A new study conducted by the University College London has found out that women who have weekly or monthly intercourse are at a lower risk of hitting early menopause as opposed to women who do not have intercourse regularly.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on January 25, 2020. It has since been updated.
Royal Society Open Science suggests that married women hit the age of natural menopause (ANM) at a later age than unmarried women but the reason behind this was unknown. Therefore, a study was conducted to find out why the menstrual cycle works the way it does in the case of married women. While there are many factors that have been associated with ANM, marital status and the timing of menopause, where married women hit menopause later than unmarried or divorced women, was particularly puzzling.
A new study by University College London has found out that women who have intercourse regularly are 28% less likely to hit menopause at an early age. Similarly, those who had sex monthly were 19% less likely to have attained menopause - defined as 12 months without a period - at an early age than those who had sex less than once a month.
It is noteworthy that the study did not dig deep into the reason for this but after conducting a survey and collecting data from 2936 women who were drawn from 11 rounds of the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation, it has been found out that when a woman has coitus regularly, it gives the body the cue that it still has chances of getting pregnant. But for women who aren't having intercourse frequently in midlife, earlier menopause may make more biological sense, reports CNN.
"If you're not going to reproduce, there's no point ovulating -- you're better off using that energy elsewhere," said Megan Arnot, the lead author of the study and a Ph.D. candidate in evolutionary anthropology at University College London.
She instead said that the findings support the "Grandmother Hypothesis," a theory that suggests the menopause originally evolved in humans to reduce "reproductive conflict" between different generations of women and to ensure their grandchildren survived. "There may be a biological energetic trade-off between investing energy into ovulation and investing elsewhere -- such as keeping active by looking after grandchildren," she added.
This study started in 1996 where 2936 women were interviewed over a period of 10 years. 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.
At the initial phase of the study, none of the women had entered the menopausal phase 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).
Factors like estrogen levels, education, body mass index (BMI), race, smoking habits and when a woman first started her period were ruled out in the analysis because they could have explained the association. In fact, the analysis did not only stick to intercourse but other forms of intimacy and self-stimulation too.
Additionally, they also tested if living with a male partner delays menopause or not as one study had concluded that increased exposure to male pheromones as result of living with a man delayed menopause. This study, however, could not confirm this claim and concluded that living with a man does not have an association with delayed menopause.
"It's the first time a study has shown a link between frequency of having sex and the onset of the menopause," Arnot said. She also said that women who are looking to stall the symptoms of menopause and the discomfort that comes with it can try having frequent intercourse but that the study didn't examine this issue.
She continued, "The mechanism of the relationship between sex and menopause is a promising avenue for future research and could open the door on behavioral interventions."