We pop pills, clutch hot water bottles, and some of us have to just give up and lie down. A huge 80 per cent of women experience period pain, but while it’s incredibly common, it is rarely discussed openly. But a new study of nearly 500 women has found that there is something that can help address our varying degrees of pain: masturbation.
The study, which has been dubbed the “menstrubation” study (an amalgamation of the words menstruate and masturbate), sought to find out whether self-pleasure can help alleviate the painful symptoms of periods over six months. Those who took part in the study were given a Womanizer vibrator (Lily Allen’s sex toy of choice), and told they could use manual stimulation or a toy over the course of three months, during which time they kept a record of their pain. The findings showed that a huge 90 per cent of those surveyed would recommend masturbation (and orgasms) as pain relief to others.
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Meanwhile, when asked whether masturbation or medication worked better, the numbers were more or less equal, with 43 per cent choosing medication, and 42 per cent masturbation. The result is notable, especially given that medication is what women have long been advised to use by health professionals. The remaining 15 per cent of women surveyed opted for a mix of both, as well as heat, CBD oil, sleep and exercise. Such results are in part thanks to a drastic decrease in pain intensity post-masturbation, which was recorded via a standardised 10-point scale, with 10 being the most discomfort. While the average intensity of period pain experienced initially was 6.7, it had dropped to 5.4 after the test phase.
“Not only did the intensity of their pain decrease, but the frequency with which they felt menstrual cramps decreased too,” explains Dr Jones, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist, who partnered with Womanizer and Lunette on the research. “Even during the control month [month number five, in which women returned to their usual methods of pain relief], and after they’d stopped doing it, masturbating had a long-term positive impact on period pain – and that’s only after a few months. What that really shows is that it helps immediately and in the long term.”
The precise medical reasons why masturbation helps are unclear. However, given we know that exercise can help with period pain, it could be that orgasms also ease symptoms by increasing blood flow to the pelvic area. “The endorphin release [that happens when you masturbate] gives you that blissful feeling of happiness, which can also help with pain,” says Dr Naomi Sutton, a sexual health consultant for the NHS. “And I also think it’s about women being able to take control of their bodies – the psychological element of it is that they can do something themselves [to address their pain]. It’s free, and it has no negative side-effects.”
The study comes after a year that saw sexual wellness became an openly-discussed phenomenon, during which the use of (and interest in) sex toys went through the roof. Sexual pleasure brand Smile Makers saw its daily revenues double from March to April last year, and every celebrity going – from Cara Delevingne to the aforementioned Allen – fronted a vibrator campaign. Not only that, the sex-tech industry itself is set to be worth an estimated $122bn by 2024, putting women and other historically underrepresented groups front and centre.
So next time you’re wracked with period pain, forget the Ibuprofen… you know what to do.
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