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Can using a sex toy really improve your health?

We know that sex toys can increase your sexual pleasure, but they can also provide health benefits too. We researched how these toys can help improve your mental and physical health.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Sep 29, 2023

Sex toys and your health

Whether enjoyed alone or with your partner, sex toys can bring lots of fun and pleasure to the bedroom, but apparently the benefits don’t end there - you can feel the effects of using a vibrator even when you’re not in the bedroom.

From stress relief to easing pain, investing in a good sex toy is thought to improve many physical and mental health conditions. We asked the experts how using a vibrator in the bedroom can help you in your daily life and we scoured our Mumsnet forums to find out what our users think - with their tips for the best sex toys to buy right now. 

“Sex toys can be wonderful tools for not just your sexual pleasure and satisfaction, but also your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing too. In the same way that masturbation is so good for your health, sex toys can be the thing that helps with that, especially if you find orgasming difficult, you have any physical limitations, or you just want to expand your pleasure palate,’ explains The Lowdown’s certified sexologist and sex coach, Lucy Rowett.

Here, we explore how a sex toy can improve your health. If you're in need of protection, our guide to the best condoms might be helpful, too!

Are there any physical health benefits to using sex toys?

Using sex toys can provide a range of physical health benefits, although it’s important to remember that all bodies are different so the effects will vary from person to person.

A natural pain relief

One of the things that using a sex toy like a vibrator can help with is pain relief - some people find that sexual arousal and orgasm can temporarily relieve various types of pain, such as period pains, headaches, or muscle tension, thanks to the release of endorphins.

Improved sleep

The effects of using sex toys can also help you sleep better. This is because orgasms can promote relaxation and release hormones like oxytocin and prolactin, which can help you feel more rested.

Natural lubrication

Sex toys can even help stimulate natural lubrication. This can be beneficial if you suffer from vaginal dryness, which can be caused by factors like the menopause or medication.

Don't miss: our guide to the best lube for sex

and more physical benefits

The benefits don’t end there. “Physical health benefits for women include improved pelvic floor muscles, increased vaginal tone, increased blood flow to the vulva and vagina which can really help counteract the physical symptoms of menopause, stress relief, more relaxation,” says Lucy.

Can using sex toys improve sexual satisfaction and overall well-being?

Sex toys are a great tool for encouraging you to explore your body. As sex toys help you gain a better awareness of your desires, it helps you understand your likes and dislikes so you can enjoy better orgasms and increase sexual satisfaction. This can help you feel more comfortable with your body and boost your self-esteem and body confidence.

Sex toys and health

Can sex toys help with stress relief and relaxation?

Any kind of sexual activity, including when you use sex toys, can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. This is thanks to the hormones that are released when you climax, called oxytocin and serotonin. Known as the ‘feel-good’ hormones, they can make you feel happy. So, if you regularly use a vibrator this can help you feel more positive and less stressed. 

Read next: find our guide to the best condoms for intercourse

Are there any psychological benefits to incorporating sex toys into my sex life?

Using vibrators, whether you’re on your own or as a couple, can provide great psychological benefits. The toys are designed to increase sexual pleasure and satisfaction, releasing those lovely happy hormones, which can be especially valuable for individuals dealing with mood disorders or depression.

As sexual pleasure can also help you feel more relaxed, some people find that using toys can help relieve tension and reduce anxiety. It can be great for helping you feel more content in a relationship too as when you use sex toys with a partner, it can create a sense of shared intimacy and adventure, strengthening your emotional bond.

Can using sex toys improve sexual confidence and self-esteem?

Sex toys are a great way to explore your desires and help you gain more understanding of your sexuality. Using a vibrator can help you overcome any sexual anxiety you might be experiencing and help you feel more comfortable with your body. 

“Why not focus on you? Make yourself confident- buy toys and get comfortable with your body and what you like.”

Alargeoneplease89

This can boost your self-esteem and confidence in the bedroom so you feel more confident communicating your needs and fantasies with your partner. 

