Tell Me Why… I Poop More During My Period

Tell Me Why… I Poop More During My Period

That time of the month can wreak havoc on your bowel movements.

As if the cramps, bloating, mood swings, exhaustion and increased appetite during premenstrual syndrome (PMS) weren’t bad enough, your tummy may get out of whack once you actually start your period, too.

Family practitioner J’Cinda Bitters, MD, of West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell, Idaho, explains how your period affects your pooping habits, what’s normal and how to regulate your bathroom breaks.

How your period affects your pooping habits
Irregular bowel movements during your period is completely normal, says Dr. Bitters. Before your period begins, the endometrial cells that make up the lining of the uterus produce hormone-like compounds called prostaglandins. For the first few days of your actual period, the body releases those prostaglandins.

“Certain prostaglandins constrict muscle that lines our gut in addition to the uterus. These prostaglandins stimulate the gut, moving your bowel along a little quicker than it otherwise would.” You can thank these prostaglandins for the painful cramping you have on your period, too. When the uterus contracts, cramps occur.

And some prostaglandins can actually decrease gut function. If your body produces fewer prostaglandins, you may poop less. “It depends on the woman’s balance of the different prostaglandins, and how they might affect their gut specifically,” says Bitters.

Here’s how to tell if your bathroom breaks are normal   
Not all women experience bowel movement variations when they’re on their period, and if they do, they may not even notice it. When you’re menstruating, it’s not unusual to have two or three bowel movements per day. And if you have other conditions such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or hyperthyroidism, you may poop even more frequently.

On the flip side, if you have regular constipation, or an underactive thyroid, you may find yourself backed up on your period. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you may actually go more or less often that usual. And even if you don’t have any of these health conditions, your body might simply produce fewer prostaglandins, which suppresses the frequency of your bowel movements.

If you have more than three bowel movements a day, have blood in your stool or experience vomiting while you’re pooping, see your healthcare provider to rule out any serious problems, Bitters says.  

How to regulate your bowels
If you have frequent bowel movements during that time of the month, there’s probably nothing to worry about. “I reassure women that it is part of a normal physiologic process,” says Bitters. But if it’s becoming uncomfortable or inconvenient, over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications can decrease gut function and reduce bowel movements.

And if you’re having constipation, that’s normal, too. Try eating more fiber and increasing your daily exercise. If you’re still having issues, over-the-counter laxatives and stool softeners can help you pass stool more easily. 

Medically reviewed in August 2018.

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