smoke.jpgIf you get painful menstrual cramps, you’d probably do anything to make them go away. Well, if you’re a smoker or you spend your time around smokers, you could reduce your intense cramp pain by nixing cigarettes from your life.

That’s because numerous studies from research teams around the globe (such as thisthis, this and this) show that women who smoke cigarettes have a significantly higher likelihood of experiencing more intense and prolonged menstrual cramps. And a new study shows this is true even for “social smokers” who smoke as little as one cigarette per day.

Don’t smoke yourself but live with someone who does or spend a lot of time around a smoker? Breathing in someone else’s secondhand smoke could be contributing to your painful menstrual cramps, too, suggests this 2000 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

What’s the link between cigarettes and menstrual cramps? Researchers theorize that because nicotine narrows blood vessels, it restricts blood flow to the uterus, which results in more painful contractions during menstruation.

Need another reason to quit cigarettes or avoid those who use them? Smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke increases your risk of fertility problems and experiencing early menopause, according to a 2015 study in the journal Tobacco Control. That’s because it reduces estrogen levels–which, p.s., is likely one more reason female smokers develop more facial wrinkles than nonsmokers.

Need help quitting smoking or helping a loved one quit? You don’t have to go it alone. Visit QuitNet or talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

[Photo: Ximena Salazar]