Are sex toys a safe way to explore and enhance my sexual experiences?

Using sex toys allows you to explore more about what you like and dislike in the bedroom. This can be done alone or in a relationship.

Sex toys can open up lots of new ways to experience pleasure outside of your fingers, a tongue, or a penis, think of them as a juicy addition rather than replacing anything.

"They can also help give you more sexual confidence-- whether it's orgasming more easily, trying new things with your partner, or spicing up what you already do together. You can incorporate sex toys into the sex you're having already and they can add an extra layer of pleasure,” says Lucy.

What Mumsnet users say

Get some toys, focus on yourself and increase your drive. Once you're happy it will be easier to work on increasing the spark for the both of you. Practice makes perfect!” Beachhutnut

Sex toys and health

Do sex toys have any potential benefits for couples in long-term relationships?

Sex toys can be just as much fun with your partner as they are alone. When you’ve been together a long time, you can get stuck in a sex rut, so if you want to try and spice things up you may benefit from a toy like a vibrator or dildo. 

Using these toys together during foreplay or sex can help you discover new desires and fantasies, and improve your sex life. Even discussing what you like and dislike with your partner can be really useful in helping you develop an open communication, which can have a positive effect both in the bedroom and in your relationship. Being more intimate with each other and feeling more connected in the bedroom is likely to bring you closer together as a couple too.

What Mumsnet users say

Have you considered toys that you can explore as a couple? Nothing too crazy but a couples starter kit - you don't have to use them all it's just generally cheaper! That way you can explore and have some fun/build up beforehand and then he can take his viagra and it's less stilted.” Scottishskifun

Read next: Here are the best lubricants for sex

Can sex toys help with sexual dysfunction or difficulties, such as erectile dysfunction or low libido?

People who suffer with difficulties when it comes to arousal, orgasm, or erectile function can find penetrative sex difficult, so toys like vibrators, dildos, or strap-on harnesses can offer alternative ways to achieve sexual satisfaction and intimacy.

This can lead to a more fulfilling sexual relationship for couples and potentially help address underlying issues that could be contributing to sexual dysfunction.

Sex toys are brilliant for women with low libidos, as they can add that extra boost to your arousal.

"For many women with responsive desire, using a sex toy can help build up arousal which can then increase your desire for sex. Many studies suggest regular masturbation actually helps women be more interested in partner sex, not less," explains Lucy.

Are there any specific health benefits to using sex toys for women, such as improved pelvic floor muscles?

Certain types of sex toys, like Kegel balls or pelvic floor trainers, can help strengthen pelvic floor muscles. This can improve your overall vaginal health, such as improving bladder control, reducing the risk of urinary incontinence, and enhancing sexual sensation.

Physical health of sex toys

How can I ensure the safe and hygienic use of sex toys to prevent health issues?

The first and most important thing to remember is to keep your sex toy clean and in safe working order. Read the instructions before using it so you know how to clean and look after it. 

Always wash your sex toy before and after use with warm water and mild, fragrance-free soap. Avoid using harsh chemicals as they can damage the toy and irritate your skin. You may also want to disinfect your sex toy occasionally.

If you’re using lubricant, choose one that is compatible with the material of your sex toy so it doesn’t damage it. Also, make sure to regularly inspect it for damage - if you notice any cracks or changes of texture, it's time to replace it to avoid potential injuries or infection.

If you do experience any discomfort, irritation, or signs of infection after using a sex toy, seek medical advice.

Read next: find the best vibrators, tried and tested by Mumsnet users

Do sex toys have any benefits for individuals who are not in a sexual relationship?

The great thing about a sex toy is it can be very much enjoyed alone. All of the physical benefits we have discussed, such as improved sleep, pain relief, reduced stress and enhanced mood can be experienced whether you’re single or in a relationship.

