Trying to have a baby? Try having some more sex; it's good for your odds. Tired of getting sick all the time? Well, having more sex helps with that too.
According to new research from the Kinsey Institute, sexual activity could have surprising benefits for women's immune systems, whether or not they're hoping to conceive. In two studies of 30 healthy women, researchers found that participants who had sex frequently throughout their menstrual cycles experienced immunity boosts that weren't seen in women who abstained from having sex, which could potentially help their bodies ward off disease.
The studies: Published in the journals Fertility and Sterility and Physiology and Behavior, the studies sought to figure out why women stand a greater chance of getting pregnant by engaging in more sexual intercourse, even if they were having sex during less fertile parts of their cycles.
While it would seem that having more unprotected sex is obviously more likely to increase the chances of conception, lead researcher Tierney Lorenz and her colleagues wanted to determine if there's a mechanism by which the body helps the process along.
"Lots of research has shown that the immune system changes across the menstrual cycle," Lorenz told Mic. "Other research has shown that sexually active women have different patterns of immunity than sexually abstinent women. But no one has put those two ideas together — that sexual activity may be the necessary cue to engage these shifts."
Sure enough, Lorenz found that women's immune systems responded proactively to higher rates of sexual activity, producing a greater number of T cells, which help regulate immune responses. The researchers also noted that women who had more sex experienced changes in their immunoglobulins, or antibodies that help fight off anything the body considers a "foreign" threat.
"Our findings suggest that the more frequently a woman engages in sexual activity the more often her immune system gets the message that it's time to reproduce," Lorenz said. "Even when an individual act of sex happens outside of the 'fertile window' it is still useful for sending that message to the immune system."
While the studies focus on how women's immune responses to sex can better facilitate pregnancy, the findings apply to women who aren't trying to conceive as well. In fact, Lorenz said the results indicate having more sex could have all-around positive implications for women's health, particularly for women with autoimmune disorders.
"One important next step is figuring out how sexual activity impacts the immune system," Lorenz said. "If we can understand how environmental cues — e.g., information about the woman's level of sexual activity — help the immune system learn to regulate itself, we may be able to use this information to re-teach the immune system in women with autoimmune disorders."
The study also has future implications for how women can protect themselves from STIs as well. "A number of researchers have posited that while beneficial from a reproductive standpoint, these immune changes may lead to "windows of opportunity" for sexually transmitted infections," Lorenz said. "Understanding how sex changes immune function may help us boost women's natural resistance to sexually transmitted infections."
While these findings are good news for women who want another excuse to bone (as if we needed one), it remains unclear why, exactly, women's immune responses are affected by more frequent sex.
"There might be something in ejaculate that stimulates or suppresses immunity in the female reproductive tract, or sends a signal to the rest of the immune system to change in some important way," Lorenz said. "Or there may be some other factor that is different between women who are and are not having sex that is relevant to any and function, such as diet, sleep or simply social interactions."
Clearly, there's more research to be done on how sex can impact women's health. But hey, it might not hurt to test these findings out at home while we wait for science to sort the rest out.
h/t Yahoo Health