internet, aren’t quite shying away from speaking of its erotic pleasure. It is daring. Sexy. While the shift reflects a healthy normalization of the different varieties of sex, safety may be lost in cultural translation. Women are at greater risk of side effects from anal sex, yet they receive scarce guidance or advice on how to navigate anal intercourse safely.

This lack of conversation in medical circles that still remains “may be failing a generation of young women, who are unaware of the risks,” warned doctors recently.

Their analysis, published in the BMJ on Thursday, drew on cases among heterosexual women in the U.K., who were presenting with injuries, pain, and bleeding as a result of anal sex. The curiosity about this particular sexual pleasure may not match the knowledge people currently hold.

The failure to have a medically informed conversation when women present with anorectal symptoms coasts on a lack of awareness and invariably causes physical and mental harm. It “exposes women to missed diagnoses, futile treatments, and further harm arising from a lack of medical advice,” wrote Tabitha Gana and Lesley Hunt at the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, United Kingdom. 

Anal sex without safety precautions has been linked to fecal incontinence — an inability to control bowel movements that cause feces to leak unexpectedly —  and anal sphincter injury on the pelvic floor. There is pain and bleeding that people may not be prepared to address without prior information about these possibilities.

Moreover, women are at a higher risk of these injuries. The risk of incontinence, for instance, is different “than men because of their different anatomy and the effects of hormones, pregnancy, and childbirth on the pelvic floor,” the researchers wrote. What makes women more vulnerable to pain and fractures is that they “have less robust anal sphincters and lower anal canal pressures than men, and damage caused by anal penetration is, therefore, more consequential.”

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