Sex toys can be a valuable tool for self-exploration. They allow you to learn more about your own body and what brings you pleasure, and help you feel more comfortable with your sexuality. This can promote body positivity and self-acceptance by allowing you to explore and enjoy your body without judgement.

What Mumsnet users say

You need to be able to explore your own sexuality and work out how to please yourself. A vibrator or just your hands will help here.” Palavah

Are there any recommended guidelines or precautions for using sex toys to protect my health?

As sex toys come into contact with intimate body parts, it’s important to take precautions to make sure you don’t put your health at risk.

Choose reputable brands when shopping for your sex toy, like Ann Summers, LELO, Smile Makers, Womanizer and Lovehoney. This will help ensure you are using a high quality toy made from body-safe, non-toxic material, such as medical-grade silicone, stainless steel, glass, or hard plastic. These materials are non-porous and less likely to harbour bacteria.

As we stated above, it’s important to keep your toy clean, this includes washing your hands before using it. If you plan to use the same toy with different partners, make sure it is clean to avoid transmitting infections. You may also want to consider using condoms on the toy to reduce the risk.

Sex toys and your health

Can sex toys be helpful for individuals with disabilities or limited mobility?

Yes, sex toys can be incredibly beneficial for people with disabilities or limited mobility. They can help those with limited mobility experience sexual pleasure and intimacy when sex may not be possible. Using sex toys can also help alleviate chronic pain symptoms due to the release of endorphins.

Sex toys, particularly those with different textures, vibrations, or sensations, can provide sensory stimulation for people with disabilities, including those who may have reduced sensation due to their condition.

Using toys like vibrators can be a great tool for enhancing intimacy between couples where it may be difficult otherwise.

What are the potential risks associated with using sex toys, and how can I minimise them for my health?

  • Allergies: Some people can be sensitive or allergic to certain materials used in sex toys, such as latex, rubber, or certain plastics. Choose sex toys made from body-safe materials like medical-grade silicone, stainless steel, glass, or hard plastic.

  • Infections: Sex toys can harbour bacteria which can lead to infections. Make sure to clean your sex toys before and after use.

  • Skin irritation: Friction, pressure, or rough edges on sex toys can cause skin irritation. Inspect your toys for any damage or sharp edges before use.

  • Cross-contamination: Sharing sex toys without proper cleaning can transmit infections between partners. Make sure it is cleaned before and after.

  • Toxic materials: Avoid cheaper or low-quality sex toys that may contain potentially harmful substances, such as phthalates or lead. 

  • Battery leakage: If your sex toy is battery-powered, removing the batteries when not in use can help prevent leakage and potential damage to the toy. 

Read next: our guide to the best sex toys for women

Do sex toys have any benefits for individuals experiencing sexual pain or discomfort?

There are multiple conditions that can cause pain during sex, one of those being vaginismus. For people with these conditions, toys, particularly those designed for gentle stimulation, can provide an alternative way to experience sexual pleasure without causing additional pain. They can also provide gradual desensitisation and relaxation, and help you feel more aroused before trying penetrative sex. 

Sex toys and your health

Are there specific types of sex toys that are more suitable for certain health-related purposes?

  • Vibrators: These can help alleviate sexual pain or discomfort. Look for toys that are ergonomic or hands-free if you have mobility issues or difficulty reaching certain areas.

  • Dilators: Vaginal dilators are designed for people experiencing pain during sex, such as vaginismus that causes vaginal tightness. Dilators allow users to gradually and comfortably stretch the vaginal muscles over time.

  • Wand massagers: Wand massagers can help relieve tension, which can be helpful if you experience sexual pain, tension, or difficulty achieving orgasm.

  • Suction toys: Suction toys can be useful if you have difficulty achieving clitoral orgasms.

  • Harnesses and strap-on dildos: These can be used for people with erectile dysfunction.

  • Teledildonics: Remote-controlled or app-controlled sex toys can be useful for people with limited mobility.

  • Kegel balls or weights: Kegel exercise devices are designed to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.

