Period Poops: Why They Happen & How to Stop Them

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Period poops are often extreme due to the release of prostaglandins (a type of fatty acid) that happens when you shed your uterine lining. These prostaglandins relax the smooth muscle tissues in your uterus, which causes both menstrual cramps and diarrhea, constipation, and/or very smelly bowel movements.

Period cramps and mood swings are usually the focus when we discuss the side effects of that time of the month. But many women know that’s not the whole story, and that fluctuations in the digestive system can make for uncomfortable bathroom trips.

Here’s why period poops are so common and what you can do about it.


Digestive symptoms before and during menstruation are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms of period poops may include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Loose stools
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Worsened poop smell

How long does period diarrhea last? Period diarrhea may last up to a week, usually from a few days before you start menstruating to mid-way through your cycle.

Common Causes of Period Poops

So, why do I poop more on my period? Hormonal fluctuations are main culprits behind period poops, but diet and stress levels factor in as well.

1. Prostaglandins

Prostaglandins are fatty acids released at injury sites as part of your body’s inflammatory response. They help to regulate inflammation, blood flow, and clotting, among other things.

At the start of your period, the cells that make up your uterine lining begin to break down. This causes your body to produce higher levels of prostaglandins. These acids help to relax the smooth muscle of your uterus, which is why most women experience painful cramping leading up to menstruation.

Unfortunately, they also relax the smooth muscle in your intestines, leading to some unpredictable bathroom situations. For many women, this means diarrhea — but low levels of prostaglandins accompanied with high progesterone levels can slow your gut motility and lead to constipation, too.

2. Estrogen

Estrogen levels are higher during the first few days of your period. This hormone tends to change how your gut absorbs salt and water, which can result in harder stool.

3. Progesterone

Progesterone is a hormone that promotes growth and thickening of the uterine walls. It’s also responsible for a few different digestive issues throughout the menstrual cycle. Levels of progesterone peak just before ovulation. 

Between periods, particularly when progesterone levels spike, you may experience constipation. 

In addition, high levels of progesterone lead to compulsive eating before periods. If you’ve ever experienced salt or sugar cravings in the days leading up to your period, extra progesterone is likely the cause.

4. Dietary Changes

Unusual food cravings are a hallmark of the luteal phase — after ovulation and before menses. The consequent dietary changes can contribute to digestive woes and even lead to gas and bowel movements that smell worse than normal.

If you can maintain a normal dietary pattern despite period-induced food cravings, you might find your period poops get a little less extreme.

5. Stress

Hormonal changes have a direct impact on your mental wellbeing, which can wreak havoc on your intestines. The same mood swings that cause premenstrual syndrome are likely to affect your bowel movements.

6. Health conditions

Certain health conditions flare up during menstruation, leading to changes in bowel movements. These include:

  • Endometriosis
  • IBS
  • Crohn’s disease
  • PCOS

Generally, women who experience more severe symptoms of menstruation are more likely to have gut issues during their periods.

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Pooping & Tampons

While you don’t have to remove a tampon when you poop, it’s generally a good time for a replacement. Because of how the pelvic floor muscles are oriented, any straining or muscle contractions may force a tampon out, either partially or completely.

Additionally, there’s a risk of infection should any fecal matter get on the string.

If you don’t want to replace a tampon with every bowel movement, it might be worth considering alternatives like pads or menstrual cups.

What can I do to stop period poops?

While there are no surefire treatment options for period poops, you can make some changes to lessen the severity of your monthly gastronomic distress. Here are a few remedies to try:

1. Adjust Your Diet

You may find it’s worth eating a little differently for a few days to offset the laxative effect of your period. If so, you’ll want to avoid the following:

  • Fried or heavily processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

2. Keep Moving

It can be tough to stay active during your period, but exercise is essential for improved digestion. If you’re not physically up to an intense workout, try a gentle activity like walking, swimming, or yoga.

3. Try Ibuprofen

Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen are often used to treat pain and inflammation, but there may be added benefits. Taking ibuprofen 24 hours before your period can inhibit the release of prostaglandins.

This doesn’t mean you won’t have a period if you take ibuprofen beforehand. Rather, if you suffer from severe menstrual cramps or other PMS symptoms, you may experience some relief during your period.

Ibuprofen is one of the most widely-used anti-inflammatory medications and can be taken safely for short periods of time. However, there are potential side effects, including heartburn and nausea. Talk to your healthcare provider before making this a habit.

When to Seek Medical Advice

Are period poops normal? Period poops are totally normal. However, if you experience bowel problems frequently at different points in your cycle, there may be another cause.

Some signs you may be suffering from another health condition include:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Mucus in stool
  • Blood in stool
  • Excessive flatulence throughout the day
  • Rectal pain

If you experience these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider to discuss treatment options.

Have more questions about your menstrual cycle? Schedule a free consultation with PrimeHealth. We take the utmost care to ensure you feel comfortable in broaching any topic in regard to your health.

If you’re interested in working toward hormonal health with a community of women, check out our Women’s Health Group Program.

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  2. Racine, S. E., Culbert, K. M., Keel, P. K., Sisk, C. L., Burt, S. A., & Klump, K. L. (2012). Differential associations between ovarian hormones and disordered eating symptoms across the menstrual cycle in women. The International journal of eating disorders, 45(3), 333–344. 
  3. Heitkemper, M. M., Shaver, J. F., & Mitchell, E. S. (1988). Gastrointestinal symptoms and bowel patterns across the menstrual cycle in dysmenorrhea. Nursing research, 37(2), 108–113.
  4. Chan, W. Y., Dawood, M. Y., & Fuchs, F. (1979). Relief of dysmenorrhea with the prostaglandin synthetase inhibitor ibuprofen: effect on prostaglandin levels in menstrual fluid. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 135(1), 102–108.
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