By Brian Rose
Menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea is a term used to describe painful menstruation. It is not uncommon, and many females experience painful periods. The pain is often described as throbbing cramping in the lower abdomen that may extend to the lower back and thighs. The severity can be intense to the constant mild, dull pain. Apart from cramps, many females experience other symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or headache. A woman’s monthly menstrual cycle is linked with hormonal changes in the body, and these hormonal changes are the primary reason for menstrual cramps. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is affected by oscillating levels of progesterone and estrogen during each menstrual cycle. This fluctuation in serotonin is the cause of many irritating symptoms during or before periods.
What Causes Menstrual Cramps?
The muscular wall of the uterus contracts, mild contractions happen continually, but during menstruation, the contractions become vigorous. These contractions are required to shed the uterus lining as a part of periods. Every contraction of the uterus contracts the surrounding blood vessels. This compression of blood vessels temporarily cuts off the blood and oxygen supply that in turn releases pain triggering chemicals and prostaglandins. These prostaglandins trigger the muscular wall of the uterus to contract, ultimately increasing the severity of pain. However, the reason behind why some females experience mild pain and some severe pain is not clear. But it is believed that those having severe menstrual cramps have a buildup of prostaglandins, due to which they have severe uterine contractions. It is also termed primary dysmenorrhea, in which there is no other medical cause for painful periods except having too many prostaglandins.
Menstrual cramps caused by an underlying medical condition are termed secondary dysmenorrhea. It usually presents later in life and affects older women aged 30 to 45. These conditions include those affecting the uterus or other reproductive organs. Endometriosis, fibroids, adenomyosis, and pelvic inflammatory disease are common causes of secondary dysmenorrhea.
When Does Menstrual Cramps Start?
The cramping usually starts one or two days before periods peaks 24 hours after the onset of menstruation and subsides in two to three days. However, it can be longer in some women and accompanied by other symptoms, collectively called premenstrual syndrome. The symptoms may include acne, weight gain, headache, insomnia, breast tenderness, fatigue, anxiety, anger, tension, irritability, and much more. But the symptoms vary among females as the severity of cramps varies. And also, these symptoms, including cramping, vary from month to month like in one month, these can be severe, while in the next month, they can be mild. In some women, this PMS is so severe that it affects work and social interactions and is known as premenstrual dysmorphic disorder (PMDD).
What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in both the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system used to transmit messages between nerve cells. Serotonin is also known as a happy chemical as it is linked to happiness and wellbeing. It is made up of the essential amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin is associated with many physiological processes, and its dysregulation is linked to numerous conditions, one of them being a premenstrual syndrome. It is involved in a variety of bodily functions ranging from mood regulation to digestion. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, but only 1 percent of it is found in CNS, and the rest of 99 percent is present in other body tissue. In tissues, serotonin performs various functions, including vasodilation, recruitment of immune cells, clotting, gastrointestinal motility, and initiation of uterine contractions. In CNS, serotonin regulates appetite, mood, and sleep. It also has a role in cognitive functions, including learning and memory.
Role of Serotonin in Premenstrual Symptoms and Menstrual Cramps
As already said that with each menstrual cycle, the hormonal levels fluctuate in the female body. The primary hormones are progesterone and estrogen, and the neurotransmitter serotonin also plays a major role in the severity of menstrual cramps and other premenstrual symptoms. It is seen that women having premenstrual syndrome have low levels of serotonin. The serotonin levels are dropped as the estrogen levels drop during menstrual cycles. It means that they are at lower levels around two weeks before the onset of periods. Changes in estrogen are related to a variety of CNS effects such as headache, changes in pain transmission, dizziness, temperature regulation, mood, and nausea. This drop-in serotonin can clearly explain the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Studies suggest that fluctuations in ovarian hormones (primarily estrogen) cause predictable changes in serotonin levels in females. Some women have severe symptoms and some have mild because those having severe symptoms are more sensitive to hormonal changes. For this reason, females having severe symptoms are also treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, especially in those having severe mood disorders.
Relieving Menstrual Cramps by Orgasm
When menstrual cramps hit, one might think of a hot water bottle and NSAIDs (ibuprofen). These can be effective sometimes, but NSAIDs have their side effects if taken for the long term. Have you ever heard that orgasm is an effective way for relieving menstrual cramps and other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including headache, mood disorders, etc.? Yes, research suggests that orgasms are not only for pleasure but also to alleviate pain. An orgasm is regarded as the peak of sexual excitement. It is an intensely pleasurable release of sexual tension followed by contraction and relaxation of genital muscles. When a woman is stimulated, the blood vessels in her genital area dilate, increasing the blood flow. After that, the genital muscles undergo rhythmic contractions, which is the state of orgasm, characterized by sexual pleasure.
