Text "What is Period Poop?" over a blue background

Have you ever noticed that there’s something different about your poop around your period? Well, you’re not alone.

It’s normal to notice a change in the consistency, frequency and smell of your poop when you’re menstruating, or to experience ‘period constipation’. Here’s why it all happens, and what you can do about it.

Why do periods affect your poop?

Throughout your menstrual cycle, the amount of hormones in your body vary. Before your period starts, levels of progesterone are high to prepare for a possible pregnancy. Then during menstruation, your body increases levels of the compound prostaglandins, while decreasing the amount of progesterone. Prostaglandins encourage your womb muscles to contract to help break down the uterine lining.1

So where does poop come in? Well, both progesterone and prostaglandins can affect your poop. While prostaglandins target your uterus, if your body produces more than it needs, they can enter the bloodstream and have a similar effect on other muscles, including your bowels and other digestive organs nearby – resulting in more frequent toilet trips. Low levels of progesterone can also cause you to poop more often, or for you to experience diarrhoea.

Why do I get constipation before my period?

Another feature of the hormone progesterone is that it can have a slight constipating effect on the body. As it builds up in your body, it can slow down your digestive system. This is why you may experience some constipation in the few days before your period. If you eat foods that are fatty and less fibrous thanks to your PMS food cravings, then this can also have an effect.

Certain health conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), endometriosis or even just having typically painful periods can make you more likely to be constipated, especially in the first few days of your period. As well as dealing with period constipation, it’s also normal to experience bloating and weight gain during your menstrual cycle.

Why do period poops smell so bad?

Another side of PMS is that you may pick up some interesting food habits. Progesterone can lead you to crave unusual foods, or compulsively eat. This change in your usual diet can lead to some funky smelling stool and of course, the dreaded period farts.

To counteract the stink, you could try to avoid overeating and especially steer clear of refined sugars as well as processed foods. That being said, if you want to eat all the chocolate when you’re PMS-ing then go for it.

Another explanation is that menstrual blood can have an odour too, which may contribute to the smell. To avoid this, you could try using a scented towel like Ultra Normal Deo Fresh which has a subtle fragrance to leave you feeling fresh.

What can you do to help period poop?

There’s no getting around it – everybody poops. There’s nothing shameful about having a few smelly poops that look a bit weird while you’re on your period.

If you are suffering from period-related diarrhoea, you can take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen just before your period starts to block prostaglandin production and reduce diarrhoea2. It should also help with period pain by easing cramps. To help with constipation, try to eat more nutritious foods that are high in fibre.

If you are experiencing severe pain, it’s always best to talk to a doctor as certain health conditions like endometriosis or IBS can flare up during your period.

Period poop and period constipation can be annoying, but knowing that many people go through it can help, as can continuing to learn more about your cycle…

Sources:

1https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/period-pain/

2https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/12/well/for-the-teen-who-no-longer-wants-a-period.html

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