It’s true what you’ve heard. Girls don’t poop. That said, on the off chance that we do poop and that poop happens to come on a day during our periods… well, here are some facts.
Science has spoken: The consistency, smell & frequency of your poops can in fact change around the time of your period.
In order to understand why that happens, we must first understand some general information about our hormones.
Females have menstrual cycles so that our bodies are able to reproduce. Throughout the (roughly) 28-day menstrual cycle, the levels of 3 main hormones fluctuate in order to perform their reproductive purpose (P.S. these are super simplified):
- Estrogen: regulates the menstrual cycle, supports the growth of the endometrium and supports breast development
- Testosterone: regulates sex drive
- Progesterone: prepares the uterus for pregnancy
There’s an additional culprit, prostaglandins, which is a group of lipids that act like hormones. These imposters, however, play a vital role in reproduction; they cause the uterus to expand and contract in order to shed the endometrial lining.
All three hormones (and, prostaglandins) are really important and work together throughout our menstrual cycle. Aside from their reproductive functions, these hormones (and, prostaglandins) also contribute to period-associated symptoms like breast tenderness, feeling bloated, mood swings, regularity (or, irregularity) of periods, weight gain, body hair, acne, fluctuations in libido and, you guessed it, changes in the consistency, smell or frequency of our poops.
So, here’s what’s up:
Simply put, your uterus produces more prostaglandins right before your period starts. Prostaglandins are just trying to do their job (stimulate the smooth muscles in your uterus to help it contract and shed its lining). But, if your body produces an excess of prostaglandins, the extras might stimulate other smooth muscles in your body… like your bowels.
They can make you poop more or give you diarrhea. Laying off the caffeine helps.
Progesterone is what causes wacky period cravings for all the junk foods. If you indulge, those changes in your eating habits can contribute to foul poops and period farts. I wish we could totally blame this one on progesterone, but it takes two to tango.
In this case, low levels of prostaglandins and high levels of progesterone can make you constipated. It helps to eat fiber, exercise & drink water.
At times, you may confuse your cramps for the need to poop because uterine and bowel contractions are both caused by the same thing: prostaglandins.
Because our job at maro parents is to support parents in talking to their kids about all things growing up, we’d be remiss to close this article without saying the following:
If you have a young menstruator in the house, prep them for the possibility of period poops and period farts. Explain that habits like eating healthy (especially during our periods) and exercising can make this part of periods a lot more manageable and, in some cases, nonexistent.
If your child has a developmental disability and the onset of their period has caused confusion around constipation or they’re having issues using the toilet, it’s especially important to spend time explaining periods and “period poops”. Guiding your child to understand what’s going on with their body, why it’s happening, how we manage it & why it’s normal can help alleviate feelings of confusion.
For more where this came from and extra support prepping for tough growing-up conversations with your kids, check out maro parents. For help finding access to free and affordable period care products, reach out to Helping Women, Period.