By Salina May
Using medical cannabis to treat women’s health issues is beginning to get more attention in the medical and academic fields, and with increased legalization and reduced stigmatization in Canada and the US, using medical cannabis for gynecological issues, particularly treating gynecological pain, is gaining acceptance and popularity.
A study published in Journal of Women’s Health in October of this year that looked at survey data from 995 women found that women who use cannabis for self-medicating purposes use it for menstrual cramps, relieving chronic pelvic pain, and for pain related to gynecological cancer and other medical procedures including abortion.
Leo Han, one the study’s lead authors, explains that women who have already used cannabis are more likely to use it in a medical capacity to treat women’s health issues
“A larger proportion of women who reported ever using cannabis were willing to use cannabis to treat conditions commonly seen in gynecological practices compared to never-users (91.6% vs. 64.6%).”
However, the study also showed that while a large number women who have never used cannabis were willing to try cannabis for treating gynecological issues, a smaller number of women who had never used cannabis were willing to try it for treating procedural pain and other gynecological conditions, according to Susan G. Kornstein, MD, and health editor-in-chief for Journal of Women’s Health.
Another study published in the same journal last month looked at 361 medical cannabis users in Illinois, finding that women who use medical cannabis are more like than male medical cannabis users to discontinue using prescription medication to treat symptoms, but report less support from physicians for the use of medical cannabis. The female participants of this study were more likely to use cannabis to treat anxiety, nausea, and migraines than the male participants.
The female reproductive system has been found to be intrinsically linked to the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) with endocannabinoid receptors found throughout the reproductive tract, including the fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus. It is thought that the ECS plays many roles in women’s reproductive health, including promoting endometrial plasticity affecting women’s menstrual cycles, as well as in folliculogenesis in the ovary which is involved in the development of eggs.
Current evidence shows that medical cannabis is promising in helping women’s reproductive system issues including menstrual cramps, PMS, and a painful condition called endometriosis. It may help with insomnia in perimenopausal women, and has been shown to reduce menopause symptoms including joint pain, irritability, depression and sleep troubles. Cannabis may also play an aphrodisiac role for women through activation of cannabinoid receptors that enhances the effects of dopamine in the body.
Medical science is only at the frontier of understanding where the ECS plays a role in women’s health, and has a long way to go in learning exactly how the ECS affects the reproductive system and what role cannabis might play in disrupting or enhancing this relationship between women’s reproductive systems and the endocannabinoid systems.