Sexual activity, endogenous reproductive hormones and ovulation in premenopausal women

Horm Behav. 2014 Jul;66(2):330-8. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2014.06.012. Epub 2014 Jun 20.


We investigated whether sexual activity was associated with reproductive function in the BioCycle Study, a prospective cohort study that followed 259 regularly menstruating women aged 18 to 44years for one (n=9) or two (n=250) menstrual cycles in 2005-2007. Women were not attempting pregnancy nor using hormonal contraceptives. History of ever having been sexually active was assessed at baseline and frequency of sexual activity, defined as vaginal-penile intercourse, was self-reported daily throughout the study. Serum concentrations of estradiol, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), progesterone, and testosterone were measured up to 8times/cycle. Sporadic anovulation was identified using peak progesterone concentration. Linear mixed models were used to estimate associations between sexual activity and reproductive hormone concentrations and generalized linear models were used to estimate associations with sporadic anovulation. Models were adjusted for age, race, body mass index, perceived stress, and alcohol consumption and accounted for repeated measures within women. Elevated concentrations of estrogen (+14.6%, P<.01), luteal progesterone (+41.0%, P<.01) and mid-cycle LH (+23.4%, P<.01), but not FSH (P=.33) or testosterone (P=.37), were observed in sexually active women compared with sexually inactive women (no prior and no study-period sexual activity); sexually active women had lower odds of sporadic anovulation (adjusted odds ratio=0.34, 95% confidence interval: 0.16-0.73). Among sexually active women, frequency of sexual activity was not associated with hormones or sporadic anovulation (all P>.23). Findings from our study suggest that ever having been sexually active is associated with improved reproductive function, even after controlling for factors such as age.

Keywords: Ovulation; Reproductive hormones; Sexual activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anovulation / physiopathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menstrual Cycle / psychology
  • Ovulation / physiology*
  • Premenopause / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones