“Woo hoo! I’m going through menopause. Isn’t that awesome?” said no woman ever. Hot flashes in January, tossing and turning at night, extra pounds that won’t budge even though you’ve been hitting the gym every day…not too many women we know are signing up for that program. So, when a research study was released that indicated that there are ways to delay menopause, there was a lot of commotion and quite a bit of excitement. Especially when everyone found out that the secret is…wait for it…more sex! The study sounded too good to be true, so we consulted with Playground’s Medical Advisor, Dr. Shyama Mathews to get the inside scoop from a highly respected board-certified OB-GYN. We were fascinated by her take on the findings and think you will be too.
We’re All Going to Experience Menopause Sooner or Later
If you’re around 40, menopause is probably in the back of your mind. After all, menopause is a normal part of aging, and we know that it will happen to all of us at some point. Perimenopause kicks in around ages 40 to 45 when estrogen and progesterone levels begin to drop. You might start to get irregular periods, be more weepy than usual, wake up in a pool of sweat, or have trouble staying asleep, even when you’re exhausted. Oh, the joys! Menopause follows, usually between the ages of 45 and 55, and can last anywhere from seven to 14 years. You’ll know when you’re officially menopausal when it’s been 12 months since you last had a period. On the plus side, no more keeping up with birth control or stressing out over missed periods.
Why Is Delaying Menopause A Big Deal?
If we’re all going to experience menopause, what’s the point in slowing it down? Late-onset comes with some pretty big health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Higher estrogen levels for a longer time also give you stronger bones and a lower chance of osteoporosis and fractures. One Dutch study even found that the net effect of later menopause is a longer life span. (01)
But, Are There Things We Can Do to Help Delay the Inevitable?
Here’s the kicker, though. Menopause affects each woman differently at different times. Sure, things you can’t control, such as your genetics or how old you were when you got your first period, will affect when your reproductive system starts ramping down. Lifestyle factors play a role too. (02) Diet, exercise habits, smoking, and birth control use are just a few. One study by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that women who ate more refined rice and pasta went through the change earlier than women who ate mostly fish, beans, and other legumes. (03)
Some Techniques Are More Fun Than Others
Let’s toss your diet and exercise routine aside for a minute (nice, right?). What if having sex is another way to help delay menopause? Yes, studies linking sexual activity to the age of menopause have been conducted, and the findings are promising. One study conducted in 2020 followed a group of women aged 42 to 52 for ten years. During that time, researchers did find a relationship between women who had sexual activity once a week and later menopause. (04)
Having Sex Regularly May Be Telling Your Body, “Hey, Stay Fertile!”
Some scientists believe that menopause didn’t always exist. It has evolved. They believe that menopause is part of the natural selection process, so women stop reproducing to pave the way for descendants. Along those lines, researchers who conducted this study hypothesized that because the body is engaging in sexual acts, and sex is a reproductive function, the body continues to menstruate, holding off menopause and hoping for a pregnancy. (05) Simply put, when you’re having sex regularly, your body doesn’t know it isn’t supposed to stop reproducing. It will just keep going. Conversely, if you aren’t sexually active, your body could theoretically think ovulation isn’t necessary. If you’re not having sex, then you can’t conceive a baby, and no ovulation is needed. Makes sense, right?
Women May Benefit From A Variety of Sexual Encounters
This is the best part of the study, though. According to Dr. Mathews, “Although the study didn’t establish a direct cause and effect, it’s an important one that collected data in a unique way. What makes it particularly interesting is that it didn’t limit the data to a specific group of married or unmarried women,” said Dr. Mathews. “It also didn’t limit the benefits to penetrative sex. Sexual touching or caressing, oral sex, and masturbation were all fair game.” Whether you’re married, divorced, or haven’t yet met the right one, doesn’t matter. As long as you’re getting action regularly, somehow, you’ll get to enjoy the benefits in multiple ways!
Should You Ramp Up Your Sex Life?
Is regular sex the surefire way to keep your body from slipping into menopause? Well, we need more research to know for sure. What we do know is that a robust sex life keeps your mind and body healthy. It helps keep your self-esteem, immune system, blood pressure, and sleep cycle in check. We also know that dryness and a dip in sex drive are common as you get older. If that’s the case for you, talk to your partner about what you like or go solo to see what feels good. Test out a playful new lubricant. Get some extra rest and schedule time for sex. Who knows, you may even be able to find out for yourself whether sex delays menopause. If nothing else, you’ll have fun experimenting!