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Can sex delay menopause?

Sex life is a very delicate topic especially during menopause. This is because, thanking all the hormonal changes happening during menopause, women are often lacking sex drive. But it is not only the loss of libido that determines a decrease in ones sexual life. We have many other factors contributing. For example, the change in body shape (as we keep repeating we get “thick in the middle”), fatigue, urinary incontinence, and lack of self-esteem due to the above are only some of the reasons that take women off sex.

Vaginal dryness can make sexual intercourse hard and sometimes painful (a good help to counteract vaginal dryness is using a lubricant. You can find lubricant in my products range here.) What a shame! Not only because sex is good for your mood and your health, but also for the relationship with your partner. Of course, your partner needs to be understanding, but even when they are fully understanding and supportive, it is difficult for them as well. Not only does talking help get what you’re thinking off your chest, but your partner (or whoever you talk to) might have some suggestions that help!

Why are we talking about sex? Because there have been new studies demonstrating that a regular sex life can delay the onset of menopause. Seriously? Seriously. The first question that comes to our mind is … why did we wait until 2020 to perform such a study? Women have experienced menopause since forever, so why did no one think about it before? This remains a mystery. The good news is: this pioneer study reveals that having regular sex can delay the onset of menopause. The study has been performed on 3000 women over a period of 10 years at University College London.

This pioneer study reveals that having regular sex can delay the onset of menopause.

Researchers found that women who reported having sexual activity weekly were 28% less likely to have experienced early menopause than those who had sex less than once a month. Which, sounds pretty good! Beside the fact is healthy for the couple as well, but it is good for your overall system. 

Similarly, those who had sex monthly were 19% less likely to have attained menopause (defined as 12 months without a period) than those who had sex less than once a month. And again, it is a pretty good result. I know that with menopause the libido decreases and some days you would rather go to the dentist or clean your car that having sex, but there are ways in which you can keep your intimacy alive. 

The study though, didn’t really explore reasons for this link, but the authors hypotheses that the physical cues of sex may signal to the body that there is a possibility of getting pregnant. It is a kind of opportunistic signal for our body. But for women who aren’t having sex frequently in midlife, an earlier menopause may make more biological sense. It’s our primal animal instinct!

In fact, if you’re not going to reproduce, there’s no point even ovulating, you’re better off using that energy elsewhere (from an evolutionary point of view). Ovulation is very expensive in terms of energy, and during ovulation your immune system is impaired, making women more susceptible to disease than in other moments. 

So, lack of sexual activity means that getting pregnant is unlikely. In this perspective, it is not beneficial for the body to allocate energy to the ovulation process. 

Instead, the findings support the so called “Grandmother Hypothesis,” which is a theory that suggests the menopause originally evolved in humans to reduce “reproductive conflict” existing between different generations of women and to then ensure their grandchildren more probability to survive and thrive. 

There may be a biological energetic trade-off between investing energy into ovulation and investing the same energy elsewhere, for example keeping active by looking after grandchildren, thus giving them more opportunity to survive.

The research is based on the US Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, which give a unique look at women’s midlife health and it has been started in 1996. The nearly 3,000 women enrolled in the data set had an average age of 45 when the study started, had two children on average, and were mostly married or in a relationship or living with their partner, probably having some kind of sexual life. Some 45% of the women experienced a natural menopause at the age of 52. Interviews were carried out over a 10-year period. 

At the start of the study, none of the women enrolled had yet entered menopause, but 46% were found to be in early peri-menopause (starting to experience some menopausal symptoms like irregular periods and hot flushes) and 54% were pre-menopausal (having regular cycles and showing no symptoms at all of peri-menopause or menopause). In their analysis, the researchers ruled out factors that could have explained the association, which include oestrogen levels, education, body mass index (BMI), race, smoking habits and when a woman first started her period, so all those factors that already are already involved menopause onset. 

Sexual activity wasn’t just defined as an intercourse. It also included oral sex, self-stimulation and sexual touching or caressing.

Researchers conducting the study, said their study tested also whether living with a male partner affected menopause onset. One existing theory was that increased exposure to male pheromones as result of living with a man was able to delay menopause. However, they found no correlation whether a male partner was present in the household or not. 

The next step is to try to replicate the findings in other population groups, although the author said there was little available data on sex and menopause. And we know, that right? No many studies have been done around menopause.

For women looking to delay the onset of symptoms like hot flashes that can cause discomfort in the years around the menopause, authors (which are females) said more sex probably couldn’t hurt, but that the study didn’t examine this issue.

The mechanism of the relationship between sex and menopause is a promising avenue for future research and could open the door on behavioural interventions, and better management around menopause.  So, ladies, what are you waiting for?