Credit Crunch Sex

Most headlines about the GFC were depressing and dull, until news broke that the recession has made us all have more sex! We ask the experts about the story behind the headlines, whether it will lead to a baby boom and reveal why sex is good for you.

In the UK, the credit crunch has been blamed for a lot of things - repossessions, redundancies - but in recent weeks it has also hit the headlines for reigniting Brits' sex lives.

Sales of condoms have shot up, as have sales of sex toys and 'sexual enhancers', according to Superdrug, who have seen a 60% increase in lubricants slipping off the shelves compared to this time last year.

It seems that more and more couples are opting for a steamy night in rather than splashing their cash on a night on the tiles and some experts are predicting a baby boom next year as a result.

"We've seen a phenomenal rise in the sales of products designed to enhance sexual pleasures and a rise in the sales of condoms compared to this time last year," says Melanie Wilson, healthcare buyer for Superdrug, the UK's second largest health and beauty retailer.

"Over the past four weeks we have also seen sales of pregnancy testing kits rise every week - so we'll expect to see sales of nappies rocket next summer!"

Research shows that we've seen it all before: economic slumps in the past, including during the 70s and the early 90s, caused the birth rate to rise, so could we be set for another baby boom?

"No," says Netmums co-founder Siobhan Freegard.

"We tend to have mums on our website who are already pregnant and already have children, and from their point of view, I would say the credit crunch is probably having the opposite effect in that we're finding mums who would like to have another child are actually holding off and saying 'I'm really worried about my husband's job' or 'it's another mouth to feed'.

"Also people who had hoped to have another baby and move house, for more room, are not able to do that, so they're actually holding back and saying 'we're going to wait and see how things pan out'."

While sales of Durex condoms increased by 10% in the six months up to September, it could well be that people are more worried about getting pregnant and are taking more care with contraception, rather than that they're actually having more sex.

Freegard agrees.

"Funnily enough, I saw something on our forums about mums being extra careful with contraception because they can't afford any mistakes," she says.

Regardless of whether there will be a baby boom, it certainly seems the nation's sex life is having a healthy surge. That's no bad thing, says relationship expert Paula Hall.

"I've seen the statistics saying condom sales have increased, so unless they're all being used as water balloons, it seems couples are having more sex," she says.

"Certainly I've seen a number of couples who can't afford to go out and do the things they do normally and they're deciding they need to find cheaper forms of entertainment. Staying at home and enjoying themselves sexually is certainly something I'd recommend to help their relationship."

:: WHY SEX IS GOOD FOR YOU


Regular sex is a great way to de-stress, says sky.com's Sex Therapist Simone Bienne.

"Sex is without doubt one of nature's best relievers of tension. The chemicals released during orgasm make a woman feel closer to her man and make a man feel cosy enough that he falls asleep! Sex makes you feel more relaxed, which will get you through the hard times more easily."

As we shun the local happy hour for a more intimate time with our partner at home, we'll feel a lot more in tune with our other half.

"We know that we release all sorts of wonderful, feel-good chemicals when we have sex, so a healthy sex life will increase bonding, communication and self-esteem among couples," Hall says.

Along with a healthy diet and exercise, regular sex can also help keep us fit and healthy. The chemical dopamine, released during sex, even acts as a natural pain reliever.

"It can actually stop a migraine from coming on in its early stages," says Bienne.

"Seeing as our cash flow is giving us so many headaches, why bother with the paracetamol anymore? Get straight into the bedroom!

"It's proven that happy couples and those who are having regular sex do better at work, get colds less often and on the whole are healthier," she adds.

Having fun between the sheets can also help maintain a healthy heart.

"When we're doing something sexual, like massage and touch, it lowers our heart rate, lowers our blood pressure and has a direct impact physiologically on stress," Hall adds.

She recommends spicing up your sex life with some aromatherapy oils and a massage.

"It's based on building sensuality between the couple, experimentation and increasing togetherness," she explains.

"And it really does encourage you to take your time and make an evening of it. So rather than a quickie last thing at night, you actually can look forward to your Saturday night in."

:: PLANNING FOR A PREGNANCY


Recession or no recession, there are always couples having babies and for those who are expecting a little bundle of joy, there are certain lifestyle factors to think about.

The Family Planning Association's Helpline and Info Services Manager, Lynn Hearton, says it's important to look carefully at your lifestyle.

"The message for [planning a healthy baby] should be about both you and your partner. If one of you smokes, it's better to stop.

"For women the advice on drinking can be very confusing, but do cut down, don't binge drink and the occasional glass of wine is probably OK.

"If you're overweight, it may make pregnancy feel easier if you lose weight and if you do regular exercise keep it up. Walking and swimming are brilliant for posture."

Any mum-to-be will soon realise there are lots of dos and don'ts around diet.

Hearton says to steer clear of unpasteurised and soft cheeses, soft cooked and raw eggs and undercooked meat, which may cause problems during pregnancy.

"Things like shellfish can cause quite nasty bugs and you don't want to be vomiting during pregnancy when you're possibly already feeling sick. Food hygiene is important, so make sure you wash everything and avoid peanuts, which are thought to cause an allergy."

When you first start trying for a baby, it's worth bearing in mind that some forms of contraception, such as the injection, may reduce fertility for a while even once you have stopped taking them.

"For most people we say wait until your first natural period until you stop using any contraception, because that makes it easier to work out when you got pregnant."

Remember it can take up to a year to get pregnant and the best way of boosting your chances of conceiving is simply to have more sex, says Hearton.

"Sperm live in the body for five days, sometimes seven, so rather than focus on 'when am I going to ovulate?' and get hung up on that, it's better just to top up with sperm every few days, so that when you do ovulate, there'll be some sperm around.

"There's a danger of taking something you do spontaneously and naturally and making it something very different. As soon as that happens, sex seems to cause more anxiety, rather than being fun.

"[When you're trying to conceive] you don't have to use contraception, it's a great time, so you should make the most of it."
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