It’s quite common for women going through the menopause to experience a lack of sex drive.
After all, your body shape is changing (affecting your self-esteem) and you may feel fatigued daily. Then throw in the vaginal dryness that comes with this stage of life and sexual intercourse is often the last thing you want. Right?
That said, a recent study suggests that a regular sex life can delay the onset of menopause. But is this really true? And what do we do now that we have this information?
In this short and simple guide, we aim to give you all the answers to the big question: can sex delay the menopause?
What’s the Study?
Firstly, the study was initially published in Royal Society Open Science based on data collected from the USA’s Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. Three thousand women took part over a ten year period.
It hypothesised that women who participate in sexual activity more frequently may have a lower risk for early menopause. The authors defined this “sexual activity” as oral sex, touching or self-pleasure, as well as intercourse.
The average age of the women in the study was 45 years old. They also had two children (on average) with 78% being married or in a relationship. In fact, 68% were living with their partner.
At the time of the first interview, 46% were in early menopause, which was concluded by the absence of a period for 12 months and hot flashes. 54% were premenopausal, meaning that their cycles were regular and they weren’t having any menopause symptoms.
Throughout the course of the study, 45% of the women experienced natural menopause at the average age of 52.
What Are the Results?
The study produced some key findings, such as:
- Women participating in sexual activity weekly were 28% less likely to have experienced early menopause at any age than those with a less than once a month frequency.
- Those participating in sexual activity monthly were 19% less likely to have experienced menopause than those with a less than once a month frequency.
- Factors that could have explained the association were ruled out over the decade of study, such as oestrogen levels, Body Mass Index (BMI), race, education, smoking habits and when a woman first started her period.
The Link With Ovulation
The authors of the study hypothesised that the body may take the physical signals of sex as a possibility of getting pregnant. The body would then “choose” not to invest in ovulation, which takes up a lot of energy and can also take its toll on your immune system.
The “Grandmother Hypothesis”
The study’s findings support the “Grandmother Hypothesis”. This is a theory that suggests the menopause originally evolved in women to reduce the reproductive conflict between different generations.
In other words, the energy that the body usually invests in ovulation could be put into looking after grandchildren. This would allow them to retain their strength as their fertility declined to increase the survive-and-thrive rate of their grandchildren.
Exposure to Male Pheromones
The authors of the study hypothesised that the observed relationship between menopause symptoms and frequency of sexual activity is down to the exposure of male pheromones. This would mostly relate to the women who had partners and those who lived with their partners.
However, there was no evidence found to support this.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Ramping up your sex life to defer menopause couldn’t hurt. Even so, don’t feel pressurised. Ultimately, the study only showed a correlation between the frequency of sex and delayed menopause symptoms — more research would be needed to uncover causation.
Having sex is good for your health, mood and relationship with your partner. Having said that, there are no guarantees that more regular sexual activity will result in later menopause.
If you’re struggling to balance a healthy sex life with menopausal symptoms, talk things through with your partner. Oh, and our number one top tip for vaginal dryness is to use lubricants, preferably a water based one!
Your Feminapause Team xx