You're likely somewhat familiar with how often you have to poop. So, if you find your toilet time picks up while you're menstruating, you may be wondering if the two bodily functions are related. Turns out, pooping more on your period, or experiencing what's commonly nicknamed "period poop," is an actual thing.
What Causes Period Poop?
So what's going on inside the body to cause this increase in your bathroom visits? It has to do in part with hormone-like compounds called prostaglandins.
According to Lucky Sekhon, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn, reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, and Flo medical expert, prostaglandins cause contractions and induce the breakdown of the uterine lining, which is shed during your period.
"These prostaglandins also act on the smooth muscle of the bowel and can lead to increased bowel activity and increased frequency of bowel movements," Dr. Sekhon said.
You may even experience softer stool during this time or have slight diarrhea.
But there may be more to the process than just prostaglandins. The hormone progesterone can also contribute to period poops.
Dr. Sekhon explained that progesterone can be constipating because it "relaxes the bowels." However, your period is triggered by a dip in progesterone.
"This decrease in progesterone removes this source of constipation, which also compounds the effect of your period on increased bowel activity," she said.
Is There Anything You Can or Should Do to Ease Period Poops?
Putting a stop to period poop isn't something you should necessarily stress about.
In fact, Rabia A. De Latour, MD, gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, said there's not much you can do to prevent slightly more or looser bowel movements during your period.
However, she stressed the importance of staying hydrated and recommended avoiding things like caffeine or personal trigger foods while on your period that may cause you to have more bowel movements. So, if you know a certain snack tends to give you digestive issues, you may want to steer clear from it.
Are Period Poops Ever Cause for Concern?
There are circumstances where your bowel movements may signal a larger health issue.
Dr. Sekhon recommended reaching out to a doctor if you're experiencing painful bowel movements, pain due to severe hemorrhoids, constipation that causes extreme pain, notice blood in your stool, or have an underlying condition that becomes uncontrolled during menstruation.
Dr. De Latour mentioned that endometriosis can also affect bowel movements and cause gastrointestinal symptoms, like pain, cramping, gas, diarrhea, constipation, or possibly even rectal bleeding. If you're noticing these symptoms, Dr. De Latour advises to bring them up with your healthcare provider.