Masturbation Frequency and Sexual Function Domains Are Associated With Serum Reproductive Hormone Levels Across the Menopausal Transition

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To determine whether reproductive hormones are related to sexual function during the menopausal transition.


The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) is a multiethnic cohort study of the menopausal transition located at seven US sites. At baseline, the 3302 community-based participants, aged 42–52, had an intact uterus and at least one ovary and were not using exogenous hormones. Participants self-identified as White, Black, Hispanic, Chinese, or Japanese. At baseline and at each of the 10 follow-up visits, sexual function was assessed by self-administered questionnaires, and blood was drawn to assay serum levels of T, estradiol, FSH, SHBG, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate.

Main Outcome Measures:

Self-reported frequency of masturbation, sexual desire, sexual arousal, orgasm, and pain during intercourse.


Masturbation, sexual desire, and arousal were positively associated with T. Masturbation, arousal, and orgasm were negatively associated with FSH. Associations were modest. Estradiol was not related to any measured sexual function domain. Pain with intercourse was not associated with any hormone.


Reproductive hormones were associated with sexual function in midlife women. T was positively associated, supporting the role of androgens in female sexual function. FSH was negatively associated, supporting the role of menopausal status in female sexual function. The modest associations in this large study suggest that the relationships are subtle and may be of limited clinical significance.

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