Semen is best known for what’s not absorbed by the vagina, sperm, which swim through it on their way into the fallopian tubes where fertilization takes place. But, did you know sperm comprises only about 3 percent of semen? The rest is seminal fluid: mostly water, plus about 50 compounds: sugar, immunosuppressants and oddly, two female sex hormones, and many mood-elevating compounds: endorphins, estrone, prolactin, oxytocin, thyrotrpin-releasing hormone, and serotonin.
Since vaginal tissue is very absorptive, researchers wondered whether if exposure of semen would be associated with better mood or depression. In a study lead by psychologist Gordon Gallup at the State University of New York, researchers surveyed 293 college women about intercourse with and without condoms, and then gave the women a standard test of mood.
Compared with women who “always” or “usually” used condoms, those who “never” did, which means their vaginas were exposed to semen, showed significantly better mood and fewer depressive symptoms. In addition, compared to women who had no intercourse at all, the semen-exposed women showed more elevated mood and less depression.
Researchers also found among women who “always” or “usually” used condoms, which meant their vaginal tissue never came in contact with semen, about 20 percent reported suicidal thoughts, but among those who used condoms only “sometimes,” the figure was much lower, 7 percent, and among women who “never” used condoms, only 5 percent reported suicidal thoughts. So it appears quite possible that the antidepressants in semen might have a real mood-elevating effect.
So it appears that semen spurs ovulation and makes women feel happier. Hallelujah! This might explain why many women report increased interest in sex around the time of ovulation.
Bering, J. “An Ode to the Many Evolved Virtues of Human Semen,”Scientific American, Sept. 22, 2010.