The Science Behind Period Poops

period poops

There’s that old cliche that “sharing is caring”, so uh…it’s time to share some information on period poops.

If the name didn’t give it away, we’re talking about the fact that bowel movements get weird, funky, uncomfortable, extra smelly, on your period – as if we people with uteruses didn’t have enough to deal with (premenstrual exacerbation, anyone?). Now sh*t is getting weird, literally.

If you’re reading this and thinking “Oh god, I’m not the only one,” of course you aren’t! Let’s delve right into it.

How many women have period poops?

In fact, one study, looking at the gastrointestinal symptoms before and during menstruation in healthy women, found that 73% experienced a primary gastrointestinal symptom before and during their period.

58% experience abdominal pain beforehand, with 55% experience it during their period; whereas 24% of women experienced diarrhoea pre-period, and 28% experienced it during. Brings a new meaning to the term shitshow?

Why do period poops happen?

Well, you can thank your hormones for that one. Whether it’s coming out fast and hot, or not coming out at all, there are two hormones responsible for your period bowel movements (or lack thereof).

The first hormone is prostaglandins. What does this do? Well, it stimulates muscle contractions in the uterus (that then helps shed the lining…thus leading to your period). Which is great! The only thing is, it can stimulate muscle contractions in body parts surrounding your uterus…like your bowels and intestines.

And what happens then? Yep, you guessed it – more frequent poops. It can also reduce how well your body absorbs water, making your poops softer and increasing the risk of diarrhoea. Oh, and it can also make you fart more. Such a useful hormone.

The second hormone that plays around with your digestive system? Progesterone. This one rises before your period, in preparation for pregnancy (sorry to disappoint). High levels of progesterone can cause food to move more slowly through your system resulting in – you guessed it – constipation.

And uh…what about period farts?

So glad you asked! Well, the (at-times) pesky progesterone is linked to the compulsive eating you may experience pre-period. That drastic change in diet may be to blame for the extra gas and the general smell. Blame the extra blocks of chocolate – taste so good, smell so bad.

Estrogen, another hormone that rises in the days leading up to your period, also causes gas, constipation, and trapped air and gas within the intestinal tract.

What can I do about it?

If everything’s pretty normal the rest of the time (no blood in the stool, no mucus, your cramping eases with pain meds), the best thing to do is eat healthy food in the lead-up, and fibre-rich food throughout.

If things aren’t looking or feeling normal, talk to your doctor.

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