For a study, researchers sought to investigate whether patterns of sexual intercourse frequency and demographic, menopausal status, genitourinary, health, and psychosocial variables were linked to the development of sexual discomfort throughout the menopausal transition. These were longitudinal analyses of questionnaire data from the SWAN (Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation) multicenter, multiracial and ethnic prospective cohort (1995–2008). They utilized multivariable discrete-time proportional hazards models to see if incident sexual pain was related to long-term (up to ten visits) or short-term (two and three visits) sexual intercourse frequency patterns or other characteristics (e.g., menopause status, genitourinary symptoms, lifestyle factors, and mental health).

Over the course of 13 years, 1,087 (48.4%) of the 2,247 women who had no sexual discomfort at the start experienced sexual pain at least “occasionally.” They discovered no consistent link between previous patterns of sexual intercourse frequency and the development of sexual discomfort. For example, neither decrease in intercourse frequency from baseline (aHR 0.93, 95% CI 0.73–1.19) nor decreases in frequency during three preceding visits (aHR 1.00, 95% CI 0.72–1.41) were linked with incident discomfort. In addition, interruptions in intercourse activity at the previous visit were not linked with developing discomfort, including loss of desire (aHR 1.64, 95% CI 0.74–3.65) and relationship difficulties (aHR 0.36, 95% CI 0.04–2.88). The strongest associations with incident sexual discomfort were being postmenopausal and receiving hormone treatment (aHR 3.16, 95% CI 1.46–6.85) and having reported vaginal dryness (aHR 3.73, 95% CI 2.88–4.83). 

Long-term and short-term decreases in sexual intercourse frequency throughout the menopausal transition were not linked to an increased risk of acquiring discomfort during intercourse. The empirical research contradicts the widely held idea that a reduction in women’s sexual frequency is to blame for their sexual pain symptoms.