Most of the women I know aren’t too shy about discussing their periods—the cramps, the amount of blood, how many days it lasts and even their preferred method of dealing with them (menstrual cups all the way!).
But one thing many women don’t discuss? Why periods bring on more of something else: poop.
Maybe it’s because talking about poop isn’t as socially acceptable, but more than 8,100 people search Dr. Google for information about “period poop” every month. I know I’ve wondered the same thing.
And it’s totally normal.
Why you poop more and what causes period poop
Basically, it comes down to one thing: hormones. More specifically, it has to do with prostaglandins, the chemical that causes the uterus to contract. This contraction leads to your uterus to shed its lining—and start bleeding it out—and is why you get cramps that time of the month.
However, sometimes those prostaglandins make their way to other areas around the uterus, like your bowels. The effect is the same and the contraction makes you poop more—as long as you’re not taking hormonal birth control. Hormonal birth control limits the amount of prostaglandin released and, as a result, limits cramps and the extra poop.
Prostaglandins aren’t the only hormones that influence your poop on your period. Progesterone is the hormone that’s released from the ovaries and helps thicken the uterine lining in preparation for a fertilized egg. Levels are high in the middle of your menstrual cycle and then drop like a rock to help start your period—and it’s why you get that water retention and bloated feeling right before it starts.
“Progesterone slows down GI tract motility, that’s when women start to get that bloated feeling,” Rebecca Brightman, an ob-gyn in New York City, told Cosmopolitan. “Many women experience constipation in the last week or ten days leading up to their period.”
So the hormone drop can help you poop regularly again, making it feel like you’re suddenly going a lot more.
Do all women poop more during their periods?
Don’t feel too left out if you don’t notice a difference in your bowel movements during that time of the month. Prostaglandins sometimes give women diarrhea and others just feel nauseous. Others don’t feel anything at all.
So, whether or not you poop more during your period is literally a crapshoot.
How to stop period poop
OK, so you don’t ever want to stop pooping during your period because, well, pooping is natural and you have to do it to get excess waste out of your body. However, taking NSAID pain relievers starting a couple of days before your period can help block some of the prostaglandins and their cramping and poop on period side effects.
“Ibuprofen really helps pretty significantly, and that’s oftentimes our go-to,” Mira Kaga, an internal medicine physician in New Jersey, told Cosmo. “It’ll help prevent the cramping, but also diarrhea.”