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How many women are having anal sex? Roughly 33% of women have had anal sex with a partner of the opposite gender according to the CDC's latest National Survey of Family Growth. Regardless of the number, anal sex is edging into the mainstream among heterosexual couples. There's a lot of fear-mongering and myths regarding anal sex and we want to clear the air. Here's the proper way to prepare if you're ready to give anal sex a try, according to doctors.

Ditch store-bought enemas or water (bottled, distilled, or tap)

"Water and enemas are on extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to [harshness]," Evan Goldstein, DO, the founding doctor of Bespoke Surgical in New York, tells Health. "The ideal solution [for anal sex prep] should be right in the middle — isotonic and pH-balanced." Goldstein recommends The Future Method, a disposable, pH-balanced intimate wash to cleanse your intimate parts before anal sex. "The concentration of tap water, store-bought enemas, saline solutions, and other organic and natural soaps can cause irritation, dryness, and/or damage to the delicate cells inside your rectum," Dr. Goldstein says, recommending a solution that's more compatible with your body's composition.

Try the toy test

"Before the fun starts, grab a toy (preferably one that mimics your partner's length), lube it up well, insert it (slowly and gently), and then pull it out," Dr. Goldstein says. "Examine the toy for any residual stool. If there's some present, you'll either want to douche again or take a rain check, but if it comes out clean, you know you're ready to go." This is also a great way to help relax your sphincter muscles before the fun begins.

When you feel comfortable enough to move on to your partner's penis, start off slowly, and make sure you communicate how you feel and if he needs to put on the brakes. The more relaxed your body is, the less clenched your muscles will be. "Women (and men) may experience discomfort the first time they have anal sex, but this is often related to not being relaxed," Nebraska-based certified sex therapist Kristen Lilla tells Health. "Breathe so you can relax your pelvic floor and any tension you might be feeling."

Use lots (and lots) of lube

Experts can't stress enough the importance of using plenty of lubricant. "The rectum doesn't have its own self-lubricating ability," explains Sherry A. Ross, MD, author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period. Since water-based lubes tend to break down quicker and there's no natural moisture in the rectum, it's crucial to use a thicker, silicone-based lube so tearing doesn't occur. Even tiny tears in the anal area can allow bacteria and viruses into your system, potentially leading to infection.

Consider STIs

Speaking of infection, anal sex can spread the same STIs you can pick up from vaginal sex. Except this time the infection is in your rectum, where your gyno won't know to test you. "People think you can't get HPV, herpes, syphilis, and even hepatitis A and B," says Dr. Ross. "You can still get all those STDs from anal sex, which is why it's important to stay protected."

That means using lots of lubricant to prevent tearing, and always using a condom unless you know for sure (like really for sure) that your partner is STI-free. And it bears repeating: Anal sex is the riskiest type of sex when it comes to transmitting HIV, according to the CDC.

Care for your anus

"This question gets asked the most: will I poop everywhere?" says Dr. Ross, adding that it's hard to give an answer, since it depends on so many factors, including when you last went number two. But in general, anal sex could put added stress on the anal sphincter muscle, and that could "prevent you from having a bowel movement on your own terms or a normal consistency to your bowel movements," she adds. To reduce the likelihood of this happening, go slow, hit the bathroom first, and ask your partner not to go too deep. Dr. Goldstein also recommends adding fiber to your diet to ensure a smooth bowel movement before anal prep.

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