So if you’re frequently seasick from your crimson tide (or, ahem, nauseous during your period), Dr. Yen breaks down what’s going on, what to do about it, and when to be concerned.
Why you might feel nauseous during your period
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all answer to this question because everyone is different. Out-of-the-ordinary menstrual symptoms usually fall under the umbrella of dysmenorrhea, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Nausea is considered an out-of-the-ordinary period symptom. Sometimes, though, dysmenorrhea can be caused by other more serious disorders. (We’ll lay those out later.)
Most people who experience nausea on their period have prostaglandins to thank, Dr. Yen says. Essentially, prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals that initiate contractions which can, in turn, cause pain that people know as “cramps.” However, according to a study published in 2020 from the international journal Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers observed that people with increased prostaglandin levels experienced nausea during menstruation. Fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone can also cause nausea, says Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, a gynecologist and chief medical officer at Bonafide.
Bodily functions don’t happen in a vacuum, Dr. Yen says; period symptoms like period poops, for instance, are a result of your colon’s proximity to your uterus. The muscle contractions can loosen stool and trigger the gastrocolic reflex in the anus, she says. The same thing can be said for your nausea. Sometimes, prostaglandins affect other areas of the body, and when they impact the stomach— nausea is a common result.
What can you do to manage nausea
Typical nausea treatments work for menstrual-related nausea, Dr. Dweck explains. She adds that if you use ibuprofen for pain relief, you should consider lessening your dosage while your stomach is upset. This can prevent added stomach irritation because ibuprofen can sometimes irritate your tum.
Additionally, eating mellow foods and staying properly hydrated can help mitigate any additional symptoms of hunger or dehydration. It is also possible you’re nauseous from something else, but listening to your body and being gentle with it can go a long way—especially when you’re not feeling well.
Finally, Dr. Yen recommends you keep a log of your periods and symptoms. If menstruation is significantly disrupting your life, talk to a provider about potential solutions.
If you get a fever, rash, or feel dizzy
If you use tampons and ever experience the above symptoms, along with vomiting, you should seek emergency care promptly, Dr. Yen adds. Vomiting, fever, rash, and dizziness are all signs of toxic shock syndrome, according to the Cleveland Clinic. TSS is a life-threatening bacterial infection, however, cases are quite rare though, thanks to tampon regulations and education about usage.
Last but, not least, nausea is an early pregnancy symptom, as well. If your period is late or you’re experiencing other symptoms like cramps without bleeding or tender breasts, taking a pregnancy test is a good idea as well, says Dr. Dweck.
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