Certain aspects of having a period are talked about more frequently than others, like dealing with menstural cramps, sore boobs, and bloating. But there’s one common symptom that, for whatever reason, gets less buzz: period poop.Yup, it’s not just you—pooping habits can get weird during your period. “Many people do get bowel changes just before or during their period,” Kyle Staller, MD, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells SELF. That includes a whole potential host of things, from period constipation to period diarrhea, with some people just pooping more than usual during that time of the month.Maybe you just happened to notice that period poop is a thing for you and are simply curious about what, exactly, is going on down there. Or maybe period poop is a problem for you and you need a solution ASAP. Either way, getting to the bottom of this (no pun intended) can go a long way toward helping you understand your body and figuring out a solution if your period poops start to interfere with your life. Here’s what you need to know about this totally normal phenomenon.What are period poops?Some people refer to changes in bowel movement that happen around their menstrual cycle as period poops. As with most other period wonkiness, you can thank hormonal fluctuations for this phenomenon. “The reason that this happens is largely due to hormones,” Dr. Staller says. That includes constipation that starts before your period and subsequent diarrhea or excessive pooping that happens once aunt Flo has actually come to town.Preperiod constipation could be a result of an increase in the hormone progesterone, which starts to increase in the time between ovulation and when you get your period.1 Progesterone can cause food to move more slowly through your intestines, backing you up in the process.But levels of progesterone plummet around the same time that your period starts.1 Simultaneously, there’s an increase in hormone-like compounds in your body called prostaglandins. The cells that make up the lining of your uterus (known as endometrial cells), produce these prostaglandins, which get released as the lining of your uterus breaks down right before and during menstruation. These chemicals cause the blood vessels and muscles in the uterus to contract. If your body has high levels of prostaglandins, they can make their way into the muscle that lines your bowels.There, they can cause your intestines to contract just like your uterus and push out fecal matter quickly, Ashkan Farhadi, MD, a gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, tells SELF. (Fun fact: These prostaglandins are also responsible for those painful menstrual cramps you might get every month.) This explains why you might have diarrhea or poop so much more often during your period.Of course this can all vary for different people. But if you notice you experience constipation or diarrhea right around your period like clockwork, this may be why.Back to topCan health conditions cause period poop changes?Certain health conditions like endometriosis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis, can flare up during menstruation, leading to bowel changes. For example, if you struggle with Crohn’s disease, which can often cause diarrhea, or IBS-D (a form of IBS that causes people to have diarrhea), your body’s release of prostaglandins during your period may exacerbate your condition, worsening your diarrhea. But if you suffer from IBS-C (IBS that causes people to have constipation), you may find yourself struggling even more to have a bowel movement on your period as progesterone further slows your bowels’ activity. Since ulcerative colitis can lead to both diarrhea and constipation, you might experience an uptick in either during your period.Back to topWhat does it mean if it hurts to poop during my period?There are a few potential reasons why it might hurt to poop on your period. If it’s something you notice here and there—especially if you’re dealing with a lot of diarrhea—it could be a side effect of diarrhea itself, like cramping in your stomach or even irritation around your anus from going so often, Dr. Farhadi says.