Can using sex toys improve intimacy and communication in a relationship?

Another amazing benefit of a sex toy is the shared intimacy that you experience if you use it with a partner. As sex toys can add variety to your sex life and encourage you to explore new experiences together, this can help reignite passion in a relationship.

"I like a bullet vibrator best for me - shiny silver best and run it under cold water! plus you can roll it up and down him.”

Choconut

Experimenting together can help you learn about what brings your partner pleasure which can encourage open communication and a deeper level of intimacy. Not just in the bedroom - being closer physically can bring a stronger emotional connection too.

How can I choose the right sex toy for my individual needs and preferences to maximise potential health benefits?

"Think about what you want to use it for- for clitoral stimulation, penetration, or anal play?’ says Lucy.

"I believe the most important thing is that you actually like the look and feel of it. Does it feel good to use? Because it doesn't matter how good the reviews are if you don't like how it looks and feels. It's best to go to a real life sex shop for this because then you can actually feel it with your hands.

"Do NOT buy toys made of jelly or cyberskin, even if they are more affordable. They are not bodysafe because they can harbour bacteria. You want your toy to be made either of silicone, ABS plastic, glass or steel."

Other things to consider are the size and shape of the toy and what kind of stimulation you need - for example, vibrating toys can provide intense external or internal stimulation, while non-vibrating toys offer different sensations, such as pressure or texture. Think about whether you want a toy with adjustable settings or easy controls, such as a remote control or smartphone app.

Also consider how easy it will be to clean and whether you intend to use it alone or with a partner. Remember, sex toys are a personal choice and there’s definitely not a - ahem - one size fits all vibrator, so do your research and read reviews so you can be sure you’re making a good investment.

Read next: find the best sex toys for couples to use together

Top 3 sex toys loved by Mumsnet users

1. Self Love Massage Wand

What Mumsnet users say

Personally the magic wand is very excellent.” Hawkins002 

Nothing beats a magic wand for me. I used to like the Satisfyers but I've gone off them for some reason and can't use them anymore. I prefer powerful rumbly vibrations over the gentle pulse feeling of the suction toys.” MaryJean87

2. Satisfyer Pro 2 Vibrator Dildo

What Mumsnet users say

The Satisfyer Pro 2 is more expensive, but then that has vibrating options as well as the sucking effect, is waterproof and rechargeable.” MovingonfromMartin

“Satisfyer Pro 2 my go to, mind blowing for me.” mags1862

3 . Womanizer OG Vibrator

What Mumsnet users say

Womaniser...but be prepared for it being mindblowingly quick as it puts direct suction in your clit. After you have achieved it then perhaps try one that isn't as intense.” Namechangedyorkshire

How we choose our recommendations

Recommendations from real parents

We started our research by trawling the Mumsnet forums to find out what our Mumsnetters thought about the benefits of sex toys and which ones they rate the most. Our forums have over 7 million users so we know that any products they suggest will have been tried and tested while also catering for different budgets and needs.

Reviews

We looked at in-depth reviews to see which brands and products impressed the most. This helps us work out what features to look out for. We also checked online consumer reviews, making a note of both positive and negative feedback, to help us pick the best products.

Celebrated best products 

Finally, during our research, we always make sure to look at products that have received awards. This, combined with real parent recommendations, reviews and expert advice, helped us recommend a variety of sex toys to enjoy alone or with your partner.

Why trust us 

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.

About the author

Gemma Wilcock is a freelance writer and copywriter. At Mumsnet, she creates content providing useful parenting advice, information and top products to make life easier – as a mother of two children herself, Gemma knows how important it is to get the right advice.

She loves writing about subjects that will be helpful to the reader – and herself! - including recommending top products and helpful advice on Mumsnet that assist parents in their day-to-day life. Gemma has had to do plenty of online shopping and research online so knows the importance of looking for products that will make life easier. So articles like this are just as useful to her as they are to you!