Using cannabis to treat gynecological pain is a popular idea, according to a national survey.
Of the 995 women who took part in the survey, it did not matter whether the woman had smoked before or not; They said they would try to get rid of convulsions, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and more.
The researchers at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland set out to compare the attitudes of women who had already used cannabis with those of women who had never used cannabis. Even so, more than half of Never users said they would use it for gynecological pain.
Women who previously used marijuana were overwhelmingly in favor of treating gynecological conditions – 91% of these women would consider cannabis use for “any gynecological condition”.
There is a lot of pain out there. According to the National Institutes of Health, between 15 and 30% of women experience pelvic pain. A 2012 study found that 84.1% of women experience menstrual cramps.
Aside from medical conditions and menstrual pain, pregnancy can be a painful condition even before birth. In a 2020 New York Times article discussing pain management in pregnancy, Dr. Christine Isaacs, OBGYN at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond states, “It is very, very common for women to experience discomfort, aches and pains, and body aches at all stages of pregnancy.”
Even so, women in both groups were least likely to consider using marijuana for pain or nausea during pregnancy.
Avoiding cannabis while pregnant is a smart move. A study published in August, based on five years of data, showed an association between pregnancy and the child’s intellectual and learning disabilities. Animal models have shown that regular exposure to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can affect placenta and fetus growth.
Marijuana may not be just for pain relief. It might help with pleasure too. A quarter of women who did not use marijuana and two-thirds of women who used marijuana were interested in using marijuana for sexual dysfunction. Quim, a company co-founded by two women, sells THC lubricant that promises to “increase blood flow, promote pelvic relaxation, and relieve inflammation and pain.” Quim has company in this area; Blissiva was started by a gynecologist to meet her patient’s pain management needs.
Although medical marijuana is available in most states, medical marijuana for pelvic or vaginal pain may not be available. In most states, pelvic pain or vulvovaginal pain are not specifically considered a qualifying condition. However, chronic pain and nausea are often viewed as qualifying conditions and women would still have to see their doctor to get a health card. Cancer and related pain are almost always covered. And many states have clauses that allow doctors to use their discretion on medical marijuana.
Specifically, Connecticut is the only state that specifically lists “Vulvodynia and Vulvar Burning” as a qualifying condition.
Marijuana legislation could change politically. A Biden Presidency can move marijuana from a List I substance to a List II substance, allowing for better medical and clinical research
This fits well with the Oregon researchers’ conclusion that “both further research and clinical guidance are needed” to prescribe cannabis for the treatment of gynecological pain.
Sabrina Emms is a science journalist. She began as an intern on a health and science podcast on Philadelphia public radio. Before that, she worked as a researcher studying the way bones are formed. When she is not in the lab and at her computer, she is in the moonlight as an assistant to a pig veterinarian and bagel baker.