April 22, 1983

Vaginal Atrophy in the Postmenopausal WomanThe Importance of Sexual Activity and Hormones

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychiatry (Dr Leiblum and Ms Swartzman) and Obstetrics and Gynecology (Drs Bachmann, Kemmann, and Colburn), University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Rutgers Medical School, Piscataway.

JAMA. 1983;249(16):2195-2198. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330400041022

The effect of sexual activity on vaginal atrophy was investigated in a group of 52 postmenopausal women (mean age, 57 years). Subjects were divided into two groups: sexually active (intercourse frequency, three or more times monthly) and sexually inactive (intercourse frequency, less than ten times yearly). Two gynecologists examined all subjects and completed an index of vaginal atrophy that assessed six genital dimensions. Blood samples were also analyzed by radioimmunoassay for levels of circulating estrone, estradiol, androstenedione, testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone (LH). As predicted, less vaginal atrophy was apparent in the sexually active women as opposed to the sexually inactive women. Further, women with less vaginal atrophy had significantly higher mean levels of androgens (androstenedione and testosterone) and gonadotropins (particularly LH). We discuss herein the implications of this study, particularly the importance of androgens in reducing atrophy and maintaining sexual interest.

(JAMA 1983;249:2195-2198)