Less sex-linked to early menopause in women
Having sex less frequently could lead to an earlier menopause, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that women who reported having sexual activity weekly were 28% less likely to have experienced menopause than those who had sex less than once a month.
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.
While the study didn’t look at the reason for the link, the authors said that the physical cues of sex may signal to the body that there is a possibility of getting pregnant. But for women who aren’t having sex frequently in midlife, an earlier menopause may make more biological sense.
The research is based on the US Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, a unique look at women’s midlife health that started in 1996. The nearly 3,000 women 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. Some 45% of the women experienced a natural menopause at the age of 52. Interviews were carried out over a 10-year period.
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At the start of the study, none of the women had yet entered menopause, but 46% were in early peri-menopause (starting to experience menopause symptoms like irregular periods and hot flashes) and 54% were pre-menopausal (having regular cycles and showing no symptoms of peri-menopause or menopause).
In their analysis, the researchers ruled out factors that could have explained the association, including estrogen levels, education, body mass index (BMI), race, smoking habits and when a woman first started her period.
Sexual activity wasn’t just defined as intercourse. It also included oral sex, self-stimulation and sexual touching or caressing.
It’s the first time a study has shown a link between frequency of having sex and the onset of the menopause.