Women and females are often reminded of a biological clock that’s silently and metaphorically ticking in our abdomens. We are told to “use it or lose it,” but what if I told you there’s so much more than just age that moves the hands of our biological clocks?
Make sure to stick around until the end of the article to learn about how having sex can actually mitigate menopause symptoms!
The Female Reproductive Timeline
If you divide up the female reproductive cycle on a timeline, you see that the average female gets their first prior at about twelve and a half years old, gives birth to their first child at 26.3 years old, gives birth to their last child before their early to mid-forties, experiences menopause between 50 and 58 years old, and lives until around 80 years old.
Delayed & Early Menopause
The idea of menopause might delight you – yay for no more periods! – or make you cringe. Either way, you may not know that there are actually factors that delay the natural onset of menopause. Some of them may surprise you.
Factors that Delay Menopause:
- Being married (presently or in the past)
- Late first period
- Use of oral contraceptives
- Having a late first pregnancy
- Multiparity (having multiple children or giving birth multiple times)
- Life-long irregular menstrual cycles
- Consumption of alcohol
- Light physical activity
- High consumption of total calories, fruits, and protein
- Weekly sexual activity
Contributors to Early Menopause:
- Early menarche
- Nulliparity (never having biological children or giving birth)
- Surgical removal of one or two ovaries
- Low socioeconomic status
- Mother entered menopause early
- Lower levels of education
- Smoking 14+ cigarettes per day
- Abstinence from alcohol use
- Heavy physical activity
- High consumption of polyunsaturated fats
- Low exposure to the sun
Fact or Fiction: Pheromones
Previous studies proposed the idea that exposure to male pheromones (chemicals that are emitted from one person to another which may influence sexual attraction) might delay the onset of natural menopause in females, but evidence now suggests this probably isn’t true.
Does it matter when you begin menopause?
Ultimately, nature and nurture will take their course, but you might be interested in knowing how your age at the onset of menopause can affect your overall health.
- Potential for a stronger immune system
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis and fractures
- Reduced risk regarding cardiovascular diseases
- Increased risk of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers
Facts: “Women who engaged in sexual activity weekly were 28 percent less likely to experience menopause at any given age compared to those who engaged in sexual activity less than monthly. Women who had sex monthly were 19 percent less likely to experience menopause compared to those who had sex less than monthly.
- Decreased risk of breast cancer
- Stop getting periods earlier
Estrogen deficiency can lead to sexual and genital dysfunction and hot flashes
Increased risk of heart disease, dementia, Parkinson’s, mood changes, and osteoporosis
- Shorter period of reproductive ability
Benefits of Sex During Menopause
Bodies go through significant changes during menopause, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that your sex life may change in tandem. These changes are partially due to the body’s decrease in estrogen production which can result in vaginal dryness, reduced elasticity of the vagina, and pain during sex.
So how can you prevent these symptoms? The answer is simple: with partnered or solo sexual activity. In fact, “Regular vaginal sexual activity is important for vaginal health after menopause because it stimulates blood flow, helps keep your vaginal muscles toned, and maintains your vagina’s length and stretchiness.”
Author’s Note: Menopause is considered early when its onset is before age forty. Also, remember that everybody is different – the information in this article will not apply to everyone in the same way, or at all. Talk to your healthcare provider with concerns/questions for you specifically.
Gillian ‘Gigi’ Singer, MPH
American Board Certified Sexologist, Sexuality Educator, and Sex Ed Content Specialist