Feel like you’ve tried everything to ease your period pain? There might be one very simple solution that doesn’t involve a trip to the pharmacy…
Period pains are something that people often shrug off as an inevitable part of life. But those who have experienced them will know that they can be extremely uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating.
While there are a whole host of remedies out there that claim to ease stomach cramps during your period, from ibuprofen to alternative methods such as magnesium supplements, there might be one way to soothe your pain without any kind of medication: self-pleasure.
Masturbation is a regular part of lots of people’s lives, even if we don’t talk about it very much. It can help you relax, release sexual tension and improve your sleep in addition to a ton of other benefits. And there’s a good chance it might help to relieve your period cramps too.
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“The endorphins released during masturbation can help with menstrual pain and cramps,” says Sarah Welsh, a gynaecologist and the co-founder of the sexual wellness brand Hanx. “The hormones can help ease pain, promote relaxation and rest, and reduce stress.”
In fact, a 2020 study by Womanizer, which asked 486 people who menstruate questions about their periods, found that 90% of participants recommended masturbation for pain relief. When asked whether masturbation or medication worked better when it came to relieving period pain, the respondents were split, with 43% choosing medication and 42% masturbation.
And while the scientific research when it comes to how masturbation affects period pains is lacking (as it is on most women’s health topics), scientists have been researching the effect of orgasm on general pain for a long time. For example, a 1985 study found that women’s pain tolerance increased by 40% as a result of clitoral stimulation and when that stimulation resulted in orgasm, the tolerance increased to 74%.
While more up-to-date research needs to be done on these topics for the wellbeing of all people with a uterus, it does seem like masturbating to help relieve your period pains might be worth a try.
Why do people experience period pain?
To understand how masturbation can help to relieve period pain, it’s important to understand the reason people experience cramps in the first place.
“Period pains are very common and very normal,” says Welsh. “During your period, your womb is contracting to help shed its lining. When the muscular wall of your womb is contracting, the blood vessels supplying the muscles are compressed, meaning oxygen cannot get to them, causing the tissues to release hormones (prostaglandins) that cause pain and inflammation.”
So why do certain people get worse period pains than others? “Some people who have a build-up of these prostaglandin hormones experience more severe period pains,” Welsh explains, adding: “There are also some medical problems that can cause more severe period pains, such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and fibroids. Certain contraceptives can also make period pains worse, such as the copper intrauterine device (IUD).”
How does masturbation help to relieve period pain?
Masturbation and orgasms release feel-good hormones known as endorphins, including dopamine (the ‘pleasure’ hormone), and oxytocin (the ‘love’ hormone). “These hormones help rebalance our levels of cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone), which also allows our immune system to function better,” Welsh says.
“The surge in these feel-good hormones released during orgasm help us feel relaxed and calm, helping with sleep, which is also essential in healthy wellbeing,” she adds.
Interestingly, blood flow to your uterus during orgasm also helps to manage period cramps, according to Welsh.
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How do you masturbate when you’re on your period?
There’s no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to masturbating, and the same is true when it comes to self-pleasure during your period.
“Listen to your body and do what feels good for you,” Welsh advises. Your genital area might feel more sensitive than normal when you’re on your period, so you might want to opt for a gentler approach, and it could be a good idea to use a natural lube to avoid friction or irritation.
However, this sensitivity might also lead to greater pleasure, as there’s likely to be a greater blood flow towards your genitals – so that’s one reason to look forward to your time of the month, anyway. Plus, period blood can act as a natural lube. If you are worried about mess, however, focus on clitoral stimulation or hold off on masturbating until you’re in the shower or the bath.
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