How Often Should Couples Have Sex? Here’s What Expert Doctors Say

Are you curious about the frequency of your intimate encounters with your partner? Learn from experts whether there's an ideal number and what defines a healthy sex life.

Love really does permeate the air this time of year, and naturally, conversations about intimacy take the spotlight. If you find yourself comparing your relationship to the ones on TV or your social media feed, you’ve probably questioned what’s really “normal” in a relationship: “How soon should we move in together?” “When should we have kids?” “How often should couples have sex?”

The latter is a topic that’s piqued the curiosity of many of us, leading to a slew of studies and expert opinions attempting to pin down a specific number. You might have stumbled upon the figure from a 2017 study suggesting that once a week could be the sweet spot for some couples. But, as with most things in life, is there really a one-size-fits-all answer to such a personal question?

We’ve consulted experts to share what it truly means to maintain a vibrant and healthy sex life. Plus, we share the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surrounding sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and what it means to practice safe sex, ensuring you and your partner stay healthy and happy.

How often should couples have sex?

The answer to, “how often should couples have sex,” is as varied as the individuals asking it. Kameelah Phillips, MD, an OBGYN, lactation consultant, and women’s health advocate and educator from New York, shares, “Every couple is unique, and as long as they have a mutually agreed upon routine and fulfillment, then there is no external recommendation that applies.” This perspective honors the wide range of intimacy that different couples experience. For some, physical expression through penetration is paramount, while for others, non-sexual forms of intimacy like hugging, cuddling, and kissing fulfill their emotional and physical needs.

Natasha Bhuyan, MD, a family physician from Phoenix, AZ, echoes this sentiment and reminds us that personal satisfaction can fluctuate based on mood, health, and different stages of life—which makes mutual respect, flexibility, and open communication key to maintaining a healthy relationship.

Dr. Bhuyan further addresses common misconceptions about sexual desire between men and women, explaining that there is “truly wide variation among people and their preferences,” which do not necessarily align with gender stereotypes. While it’s true that higher testosterone levels are often associated with increased libido, this does not account for the full spectrum of human desire and the dynamics within different types of relationships, including those of same-sex couples.

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What is a healthy sex life?

“A healthy sex life creates a safe space for partners to explore desires and fantasy without judgment,” shares Dr. Phillips. When it comes to periods of sexual inactivity, both doctors agree: There’s no definitive timeline that signals concern as long as both partners remain untroubled by the hiatus. It’s the lack of attention to the relationship’s emotional, psychological, or physical intimacy needs during these times that can sow discontent.

And having a healthy sex life offers more benefits than just pleasure. The Cleveland Clinic points out several other advantages that can positively impact your overall health:

  • It can help you burn calories

  • It boosts your heart health and strengthens your immune system

  • It has the potential to reduce pain

  • It’s an effective way to relieve stress

Additionally, a significant aspect of a healthy sexual relationship is being informed and cautious about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), according to Dr. Phillips. The recent annual STI Surveillance report by the CDC shows the alarming increase in STI rates, including an 80% rise in syphilis cases over the past five years and a staggering 937% increase in congenital syphilis cases over the past decade. She and other medical professionals strongly advise individuals to undergo STI testing when entering or exiting a relationship and to include syphilis in the screening process, especially given its recent surge. Pregnant individuals are also encouraged to get tested for congenital syphilis, a preventable condition that can have severe consequences if untreated.

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Dr. Patricia Varacallo, DO
Tricia is a doctor of osteopathy with experience in primary healthcare. She received her medical degree from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and conducts clinical research in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, as she is motivated by the desire to contribute to the development of innovative treatments and therapies. She is also a certified lifestyle coach for the CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Program, empowering individuals to make lasting, healthy lifestyle changes. Dr. Varacallo loves to write— especially about health, wellness, and grief. Drawing from her own experiences of loss and caregiving, she loves to offer support and encouragement to those navigating their own grief journeys. Outside of her professional life, she enjoys traveling and exploring the sunny beaches of Florida with her significant other, always ready for their next adventure.