Period poo: The ins and the outs

As if menstruating every month wasn't enough, the pain of period poo is an actual thing.

People are pretty open about periods and menstruation these days, but one area that is still perhaps quite taboo is period poo. It’s something every female has probably experienced, some love it, some hate it. Maybe we don’t talk about it as much because we think we’re the only ones experiencing it, but actually, it’s extremely common and probably something most females experience each month.

How do we explain to someone what a period poo is like? Well, even though most menstruating people can relate, each poo is personal and unique so no experience would be the same.

So, why do we have period poo and can we do anything about it? Here, The Lowdown reveals all.

Can’t stop, won’t stop – why do I poop so much?!

If you’re someone who seems to constantly be on the phone to nature when you’re on your period then you probably have prostaglandins to thank. Just before menstruation, the body releases these – a type of hormone – which stimulate muscle contractions in the uterus, helping the body to shed the uterus lining.

Sometimes, your body produces more prostaglandins than it needs, and so the spare ones will make their way into the bloodstream and at the same time, have a similar effect on other muscles in the body like it does with the uterus. This can include our intestines and bowels and subsequently is why we form much more poo during our periods. This can be quite uncomfortable for our tummies and this is why we may have stomach cramps that differ from uterus (classic period pain) cramps during this time.

Progesternooooo

Another hormone that we’re probably more familiar with is progesterone, which increases just before our periods start to sustain a possible pregnancy. For some unlucky females, progesterone can also cause us to have constipation before or during our periods and therefore poop more than usual. This is particularly rife with females who struggle with irritable bowel issues or Crohn’s diseases, and often makes their symptoms a lot worse.

Progesterone can also cause food to move around more slowly through our intestines, causing some sort of food traffic jam and thus, making you constipated. It acts as a muscle relaxant and decreases contractions in the bowels, making everything slow down.

To add fuel to the fire, high levels of progesterone can also cause water retention (explaining the period bloat), which can also make us feel constipated and even gassy.

Right before our period (or during), our anxiety levels might also rise which can be known as pre-menstrual symptoms (PMS). Most females experience some levels of PMS during their period, some more severe than others. As if low moods weren’t enough, these emotions can also affect our bathroom schedule and may either increase bowel movements or make us constipated.

Is there anything that helps?

Unfortunately, these tricky digestive issues can’t really be prevented unless you are on some form of oral contraceptive. According to Daye, women who use oral contraceptives can avoid some of these symptoms because methods such as the combined pill release oestrogen and progesterone throughout the month, avoiding the hormonal fluctuations that trigger period poop.
Iron levels tend to drop during our period, and to tackle our fatigue, some of us may drink more coffee. Alas, this can have an effect on our poop schedule as (and I’m sure you know this) coffee can sometimes act as a laxative. Coffee might also increase your risk of getting diarrhoea and so cutting back on it during our period is advised. I guess it’s up to you really, would you rather be tired or pooping around the clock?

Make sure you are eating lots of fibre-filled foods in and around your period. These should help keep the bowels moving and could hopefully make our poos that little bit easier to handle during menstruation. One usual thing females tend to do when we’re PMS-ing is grab for the chocolate or carb-loaded comfort food to make us feel better. However, this can actually make matters worse as the usual comfort culprits that only really briefly make us feel better end up messing with the digestive system, making everything slow down.

Taking anti-inflammatory medication may also help. In an interview with Global News, obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr. Yolanda Kirkham advised there are over-the-counter tablets that can help like ibuprofen which might be worth starting before cramps arrive. “Even before you see the menstrual blood, if you start to have cramps, you can start taking those medications,” she said.

Should I change my tampon?

Not really. If you’re able to go without losing the little guy then there isn’t much of a reason to change it. However, faeces can contain harmful bacteria which can cause vaginal infections if it accidentally gets on the tampon string, so it may be best to be safe than sorry.

If you can’t change it when you are pooing, try holding the string to the front or side to avoid getting poo on it, or slightly tuck it behind the labia.
One thing for sure with period poo is that you’re not alone. Try bringing up the subject with your pals (if you don’t do so already) and they will probably all be able to relate. Of course, this is just advice (I am not a professional) and if you’re really struggling during your period then do talk to your doctor.

This guide was brought to you by The Lowdown. We are the world’s first contraception review platform, providing real-life experiences from thousands of reviews collected from our community of men and women.

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