For the study, published in the journal Royal Society of Open Science, data from more than 2,936 US women aged 42-52-years-old was analysed. This included how often they engaged in sexual activity, including sexual touching or caressing, oral sex, sexual intercourse and masturbation.
78 per cent of participants were married or in a relationship, while 68 per cent lived with a partner.
The women who reported having sex at least once a week, had a 28 per cent lower chance of entering menopause compared with those who got between the sheets once a month or less.
“We noticed that in existing menopause literature, there was a trend of married women experiencing menopause later—which seemed weird to us,” Megan Arnot, the lead study author and a PhD candidate in evolutionary anthropology at University College London, told Health. “Not many people had tried to explain this association, and I thought that perhaps it was adaptive in response to sexual frequency, so we decided to test that.”
While the study didn’t explore why regular sex causes a woman to go through menopause later, Arnot has a couple of theories:
“It might be that women who are perimenopausal don’t feel like having sex,” she said. “It might be that there’s a trade-off between continued ovulation and stopping." Translation: if you’re not having sex, the body thinks you’re not likely to get pregnant, “so there’d be little point in maintaining ovulatory function.”
Ovulation requires a ton of energy from the body, which can lower our immune function. “So there may be a point in life where it’s better off to stop ovulating and invest your energy elsewhere if you’re not going to have a baby (because you’re not having sex.)”
Interestingly, these findings debunked speculation that being exposed to a male partner's pheromones can affect the timing of the menopause. In fact, the study’s authors said there was “no conclusive evidence either that humans produce pheromones, or that they are capable of detecting them."
And while genetics certainly comes into play, the timing of menopause is also linked to other influences, including lifestyle factors such as smoking and how many eggs she is born with.
"Of course, the menopause is an inevitability for women, and there is no behavioural intervention that will prevent reproductive cessation; nonetheless, these results are an initial indication that menopause timing may be adaptive in response to sexual behaviour," the study's authors said.