Getting your period is never fun. All the bloating, cramps, mood swings, and inevitable excess laundry that result from your battle during shark week is pretty miserable. For some women, the symptoms are even worse, more numerous, and possibly more unexpected than you'd imagine. For example, you may also experience painful migraines, terrible constipation or unfortunate diarrhea, and shooting, crippling pains in your body every time you go to the bathroom. But what causes this phenomenon? Why does it hurt to poop when you're on your period?
There are a lot of nerves in the region surrounding your anus, rectum, and small intestine, and they often become inflamed simultaneously and affected by the same hormones, according to the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. However, the reasons that this occurs are unique to the individual suffering the symptoms. Christine Herde, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., vice chair of obstetrics at CareMount Medical in New York, told Self that a possible reason you might experience pain in your rectum during your cycle is those very nerves — they're interconnected, so you might feel the sensation of your cramps in your rectum, depending on which way your uterus tilts, and how closely they're set together in your pelvic region.
However, it could be something more dire. If you suffer from extreme pain with bowel movements during your cycle, it's possible that the pain is caused by scar tissue around your rectum and lower intestine that has formed due to endometriosis, according to The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The scar tissue that builds from the disease can obstruct the narrow passageways or swell with the fluctuation of hormones during your period.
Gynecologist Ken Sinervo, MD, told the Endometriosis Foundation of America that with endometriosis, "bowel symptoms are very, very common." He went on to say that of women who are symptomatic or diagnosed with endometriosis (about 10 percent of all women), "20 percent have painful bowel movements."
That's certainly the case for me. I was diagnosed with endometriosis in my early 20s, and every month I have terrible constipation followed by bouts of terrible diarrhea. When I finally do have to go to the bathroom, it feels like someone is twisting my insides and stabbing me in the butt with a fire-hot poker. It has been so bad that I have had to bite down on a washcloth so that my children don't hear me screaming. Mine is actually so extreme that I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis secondary to endometriosis.
So, why does it hurt to poop when you're on your period if you don't have endometriosis? I contacted Erin Graham CNM, the Lead Midwife at Baby+Co. in Charlotte, North Carolina, and she tells Romper, "One of the things that happens pre-period, during PMS, is that you have a rise in progesterone levels, which can lead to constipation. When your period starts, you have a sudden drop in hormones, and your bowels can overcorrect. Pain could be constipation related." Basically, you're pushing too hard, and too long, and it's uncomfortable.
Also, Graham says that it could be due to the shedding of the lining of your uterus. When the blood vessels constrict, it's possible that you could feel it in your rectum, causing significant discomfort.
If you're concerned that the pain you're experiencing is abnormal or even just more than what you think you can deal with comfortably, call your OB-GYN. I know that some of the treatments that I've been put on have helped dramatically, and no one should feel that they need to suffer in silence. Get evaluated and get the help you need. You have to be your own best advocate.