For 32-year-old actress Jessica Williams, “debilitating” pain, especially during her period, was actually signaling a serious health problem: endometriosis. Before she taped the HBO specials for her podcast, 2 Dope Queens, Williams said she had been admitted to the E.R. for the condition. “It turns out there wasn’t really much that could be done—because it’s women’s reproductive health, and they don’t know a lot about endometriosis,” the Fantastic Beasts star said in a recent interview with Essence. According to the Office on Women’s Health, endometriosis is a painful condition in which tissue that is similar to the tissue that lines the uterus (endometrium) grows on areas outside of the uterus, like on the fallopian tubes or ovaries. This tissue can then swell or bleed outside of the uterus during the menstrual cycle, which can result in severe pain because it cannot easily leave the body. In 2018, Williams spoke at length about her endometriosis in an Instagram post. She shared that “killer 👏🏾cramps 👏🏾ain’t 👏🏾normal👏🏾” and noted that she had to visit the E.R. and various medical professionals before finally arriving at a diagnosis. “People have a hard time believing women are in pain and they ESPECIALLY have a hard time believing that women of color are experiencing pain. So it may take multiple doctors to even get an endometriosis diagnosis,” Williams wrote. Finally receiving that diagnosis motivated her to “advocate for women of color monitoring their reproductive health,” according to Essence, a public health issue that Williams has been extremely vocal about. One systematic review published in the American Journal of Public Health analyzed 15 studies on implicit racial and ethnic biases among health care professionals and how this bias can impact health care outcomes. The overwhelming majority of the studies concluded that “most health care providers” included in the research appeared to have implicit bias, in that they tend to have more “positive attitudes” toward white people in a health care setting and more “negative attitudes” toward people of color. These biases, among other factors and systemic issues, can lead to a range of adverse health outcomes for Black people—from having their health concerns dismissed in potentially life-threatening situations to disproportionately higher maternal mortality rates.Instagram contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.That’s one possible reason why Williams “felt relief” when a doctor finally acknowledged “you must be in a ton of pain” after discovering that she had advanced endometriosis lesions. “I also felt really sad for all of the pain that I had ignored and set aside for so long,” she previously wrote on Instagram. There are various treatments for endometriosis, which can include different types of medication or surgery to remove the endometriosis lesions. In late 2021, Williams told Interview magazine that she was recovering from endometriosis surgery but did not go into exact details about the operation. Now, she looks back at her initial symptoms and stresses the importance of listening to your body—and advocating for yourself if you can. “You shouldn’t be having severe period pain,” she told Essence. “That’s not normal.”Related:
Performer Halsey attended Sunday night’s 2022 Grammy Awards just days after undergoing surgery for endometriosis. Halsey, whose album “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” was nominated for best alternative music album, revealed their health update on Instagram. “As luck would have it, I’m attending tomorrow for the first time in years and I had surgery again (you guessed it) 3 days ago,” wrote the singer, who uses the pronouns she/they, captioning a photo of themselves wearing a hospital gown. “Only posting this to say, if you see me be gentle lol I’m fragile. Fragile but excited.” Instagram contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.This is not the first time Halsey has braved the Grammys post-surgery. In 2017, they attended music’s biggest night just three days after their first endometriosis surgery, with their “stitches still in,” they wrote on Instagram. “For those of you who have followed this battle of mine or who may suffer with it yourself, you know the extremes to which it can be mentally exhausting and physically painful,” they wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post, according to People. “If you suffer from chronic pain or a debilitating disease please know that I have found time to live a crazy, wild, rewarding life AND balance my treatment and I hope so much in my heart that you can too.” Understandably, during this year’s ceremony, Halsey ended up heading home before the show wrapped. “Not feeling super well so I left early,” they wrote in an Instagram story. “Had to see BTS tho. Going to get some pasta and sleep. Thanks for everything luv u all.”“Endometriosis happens when the cells that typically grow inside the uterus and respond to hormone changes each month grow outside the uterus,” Alyssa Dweck, MD, assistant clinical professor of obstetrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told SELF previously. With endometriosis, cells that should grow inside the uterus can instead grow on areas like the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or pelvic walls. The endometrial-like tissue that forms then behaves like endometrial tissue, per the Mayo Clinic. So, bleeding occurs outside of the uterus during the menstrual cycle, which can lead to complications and often intense pain. Treatment options include medication, or in more severe cases, endometriosis surgery to remove the endometrial-like tissue outside of the uterus. While the surgery may help, especially if a person is hoping to increase their chances of becoming pregnant, endometriosis and the corresponding pain may return, potentially prompting additional surgery or other types of treatment.