Having sex right before periods can help in the alleviation of menstrual cramps. If you think that sex during periods is a mess, you can try having an orgasm through masturbation, which is also helpful in giving relief from cramps. Masturbating is also safe compared to sex because of the reduced risk of sexually transmitted infections. Although the chances of getting pregnant are lower, there are still risks of conceiving.
How do Orgasms help in Alleviating Menstrual Cramps?
Cramping occurs because of contractions of the uterus, and during orgasm, the uterus contracts and relaxes, alleviating the pain. At the same time, when the climax is achieved, the blood supply of the uterus is increased that also relieves pain because temporarily cutting off blood supply due to uterine contractions is one of the reasons for cramps. Orgasm also releases certain chemicals and hormones that act as painkillers. These include oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. All these hormones work to relieve pain and other premenstrual syndrome symptoms. Apart from these benefits, orgasm is thought to increase pain tolerance, enhance mood, relieve the stress of mind and body, and induce sleep. Going to sleep is also a problem with menstrual cramps, so orgasm can help you sleep easily.
Sex or masturbation by achieving vaginal stimulation is known to have a pain-relieving effect due to the pressure effect on the vagina. It is studied that pain tolerance or threshold is increased by up to 75 percent in females who reached orgasm by penetrative sex or through masturbation. The scientific reason behind this effect is that nerves do not communicate pain when a female achieves orgasm via vaginal stimulation.
The levels of noradrenaline also rise during orgasm that increasing the blood flow to the genitals, and the pulsations felt in the vagina during orgasm is the result of noradrenaline. This noradrenaline-mediated orgasm achievement inhibits the transmission of pain signals from pelvic organs to the brain and can last for up to an hour. Furthermore, the release of chemicals and hormones makes the body feel more pleasure and lets the brain focus on self-pleasure rather than focusing on pain.
Other Benefits of Orgasms During Periods
Following are some of the benefits of having an orgasm during or just before periods through sex or masturbation.
1. Relief from Menstrual Cramps
The chemical released through orgasm alleviates pain. Endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin released are natural chemicals to relieve pain as compared to medications. Oxytocin also lowers cortisol levels (stress hormone) that give the feeling of relief from stress and pain.
2. Shorten the Length of Periods
Orgasms are thought to shorten the length of periods as the uterus contracts more, allowing it to shed the blood and menstruation contents faster, ultimately shortening the duration of periods.
3. Longer and Stronger Orgasm
Testosterone levels are increased in females during periods; that is the reason for having longer and more pleasurable orgasms during periods. Hormonal fluctuations also make genitals more sensitive to feeling sexual pleasure.
4. No need for Lube
The females with a dry vagina or having difficulty in producing enough lubrication naturally then you might think about having sex during periods. Blood acts as a lubricant. Moreover, some females have increased sex drive during periods finding the sex more pleasurable with no need for lubrication. However, protection must be used because there are still chances of conceiving or contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
5. Relief from Migraine
Some women might experience migraine during the period, and women who had sex during periods say that it partially or completely alleviate their migraine.
6. Boosting Immunity
Orgasms are directly related to the ability to fight off infections. It means the more orgasms you have, the better immunity you have. In 2004 it was found that people who had sex three or more times per week have 30 percent higher levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA) as compared to those who had sex two times or less than two times. Dr. Jennifer Landam, a hormone therapy specialist, said that masturbation might be what one needs to strengthen the body’s natural defense system.
7. Increased Life Expectancy
Research has found that females who had regular sex have longer telomeres that increase their life expectancy.
8. Improved Sleep
Some women may feel tired or have difficulty sleeping during periods. For such women having an orgasm through masturbation improves their sleep quality. A study carried out in 2019 concluded that participants showed favorable outcomes in sleep after self-stimulation. Oxytocin and prolactin are the hormones released through an orgasm that helps in having improved sleep.
9. Mood Enhancer
The chemicals released as a result of orgasms, such as dopamine and serotonin, works to enhance mood. Those females whose serotonin levels drop during periods will feel a noticeable improvement in their mood after orgasm. Those females with severe mood disorders are often treated with SSRIs to combat their depressive thoughts and anxiety. These will normalize the levels of serotonin in the body.
10. Heightened Self-Esteem
The hormones and chemicals released through orgasm relax the brain and make you happy, which will give you more confidence.
Menstrual cramps are not uncommon, and all females experience it at some point in their life. Although there can be an underlying causative factor if one experiences later in life but most of the time, it is due to prostaglandins released by the uterus that acts by increasing the intensity of contractions due to cramping pain is experienced in the lower abdomen. The levels of serotonin are also thought to be decreased due to a decrease in estrogen levels before the onset of periods. It is the cause of many other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Achieving orgasm through sex or masturbation during periods is considered one of the safest and effective ways to alleviate menstrual cramps and other premenstrual syndrome symptoms. The relief is caused by the release of chemicals, including dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and noradrenaline. These all work together to relieve pain and enhance the feeling of well-being.