Less sex linked to an earlier menopause, study finds

Grant Boone
January 17, 2020

This provided a likelihood whereby women of any age who had sex weekly were 28 per cent less likely to experience the menopause compared to those who had sex less than monthly.

To find out whether either theory held water, Arnot and Mace examined data on almost 3,000 women in the United States recruited in 1996 and 1997 to take part in a multi-decade health study. Sign-up now and enjoy one (1) week free access!

A study published recently in the journal Menopause found that menopausal women typically experience increases in sexual dysfunction, likely due at least in part to these physical symptoms.

Osteoporosis is also more likely in menopausal women, which involves having weak and brittle bones.

"If a woman is not having sex, and there is no chance of pregnancy, then the body 'chooses" not to invest in ovulation, as it would be pointless, ' said Megan Arnot, a PhD candidate at University College London (UCL) who co-led the research.

She said the findings lend weight to the idea that the human menopause originally evolved to reduce reproductive conflict between generations of females and to allow older women to increase their fitness through investing in their grandchildren.

The women were asked questions about their sexual activity, including whether they engaged in sex with their partner, how often they had sex and other sexual activities, and whether they performed self-stimulation, in the past six months. Partly because the study involved questioning women about their sex lives, which always raises the question of how truthful and accurate the answers are.

During ovulation, the woman's immune function is impaired, making the body more susceptible to disease, the study said.

During more than 10 years of follow-up, 45% of the women began natural menopause, with the average age of onset being 52.

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In terms of the menopause, it may be that there comes a point in life where energy invested into ovulation may be better off used elsewhere.

None of the women had yet entered menopause, but 46% were in early peri-menopause (starting to experience menopause symptoms, such as changes in period cycle and hot flashes) and 54% were pre-menopausal (having regular cycles and showing no symptoms of peri-menopause or menopause).

The difference remained even when taking into account oestrogen level, education, BMI, race, smoking habits, age at first occurrence of menstruation, and overall health.

The authors also tested whether living with a male partner - and being exposed to male pheromones - delayed menopause.

This is why we included different types of sexual activity in the analysis, as all are forms of vaginal stimulation, that could send cues to the body of a possible pregnancy.

The correlation between frequency of sex and onset of menopause was unmistakable, the researchers found.

The study said that women who have reportedly had less intercourse during their midlife went through menopause because it made sense biologically.

"The mechanism of the relationship between sex and menopause is a promising avenue for future research and could open the door on behavioral interventions", Arnot said.

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