Four Canadian women explain how cannabis made their periods better

For some, pot makes menstruation pain manageable

According to a 2016 study by the health app Clue, in partnership with the International Women’s Health Coalition, only 34 per cent of Canadian women feel comfortable talking about periods. This might explain why so many of us remain oddly discreet about menstruation, quickly tucking a bullet-shaped bit of rayon or cotton into our pocket and making a mad dash for the washroom in secret.

But it’s not just general period talk we’re struggling with; it’s the sharing of valuable and sometimes life-changing information we fail to discuss with our lady friends. Case in point: marijuana to ease period cramps and other symptoms.

neon uterus

While much of the data on menstrual pain and marijuana is anecdotal—there is scientific evidence that proves the plant reduces pain in general, but not specific to women’s reproductive issues—many are finding it helpful for periods. But we’re just not talking about it as loud and proud as we should be, for whatever reason (stigma, embarrassment, feeling shy—take your pick).

To start the conversation, we found four Canadian women and asked them to share how they use marijuana to curb painful periods, and what relief they’re experiencing.

Tanya, 31; Vancouver, B.C.

If the first day of your period is debilitating, you might consider cannabis like Tanya did. This farmer from B.C. has been using marijuana recreationally for 15 years on and off, but it wasn’t until more recently that she realized the benefits it had on her period. “About six years ago I started using it to alleviate menstrual pain,” she says.

And it works better than any other painkiller she’d been prescribed in the past. “I will always use marijuana for menstrual pain because it's far better than taking pills. It's my number one go to,” she says.

What menstrual symptoms does marijuana help with?
“The first day of my period is always excruciating in terms of cramps. So if I am lucky enough for my first day to land on a weekend, or a day that I don't have to do much socializing with customers etc., I will smoke a lot to help ease the pain. It also helps to lighten my mood.”

How do you use it?
“I mostly like to use marijuana when I am in a private place amongst close friends as I do experience a bit of paranoia and social anxiety sometimes.

“Smoking it immediately brings some relief. It numbs the pain and lets me get on with my day. Edibles are even better for pain relief, I find, as it's more of a body high than a mental high, although they take a while to kick in.”

Chloe, 30; Toronto, Ont.

According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), one in 10 women have endometriosis like Chloe. A digital editor by day and social justice warrior by night, Chloe started using cannabis recreationally about 13 years ago. “My endometriosis has been flaring up and stress has been high, so I've been smoking again once in awhile,” she says.

When did you start using it for menstrual pain?
“Half a decade ago I realized that my body reacted better to a little pot than Advil. With age, my endometriosis has become more painful and instead of taking multiple ibuprofen tablets multiple times a day, I just smoke so I can sleep off the pain at night. Sometimes I still have to have a pill and smoke.”

What menstrual symptoms does marijuana help with?
“Really terrible cramps. Vaginal aches. When it feels like I'm trying to hold a bowling ball between my thighs. It can be a challenge calming down the elves in my uterus who insist on scraping on the interior walls with dull spoons.

How would you describe the way that cannabis alleviates the pain?
“For my period specifically, it helps numb the pain and lets me sleep. I unwind a bit.”

How do you use it?
“I usually just smoke a bit of a joint. I got a vape as a gift a couple years ago — haven't used it in almost a year. But I used it for a bit. Sometimes I smoke out of this beautiful rose quartz pipe I got as a Christmas gift from my cousin.”

Ashley, 32; Stouffville, Ont.

Just like Chloe, Ashley suffers from endometriosis, who battles this chronic condition on the daily.    

Ashley is still going through the process of getting her medical license, but she remains hopeful. “[The process was] pretty simple. After a couple of questions asked by my family doctor, she gave me the referral. Now I’m just waiting for the Medical Marijuana Clinic of Canada to review my medical history and book me an appointment.”

What menstrual symptoms do you hope your prescription will help alleviate? “The ongoing feeling of wanting to just lie in the fetal position most of the day.”

Have to tried cannabis for period pain before?
“Yes. I found the gummies (or any edibles) work best.”

Lara, 38; Edmonton, Alta.

Lara was given sound advice by her healthcare practitioner before testing the marijuana waters for her menstruation pain. “My doctor told me that as a responsible doctor, she must warn me that marijuana can come with some side effects, both physical and mental,” she says. “But [my doctor] also pointed out that any prescription drug she could offer me would come with its own set of potential side effects, and she left it up to me to decide what route I'd like to take.”

What menstrual symptoms does marijuana help with?
“I always have debilitating cramps on the first day of my period. Despite a slew of hormone-related issues like PCOS, cramps, so I'm told, are not directly related to any of it. So my doctors and I still don't know why my cramps are so painful, and so resistant to painkillers.”

How would you describe the way that cannabis alleviates the pain?
“Marijuana completely, completely stops my cramps, which are the only symptom I need to manage during my periods. When I ingest weed to alleviate cramps, it kind of replaces the pain with a warm tingly feeling, too... it's super weird, but it feels nice and calming.”

How do you use it?
“I have tried edible cannabis for menstrual cramps, and it works. I'm extremely sensitive to it though, so I pretty much stay in bed all day in these instances. That said, prescription painkillers I've taken in the past have left me bedridden, too, but they're half as effective for me, and come with side effects of their own, like severe nausea and sweating.”

Do you use cannabis to manage your periods? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.

Featured image by @kattakesphotos, via Instagram

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