Amy Schumer discussed liposuction, therapy, in vitro fertilization, and more on a March 3 episode of Chelsea Handler’s podcast Dear Chelsea. While Schumer announced in January that she’d had liposuction, this was the first time she has detailed the process. “I got liposuction. I never thought that I was going to do anything like that. Like when I would hear ‘liposuction,’ I was just like, that’s so crazy to me,” Schumer told Handler. “Cut to turning 40 after having a C-section,” she said, and she decided to go for it.The comedian said she felt it was important to publicly acknowledge that she underwent the procedure as she doesn’t want to mislead anyone about why she looks different. “I just wanted to say that, because if anybody sees me in pictures or anything and they’re like, she looks thinner, it’s because I had a surgery,” she said in the interview.Liposuction involves a suction technique that extracts fat from different parts of the body, potentially including the abdomen, buttocks, arms, neck, hips, and thighs, according to the Mayo Clinic. These changes can be permanent if the weight of the person undergoing lipo remains relatively consistent afterward. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ 2020 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report, lipo was one of the top five most commonly performed cosmetic surgical procedures in the U.S. in 2020, with 211,067 patients undergoing the procedure that year. (The report also notes that board-certified physicians stopped performing cosmetic procedures for an average of 8.1 weeks in 2020 due to COVID-19, so this number would likely be higher in normal years.)Earlier this year, when Schumer first shared that she’d had liposuction, she posted pictures from vacation and acknowledged the work of her two doctors: the surgeon who performed her endometriosis surgery and the surgeon who performed her liposuction. “It’s been a journey thanks for helping me get my strength back @seckinmd (endo) @jordanternermd (lipo),” she wrote. Instagram contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.In September 2021, Schumer had surgery to combat her endometriosis pain. She informed her fans with a post-op Instagram update from the hospital saying she’d had a hysterectomy and a large amount of endometrial tissue removed. “It’s the morning after my surgery for endometriosis, and my uterus is out,” she said in the video. “The doctor found 30 spots of endometriosis.”
What happens when an ovarian cyst bursts?Ovarian cysts often don’t cause any trouble at all, but they can if they rupture or don’t stop growing. Most cysts are small and don’t cause symptoms, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health. But if they grow large enough, they can cause pain in your lower abdomen on the side of the cyst, along with bloating or a sense of pressure.Dermoid cysts and cystadenomas in particular can become pretty large, the Mayo Clinic says, which, in addition to causing the above symptoms, can cause the ovary to shift from its usual position, increasing the chances it will twist on itself in a painful issue known as an ovarian torsion6. This can lead to nausea and vomiting, along with pain.And if your ovarian cyst actually bursts, the pain can definitely make you notice as it releases fluid into your body. Although you might be unaware when this happens, sometimes it can cause pain because it irritates the lining of your abdomen, Stephanie V. Blank, M.D.7, director of women’s health at Mount Sinai Downtown Chelsea and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells SELF.What causes ovarian cysts and ruptures?As we mentioned, most ovarian cysts (as in, those functional ones) develop as a result of your menstrual cycle, the Mayo Clinic says. Other types of cysts are much less common. And since certain ovarian cysts, like cystadenomas and endometriomas, are more likely to become large, that can also make them more likely to rupture.Ovarian cysts can rupture randomly, or they can break open due to intense physical activity like sex. “We often see someone come to the ER at night with terrible pain that came on all of a sudden during intercourse from a ruptured ovarian cyst,” Dr. Dweck says.What does it feel like to have an ovarian cyst burst?When an ovarian cyst ruptures, the fluid inside of it ends up in your pelvic cavity, where it’s usually reabsorbed over time, explains Jason James, M.D.8, medical director at Miami’s FemCare Ob-Gyn. If you’re lucky, as we mentioned, you might not even feel a cyst as it bursts. For some people, though, ovarian cyst pain can be very sudden, scary, and excruciating.Per the Mayo Clinic, signs of a ruptured ovarian cyst include:Dull or sharp pain on one side of your lower abdomenA feeling of fullness or heaviness in your abdomenNeeding to urinate more oftenBloatingPain that comes with a feverPain accompanied by vomitingPain during or after sexReferred shoulder painLightheadedness or weaknessBreathing at a rapid rateChilly, clammy skinAbnormal vaginal bleedingMany of these ruptured ovarian cyst symptoms aren’t anything to really worry about, Dr. Dweck says, like pain that isn’t too severe and a sensation of heaviness or bloating. Remember: Some women will feel a little bit of discomfort on one side of their pelvis when they ovulate, which is called mittelschmerz pain, per the Mayo Clinic9. If this happens to you, you may notice it around day 14 of your cycle each month.When should you go to the E.R. if you have ovarian cyst symptoms?There are definitely times when a ruptured ovarian cyst is a sign you should see a doctor ASAP. That includes having a fever, vomiting, feeling weak, breathing too quickly, having clammy skin, and unexpected vaginal bleeding, according to the Mayo Clinic.And you can take an even broader approach. Dr. Ghodsi’s rule of thumb is: If you experience a sudden abdominal pain that isn’t relieved by over-the-counter medicine, call your doctor or go to the emergency room. It could be a ruptured ovarian cyst or something entirely different, such as appendicitis, an inflammation of the appendix that can cause intense pain on the lower right side of your abdomen10. A kidney stone, which occurs when minerals and salts crystalize to form hard deposits inside your kidneys, is also a possibility. When your body is ready to pass these stones through urination, you may feel severe pain on either side of your lower abdomen, in your back, below your ribs, or even near your groin11.
