Here are seven things you can do to improve your sex life in the New Year and beyond.

Couple having sex

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Make sex (of any kind) a priority

I know, it's easier said than done. As a working parent, I know that sex can fall to the bottom of the priority list when you've got so much going on. However, physical intimacy is important. You are a sexual being, not just a mom or a partner or a caregiver. Besides, sex isn't just good for us emotionally, but it is (dare I say it?) necessary for good health. And sex isn't just about intercourse. Sometimes, we find ourselves attempting to measure up against our friends and neighbors. But pleasure comes from many different types of sex: oral, anal, vaginal — or even using one's hand (which is highly underrated). Let's stop worrying about how we get pleasure. It doesn't matter how many times you do it or how you do it. In the New Year, let's try to focus on what is fulfilling for us instead of being consumed by what's "normal" for everyone else. Because in the end, there's no such thing as normal, anyway.

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Don't fake orgasms

I know why we do it, but it doesn't help anyone — especially us. Good partners want to give us real pleasure. Would we want to be with someone who just wants to "get sex over with”? No one is going to magically know what turns us on. It's our responsibility to show (or tell) them. And if you want to work on No. 1, orgasms will help. Once you are having real ones, you're going to want them more often.

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Visit your gynecologist

Reproductive health is an essential part of sexual health. Getting annual pelvic exams and any important tests (STIs, HIV etc.) is not optional. Aside from the obvious benefits, your doctor can help you to decide what contraception option is best for you, and you can talk to her about what to do if your sex life seems to be lacking.

Yes — talk to your gynecologist about sexual functioning. If you're not feeling pleasure or desire, or if you are feeling pain, she can help! And if your doctor is unwilling to talk to you about these issues, it's time to get a new gynecologist for the New Year.

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Try something new

Novelty in one's sex life doesn't have to be extreme. You don't need a Red Room in order to mix things up. Trying something new can mean switching to a different position, using a vibrator (if you aren't currently), adding some lubricant or even having sex in a place other than the bedroom (or wherever you most frequently have sex).

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Exercise

You probably didn't want to hear that — everyone always talks about getting more exercise in the New Year. But this isn't about losing weight. It's about changing how we see ourselves and enhancing what our bodies can do. If we don't feel comfortable in our own skin, we are less likely to want intimacy with someone else. Or worse, if we don't like who we are at the moment, we won't speak up for ourselves. Enjoying our body is essential to good sexual health. But there are physical outcomes of exercise, too. It increases blood flow to our genitals, which is excellent for our libido.

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Commit to consistently using protection

If you want good sex, it has to be free from worry. Anxiety comes from not using protection and worrying about whether or not you'll get pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted infection. And if you're worrying during sex, then how good can that really feel? Thankfully, this is an easy problem to solve. Condoms, hormonal contraceptives, IUDs and other implantables can be great options for birth control. And don't forget that using a condom (there are some great new innovations on the market) is the only birth control method that offers protection against STIs and HIV in addition to pregnancy. I don't care how often you have sex or whom you have it with — just take the worry out of the equation!

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Masturbate

How can a partner know how to make you feel good if you don't know how to do it yourself? Masturbation isn't a sign of loneliness or discontent in a relationship. Masturbation helps to relieve stress, helps alleviate menstrual cramps, aids in releasing those feel-good hormones and helps us sleep. It also reminds us that no matter what our partner or marital status is, we are always entitled to have pleasure.