The SMSNA periodically receives and publishes ‘guest editorials.’ The current article was submitted by Mia Barnes, a freelance writer and researcher who specializes in women's health, wellness, and healthy living. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine.
Having sex while you experience menstrual cramps is healthy and can provide significant benefits. While it might not be the first activity that comes to mind when your PMS or period cramping begins, many people enjoy sex to reduce menstrual cramps, experience increased pleasure and benefit from other advantages. Learn more about having sex while menstrual cramps are happening and how it can help your body.
Menstrual Cramps Defined
Menstrual cramps refer to lower abdominal cramping in the three days leading up to or during your menstrual cycle. This pain occurs in 75% of women under 25,1 but can continue after that age if your period is more intense.
Before your period begins, your body produces prostaglandins to stimulate uterine contractions,2 eventually expelling your uterine lining as menstrual blood. When the cramping is tolerable but uncomfortable, you can have sex to manage it before utilizing other resources like over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers or heating pads.
It’s worth noting some people have more intense menstrual cramps than others. Any discomfort that makes your body tense, feels debilitating or makes you nauseous will likely respond best to OTC pain relievers instead of sex. Hormonal imbalances can cause this extreme discomfort along with intense mood fluctuations3 and infertility.
If you’re concerned about the severity of your menstrual cramps, talk with your OB-GYN. They can discuss your other symptoms and health history to identify potential diagnoses like endometriosis.
Benefits of Using Sex to Reduce Menstrual Cramps
Some people avoid having sex while cramping because they think the muscle and nervous system stimulation could make their pain worse. However, sex can reduce menstrual cramps when they’re still a minor discomfort. The biggest disadvantage is the potential for an extra mess — contracting your uterus and cervix during an orgasm can release your shedding uterine lining and result in early menstrual bleeding.
These are a few of the primary benefits of using sex to reduce menstrual cramps:
- Reduced menstrual cramps: For some, sex can relieve their pre-menstrual or active period cramps. The Theo Mei Technique encourages women to have one or more orgasms3 while cramping to send a rush of endorphins throughout their bodies. Endorphins are a natural pain-relieving hormone.
- Increased independence: Although you can create a pain-relieving effect with penetration, you don’t need it to experience relief. The Theo Mei Technique emphasizes how orgasming results in helpful endorphins. Self-stimulation to achieve an orgasm can deliver the same results if you live by yourself, don’t have a partner, or don’t prefer penetration.
- Increased sex drive: When you have sex, your brain releases dopamine5 because your body is doing something pleasurable. Dopamine is a feel-good hormone, so it’s natural that you’ll want to repeat whatever activity produces more of it. You may increase your sex drive by having sex more often, especially if it combines pleasurable feelings with pain relief.
- Natural lubricant: Although the vaginal canal can lubricate itself, having sex to reduce menstrual cramps can cause your period to begin a day or two early. The muscle contractions before and during orgasm may release your shedding uterine lining.2 The resulting blood provides extra lubrication that may be a significant benefit if you experience vaginal dryness due to a hormonal imbalance.
Other Tips for Having Sex During Menstrual Cramping
These are a few other recommendations for having sex just before or during your period, which may improve your comfort and pleasure:
- Communicate your comfort levels: Communication is essential to pre-menstrual or period sex. Some people might feel discomfort due to their cramping intensity, which can change after physical stimulation begins. It’s crucial to let your partner know if your pain worsens so the sexual activity ends. If intense cramping happens with every period and prevents you from trying this form of pain relief, talk with your doctor. It could indicate you have a condition like endometriosis and need treatment.
- Use protection: Like all sex, it’s vital to use protection to avoid accidental pregnancy or STI transmission. Condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancies6 and 71–80% effective6 at preventing STD transmission. Other resources like dental dams also keep sexual partners from transmitting STDs when used correctly.
- Remove tampons: You should remove tampons or period cups before engaging in menstrual sex after your period starts.
- Prepare for the mess: Preparation makes cleanup easier. You can lay down towels or keep washcloths and wipes nearby for afterward.
Overall, having sex to reduce menstrual cramps provides many benefits and can relieve your pain. If you want to try this pain management technique, communicate openly with your partner. You can always stop and rely on other menstrual cramp-reliving activities if sexual activity doesn’t provide the positive benefits you’re seeking.
Remember, if intense menstrual cramping is a monthly occurrence and you can find little to no relief, talk with an OB-GYN. You may have an undiagnosed condition or hormonal imbalance that requires medical assistance before you can relieve your cramps.
- Armour, M., Parry, K., Al-Dabbas, M. A., Curry, C., Holmes, K., MacMillan, F., Ferfolja, T., & Smith, C. A. (2019, July 24). Self-Care Strategies and Sources of Knowledge on Menstruation in 12,526 Young Women With Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLOS ONE. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0220103
- Kant, A., Kannan, J., Chandra, S., Chandravati, kalra, B., Mary, H., Kasture, P., Rajshekhar, B., Jindal, A., Amuthambigai, Dalal, S., Jain, R., Kulkarni, S., Vinay, S., Sindur, U., Ojha, P., Chakravarty, R., Harini, Mayekar, A., … Chaudhary, V. (2023, June 28). Unraveling Prostaglandin and NLRP3 Inflammasomemediated Pathways of Primary Dysmenorrhea and the Role of Mefenamic Acid and Its Combinations. Indian Journal Of Clinical Practice. https://ojs.ijcp.in/IJCP/article/view/206
- Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms and Treatments. Synergy Wellness. (2023, July 21). https://synergywellnesscenter.com/blog/hormonal-imbalance-symptoms/
- Sparks, W., & Salceies, R. (2023, May 24). Theo Mei Technique (TMT) – A Specific Method Eliminating or Reducing Menstrual Pain. Academic.oup.com. https://academic.oup.com/jsm/article/20/Supplement_2/qdad061.052/7165547
- Zachry, J. E., Nolan, S. O., Brady, L. J., Kelly, S. J., Siciliano, C. A., & Calipari, E. S. (2020, December 14). Sex Differences in Dopamine Release Regulation in the Striatum. Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41386-020-00915-1
- Condoms: Birth Control, Types, How They Work & Effectiveness. Cleveland Clinic. (2022, September 15). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/9404-condoms