The Grapevine

Period Cramps And Smoking: Menstrual Pain Worsens With Increased Number Of Cigarettes Smoked

smoking
Compared to non-smoking women, smokers were more likely to experience severe cramps during menstruation, their pain worsening with an increasing number of cigarettes smoked. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

By now, the many ways smoking causes negative health effects is both well-understood and medically proven, yet a new Australian study was able to identify a previously unheard of symptom caused by nasty cancer sticks: menstrual pain. Compared to non-smoking women, smokers are more likely to experience severe cramps during menstruation, their pain worsening with an increasing number of cigarettes smoked.

"The immediate adverse health effects of smoking provide further support for smoking prevention program to target young women, especially teenagers," wrote the researchers in their published study.

Orgasm for Cramps

Strangely, it may be more difficult for women (as opposed to, say, men) to be sympathetic towards another woman who gets really bad cramps. In all likelihood, you, yourself, have experienced the usual style of menstrual pain and so probably, you may think someone claiming she’s in severe pain is simply a whiner. Over your lifetime, though, your body will change and even if you are a woman who never had bad cramps, you may be in for a surprise. And when this change occurs, you will inevitably think back on that girl in eighth grade class you thought was just a drama queen. While menstruation almost always causes some slight pain, severe cramps are a whole other order of business!

When a woman sees her doctor about period cramps, conventional treatments include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as prescription strength ibuprofen, and hormonal contraceptives, which for some women consistently provide pain relief. However, many women would prefer using complementary and alternative medicines to ease their symptoms. Certainly, the most natural and most effective pain relief is also the most simple: orgasm. Though not an instantaneous fix, it relaxes the muscles and lessens the cramps.

The Current Study

The researchers tracked over 9,000 young women, between the ages of 18 and 23, for over a decade. At the start of the study, slightly more than a quarter of the women were current smokers, while the same number, about 25 percent, had reported experiencing painful periods. Of those experiencing pain, the researchers identified four groups. The greatest percentage fell into the normative group (42 percent), with 11 percent in the late onset group, 33 percent recovering and 14 percent experiencing chronic pain: having painful periods up to 70 or 80 percent of the time.

What did the researchers discover? Compared with never-smokers, smokers showed significantly higher odds of being in the chronic group. In fact, former smokers had 33 percent higher odds than non-smokers, while current smokers had 41 percent higher odds.

In fact, the earlier a woman started to smoke, the higher her risk of chronic pain during menstruation. Women who started smoking before the age of 13 had a 59 percent higher risk of chronic cramps, while among those who began in their mid-teens, the risk was 50 percent higher than never-smokers.

Source: Ju H, Jones M, Mishra GD. Smoking and trajectories of dysmenorrhoea among young Australian women. Tobacco Control. 2014.

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