Ever wanted a get-out-of-cramps free card that also feels super yummy? If you’ve wondered whether the big O, little O, or even a soothing series of Os would help relieve your pain and discomfort, we’ve got the lowdown here.
In a word, yes — both masturbating, using adult sex toys, and partnered sex can be a great choice when it comes to helping you get pain relief from those severe cramps. (And if that’s not the right fit for you, we have some other suggestions, too!)
Also, it’s helpful to note that sexual activity during your cycle is perfectly fine; it might pose a few more challenges in terms of getting everything to work without generating too much of a mess, but the relief is worth it :)
What are menstrual cramps?
For some folks who menstruate, cramps aren’t that big a deal; for others, they can be completely debilitating. Hopefully, you’re in the first camp — but you’re more likely to lie somewhere in the middle, and you’ve got to deal with your uterus doing its own special and sometimes frustrating lining-removing flex contraction choreography. Menstrual cramps are, unfortunately, completely normal, and the fact that they’re uncomfortable is also completely normal.
It turns out the technical term for menstrual cramps also sounds kind of like an exotic form of mushroom: dysmenorrhea (this is according to the Marriam-Webster dictionary). Menstrual cramps are characterized by muscle cramps in the stomach / abdominal region … and if you’re really lucky, they can sometimes spread to both your back and thighs.
By the way, if you’re experiencing endometriosis, which is when tissue similar to uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, you can experience quite a bit of pain. It’s good to know that some over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help. More general remedies to come below.
Why do menstrual cramps happen?
Menstrual cramping happens because the uterus sloughs off the uterine lining, after preparing for fertilization and not getting fertilized. This helps the body prep for a new round of possible baby-making the following month. When the uterine muscles flex and contract to remove the uterine lining, those uterine contractions can create period pain and discomfort.
The severity of period cramps can change throughout a vulva-owner’s life and can also change based on factors such as undergoing pregnancy or changing birth control methods.
Does orgasm help period cramps?
You bet! Basically, sexual arousal and having an orgasm can help alleviate painful cramps in a few ways:
1. Orgasm is a natural painkiller
When you go all the way to climax, your body releases a bunch of hormones that include oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, as well as chemicals like prolactin. These secretions and upticks can lower the noise of your pain receptors, potentially helping remove pelvic pain. What an O-mazing natural painkiller!
2. Potentially shorten the duration of your period
Hypothetically, sex and orgasm can cut down on how long your period lasts. Why? Because the natural contractions that your body engages in during an orgasm can help your uterus in its uterine contractions. Theoretically, this will reduce the duration of your menstrual cycle because there’s less overall contracting to do.
3. It helps you lower stress and have more fun
Having an orgasm lowers your overall stress levels, which essentially helps with everything — including giving your immune system more of a chance to power you up. Plus, it’s just plain fun to feel good. Whether you achieve orgasm through vulva/female masturbation or some other partnered act really doesn’t matter; as long as you’re able to be in that lovely zen zone, you’re gaining the benefits.
How does it work exactly?
What’s good to know is that the pleasure and sexual stimulation you have doesn’t need to be penetrative in order to relieve menstrual pain. Some women/vulva-owners are sensitive to penetration, have challenges reaching climax, or don’t want to have a painful orgasm. Read our related content if you struggle to reach climax or have wondered, “how long does it take for a woman to orgasm?”
As a woman/vulva-owner, there are plenty of other ways to get there — you’re welcome to engage in an oral sex O, get yourself over the edge with clitoral stimulation, or just bust out your favorite toy to climax. How long does an orgasm last? Maybe not long enough to relieve all period pains, but the fact is, the simple act of having sexual contact and leaning into the stress relief and pleasure of being touched and nourished can be helpful for both your mental health and overall wellbeing.
If you’re having penetrative period sex and are worried about period blood cramping your style, you can always use something like a menstrual cup or menstrual disc to prevent the blood from distracting you from your fun.
Alternatively, if you’d rather just go with the “have sex and wash right away method,” things like shower sex might be a good alternative for you. If you’re flying solo, a suction-based sex toy at just the right height against the shower wall could be the perfect sex position for you. Then that menstrual blood and other liquids will just be released down the drain with very little work on your part.
The other big thing to keep in mind is that it’s perfectly normal for your sex drive and desire to change over the course of your menstrual cycle. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy sexual pleasure while you’re menstruating.
Are there other ways to alleviate menstrual cramps?
You know it. Vulva-owners have been dealing with this for thousands of years, and there are some tried-and-true methods of helping with cramps. Here are a few:
Yes, really. :) It’s not just something you see in movies — it turns out that dark chocolate can potentially help with pain relief due to its high magnesium content. Why? Because magnesium acts as a natural calcium blocker, which helps your muscles relax after contracting. Plus, as long as it’s your jam, chocolate is just delicious.
You might not always feel like it, but doing a moderately intense workout like light jogging or fast walking can help with both cramps and bloating. A lot of vulva-owners prefer to engage in physical exercise on days with lighter flow; when you’re on a heavy day, sometimes it’s best to just rest. Aerobic exercise of some kind also stimulates blood circulation and helps you feel better due to the “high” you get from the endorphins released.
Whether it’s a hot water bottle, heating pad, or hot bath, getting some heat onto the region can really help with those painful cramps. There are pretty low-cost versions of these kinds of heat devices, and you’d be surprised by how well they work. (Some researchers assert that applying heat can be just as effective as taking something like ibuprofen or aspirin.)
It might sound obvious, but doing less really is more when it comes to cramps. In fact, some experts say that being quite active in the earlier part of your menstruation cycle can actually worsen cramps. So you want to allow your body to rest when rest is called for.
While menstruation can sometimes feel like a hassle (especially when cramps are making you cringe), it’s good to keep in mind that there’s a certain beauty to the natural cycles of your body. There’s a rhythm of life moving through you, and there’s something sacred in that.