As you probably know from living life with a vagina, having your period looks nothing like how it does in most tampon commercials. For one, period clots can happen during that lovely time of the month, and the jelly-like glob doesn’t usually come out in a tidy little splash. While it’s expected to have some blood clots during your period, especially if you’re prone to heavy menstrual bleeding, there are certain times when they might be a sign that something is off in your body. Here’s how to tell the difference between what’s normal and what’s not.What causes period blood clots during your cycle?First, a mini-primer on blood clots in general. When you think about clots of blood, you might imagine the kind that come together when you have a cut. Your body springs into action, combining enough platelets (blood cells that adhere to each other) and proteins from plasma (the liquid part of your blood) to plug the injured blood vessel1. This is how clots help to stop bleeding.Blood can also clot in your veins, especially if you have risk factors like being pregnant, which causes hormone changes that increase your blood clot risk, or recently having surgery, because moving less also contributes to this health hazard. These clots can dissipate without harm, but sometimes they can be life-threatening.The blood clots that can emerge from your vagina during your period are a bit different than these other types, though. Menstrual blood clots are comprised of the endometrial lining that builds up in your uterus in preparation for pregnancy, then sloughs off during your period when you don’t conceive.“Clots are normal, but they typically happen when a [person] has a heavy flow,” G. Thomas Ruiz, M.D.2, lead ob-gyn at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells SELF.This is in part because a gushing period prompts your body to form clots so you don’t lose more blood than you should (around two to three tablespoons over the course of your entire period). Also, the opening of your cervix (the narrow passage at the lower end of your uterus) is pretty small. If you have a substantial flow, that allows the blood to build up in your uterus, Dr. Ruiz explains, giving components like platelets and plasma proteins time to congeal.Back to top.How big should period clots be?For the most part, period clots are a completely normal part of menstruation, Mary Jane Minkin, M.D.3, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School, tells SELF.But if you’re seeing clots the size of a quarter or larger, you should visit your doctor, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)4.“If someone is passing quarter-size clots, that tells me that there could be something wrong [in] the uterus that needs further investigation,” Dr. Ruiz says. You can even take a picture of what you’re seeing so that your doctor can look during your visit. “It helps show me the magnitude of what’s been going on,” Dr. Ruiz says.Back to top.When should I be concerned about blood clots during my period?Period clots the size of a quarter or larger actually indicate that you’re officially in heavy bleeding territory, also known as menorrhagia. According to the CDC, other menorrhagia symptoms include:You’re soaking through one or more tampons or pads every hour for multiple hours in a row.You need to use two pads at a time.You have to change your pad or tampon during the night.You bleed for more than seven days.Your flow is so heavy that it sometimes prevents you from living your normal life.You regularly experience pelvic pain (especially in your lower abdomen) during your period.You’re constantly fatigued.The reason why all of this matters (other than making your life borderline hell during your period): Having heavy, drawn-out bleeding can lead to anemia, a blood issue that can leave you feeling tired or weak, the CDC says. It can also be a sign of an underlying health condition that requires treatment (but more on that in a sec).Back to top.OK, are large blood clots ever normal during your period?It’s important to remember that “normal” is a relative term for everyone, Christine Greves, M.D.5, a board-certified ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, tells SELF. If your usual is to pass occasional larger clots, then that may simply be your usual, as long as you are not anemic and your quality of life is not affected, she explains.Meaning, if you’ve always had one period clot that you’re tempted to take a photo of or pester your best friend about every month, but you otherwise feel OK and aren’t soaking through tampons or pads like it’s your job, it’s probably nothing to be too stressed about. Still, Dr. Greves says, it’s not a bad idea to bring it up during your next check-up with your ob-gyn, just to get their take. And, remember, if you’re bleeding heavily, are in pain, or have any other symptoms of menorrhagia, you should get it addressed sooner rather than later.