The research on caffeine and cramping is pretty limited, but here’s what a few different gynecologists theorize about the association.
Based on a 2012 study, board-certified OB/GYN Anna Cabeca, D.O. says “drinking caffeine-filled drinks, like tea and coffee, might increase your estrogen levels, which can make PMS symptoms worse. That being said, it is very individual, from person-to-person and from month-to-month.” To further support that point, this particular study showed an increase in estrogen levels from moderate caffeine intake for Asian women, but a decrease for white women.
“Caffeine also causes vasoconstriction, which is a fancy way of saying that caffeine narrows the blood vessels,” OB/GYN Wendie Trubow, M.D., tells mbg.
During menstruation, the uterus is shedding its lining and will contract to release the menses. When blood flow is limited to the uterus, Cabeca says it may increase tension and eventually the intensity of pain during this process.
Again, there are very few studies to back this up. “It’s all theory, no fact,” Trubow emphasizes. If you are noticing a correlation between coffee consumption and your period cramps, consider swapping for a more soothing beverage.
“Caffeine-free herbal teas (or green tea as long as it’s decaf) are high on my list of recommended drinks,” Cabeca says. “The herbs and the heat combined can be very soothing.”