A study conducted by the Royal Society Open Science has revealed that less frequency of sexual activity can lead to early menopause. Typically, the effect of menopause on sexual activity has been studied before. But this is the first survey of this kind that connects frequency of sex and menopause in a cause and effect study.
Sex and menopause: understanding the basics of menopause
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Menopause is the complete absence of menstruation for a period of 12 months also known as amenorrhoea. The word comes from the Greek words ‘mensis’ and ‘pausis’. The age for menopause ranges between 45 to 55 years, though it may occur before 45 and after 55 for some individuals.
The threshold of menopause leads to some vital physical changes. Lack of the hormone oestrogen causes hardening of arteries and heart diseases. It causes rapid bone loss leading to osteoporosis. It may also cause quick degeneration of vital organs.
Peri-menopause is the period leading up to the main change. Some symptoms such as skin wrinkles and hair loss will start during this time itself. The other, more uncomfortable symptoms include hot flashes, weight gain, vaginal dryness, mood swings, sleep problems and urinary incontinence.
The advised management includes regular screening tests, awareness about risks, exercise, stress management and timely medical advice.
The genes play an important part in the onset of menopause since you are likely to inherit your menopausal age from your mother and grandmother. Lifestyle and medical conditions also affect menopause. Treatments such as chemotherapy and hysterectomy may cause early menopause. Diminished or absent sexual activity also impacts the menopausal age.
Menopause Data from Singapore
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Every community worldwide has a different average age for menopause. For example, the average age for menopause in Singapore is 49 years which is less than the Asian average of 50 years; whereas in the west it is 51 years. With growing awareness, there has been a 30% rise in the number of women consulting doctors about menopausal symptoms.
The Health Promotion Board of Singapore government has come up with informative programmes and leaflets on their portal to help women cope with the changes. The programmes deal with mental and cognitive well-being.
How Are Sex and Menopause Connected?
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The body reaches menopause at the end of its fertility period. According to lead researcher Megan Arnot and experts from the related medical fraternity, middle-aged women who reported frequent physical intimacy were found to be 28% less likely to experience menopause as compared to women who were having sex less than once a month.
Experts think that the body often goes into an energy allocation plan. Ovulation is a process that takes up a lot of energy along with impacting immunity. If this process is not being used for reproduction, then this energy is wasted. Less sexual activity or abstinence has no likelihood of pregnancy. So, the body decides to divert this energy to some other vital function.
Thus, the timing of menopause may be connected to the chances of getting pregnant. More research is awaited to have any conclusive result. This study was done over a period of 10 years with about 3000 premenopausal and peri-menopausal women.
The analysis took into account and dismissed the other listed factors affecting menopause such as the onset of periods, BMI, oestrogen levels, smoking, etc. Exposure to male hormones was also tested and ruled out. Relationship between sex and menopause shows extension beyond intercourse to oral sex, sexual touching and self-stimulation.
The study supports the ‘Grandmother Hypothesis’, which suggests that the evolution of menopause in humans occurred for two reasons – one, to reduce reproductive conflict among the females, and two, to ensure safety and care of the grandchildren.
This research must be extended to include women from various races and environmental conditions to prove the theory correctly. Future studies may bring results that will help behavioural advice and better management. Women who want to delay disturbing symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats can be advised accordingly.
Reference: ABC News, Singhealth, CNN, SOG