Q&A: Can Having Sex Help To Alleviate Menstrual Cramps?

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QUESTION: Can sexual intercourse help to alleviate menstrual cramps?

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In many cases, yes, sexual intercourse and other types of sex play can absolutely alleviate menstrual cramps or other unpleasant feelings that a woman may have prior to or during the time of her menstrual period.

Several Possible Reasons

There are likely several possible reasons for this. One is that sexual excitement and orgasm involve muscular contractions – and eventual releases – that may help to make any muscular cramping feel better.

Another possible reason is that during sexual excitement and orgasm, women’s minds may be distracted toward more pleasant, fun, and arousing thoughts. Sexual intimacy can help to take men’s and women’s mind off of many types of life stresses and ailments, and menstrual cramps are just one example.

Changes In Body Chemistry

The experience of sexual excitement and arousal also change a person’s body chemistry. Men and women both release hormones and chemicals that are associated with feeling good, satisfied and pleasant. It’s hard to feel upset or grouchy or pained when one is feeling so good.

Speaking of pain, some research suggests that women may experience pain and uncomfortable feelings differently when they are very aroused. As such, it may be that pleasant sexual activity helps a woman’s body to respond to pain signals differently.

Not All Women Enjoy It

All that said, not all women enjoy having sex when they are on their period or about to have their period. Some do and some don’t. If a woman does not want to have sex at any time of the month – cramped or not – she shouldn’t feel like she should just to alleviate a few cramps.

There are certainly other methods of alleviating menstrual cramps including over the counter and prescription medications, warm baths, heating pads, and various complementary and alternative therapies. Women should do what feels most comfortable to them.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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