Nausea during and before menstruation: a premenstrual symptom

Written by Marion Goilav

Relecture professionnelle

Reviewed by Charline midwife

Relecture professionnelle

Many women experience discomfort and disorders related to their periods. Some experience nausea and vomiting before and during their period. But why?

Is there a link between nausea and menstruation?

The onset of menstruation is suggestive of various symptoms, such as stomach ache during the period. How is nausea a symptom of menstruation?

Doctors don't really explain why or how menstrual flow and nausea are linked, but it's likely that the major hormonal changes taking place in our bodies are triggering the urge to vomit.

Why do periods cause nausea and vomiting?

Menstruation can cause nausea and vomiting. Hormonal changes, with a drop in progesterone and estrogen, can cause digestive problems. The main cause is pain. The close contractions of the uterus reduce the oxygen supply to the muscles, causing the area to tense up, with pain in the lower abdomen, back and thighs.
Some women may also experience nausea and digestive problems during ovulation.

An excess of prostaglandins

High prostaglandin secretion encourages and promotes the uterine contractions needed to expel the unfertilized endometrium during the menstrual cycle. If the body produces large quantities of them, uterine contractions will be greater and more frequent, causing pain and discomfort during menstruation!
Prostaglandins do not act in a localized way, but can affect the whole body, i.e. their action can also be seen in the digestive tract.

Severe period pain

There are a number of causes of menstrual pain and nausea before and during menstruation:
Catamenial migraines are headaches that appear before menstruation and last until the 2nd or 3rd day of the period. They can cause dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
Stomach aches and pains accentuated by the insertion of a copper IUD. In fact, the copper IUD encourages painful and abundant flow
Endometriosis can cause painful periods, even to the point of vomiting. Endometriosis is also known to cause digestive disorders.

Is it normal to feel nauseous before your period?

When the urge to vomit appears in the morning and/or evening and is triggered a few days before menstruation, it's probably part of PMS. After ovulation, sex hormones such as estrogen levels drop in the blood and symptoms such as a bloated belly, stomach pains, sore breasts and nausea appear. These symptoms will disappear a few days after the onset of blood loss.
If nausea appears mainly in the morning, whether in the days preceding your period or even more so if your period is late, it's worth asking yourself about a possible pregnancy. Don't forget that no contraception is 100% reliable, so if you have any doubts, don't hesitate to take a pregnancy test.
Certain illnesses such as endometriosis or ovarian diseases can also cause nausea and digestive disorders. The same applies to menopause.

Pregnancy risk

As we saw earlier, nausea can be one of the symptoms of pregnancy! Here are a few other PMS-like symptoms that could alert you:

  • Constipation, bloating and flatulence,
  • Migraines and back pain,
  • Mood swings,
  • Cramps in the lower abdomen and legs,
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • Significant fatigue.

An absence of menstrual periods or amenorrhea is also one of the major signs of pregnancy in women and should alert you! If in doubt, consult your doctor and take a pregnancy test.

How to reduce nausea during and before menstruation?

There are a number of ways to avoid this discomfort as menstruation approaches. Let's discover them together!

A healthy diet and good hydration

On the whole, it's advisable to eat foods you can tolerate during this menstrual period! Here are a few dietary tips to help reduce nausea:

  • Don't get up too quickly on an empty stomach: nibble on a small snack when you wake up and get out of bed slowly.
  • Avoid foods that are too rich, too fatty or dishes with sauce: prefer simple foods such as pasta, rice, potatoes, nuts or healthy proteins.
  • Don't eat foods with a strong taste or smell (spices, garlic...) and ventilate when cooking so that cooking smells are not too unpleasant.
  • Drink regularly! Ginger infusions are also known to soothe the stomach.

Bonus: peppermint essential oil

Peppermint essential oil is also known to soothe nausea, motion sickness and vomiting during menstruation in general. It can be taken orally on a sugar cube: ask your pharmacist for the right dosage for your situation.

Taking medication

When nausea systematically leads to vomiting and doesn't stop when the stomach is empty, you may be prescribed anti-emetic medication. Some metopimazine-based drugs are sold over the counter for short-term treatment, but when symptoms persist outside the menstrual period, it's important to seek medical advice, especially if symptoms are accompanied by fever and/or constipation. Appropriate treatment, under the advice of your doctor or gynaecologist, can help you get better.

Rest and limit stress

As a general rule, take it easy and avoid upsetting your stomach too much during your period! Stress is responsible for an increase in gastric acids in the stomach, which can cause ulcers, nausea, vomiting and bloating... High levels of anxiety, a common symptom of premenstrual syndrome, can also lead to nausea. So avoid stressful situations as soon as possible to avoid reinforcing this condition. Give priority to meditative activities, such as relaxation, and make sure you respect your sleep quota.

FAQ about nausea during menstruation

Why do I feel nauseous during my period?

Nausea is a frequent symptom of premenstrual syndrome, and can even persist during menstruation. Uterine contractions and hormonal variations upset the natural balance of your stomach, which can then play tricks on you. These are the main causes of nausea.

How to get rid of nausea during menstruation?

There are a number of ways to relieve cramps and nausea, such as eating a healthy diet that doesn't make you sick, or taking antiemetic medication for the most persistent cases. Generally speaking, get plenty of rest, avoid stress and situations that can make you anxious. Take care of your health! If nausea is too disabling on a daily basis, consult your doctor, who will help you find the potential causes of this disorder!

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