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What are the Common Causes of Nausea During Menstruation?

By K. Gierok
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are several different things that can cause nausea during menstruation, but the pain associated with uterine contractions and hormonal changes are typically the most common. These are generally considered relatively harmless, and while the nausea can be unpleasant it isn’t usually a cause for concern. Queasiness can be triggered by more serious conditions, however, including uterine fibroids and endometriosis. People who experience severe nausea that lasts the length of their menstrual cycle or who have violent or persistent vomiting should meet with a medical professional to get to the root of the problem.

Pain Associated With Muscular Cramps

Mild nausea that hits at the beginning of a woman’s period is often a side effect of painful cramps as her uterus expands and contracts. This type of nausea typically goes away after a day or two, and only rarely causes vomiting. It is most common in teenagers who have only recently begun menstruating and in women who have just started getting their periods again after childbirth.

Dysmenorrhea

Cramps that are extraordinarily painful can also cause stomach upset due to a condition known as dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea is a clinical condition that is marked by excessive, recurring pain that is so bad it interferes with normal activities. A woman who finds she is unable to work or study because of severe cramps may have this condition, and may feel queasy or vomit as a result.

Hormonal Changes

Nausea isn’t always connected with pain, however; in some cases, a hormonal imbalance may be to blame. During menstruation a woman’s levels of estrogen and other hormones necessarily fluctuate, which can cause anything from mood changes to bloating and, in some cases, nausea. When estrogen levels are too high or too low — or when they rise and fall dramatically over the course of a day or two — the brain centers that control balance and digestion can often either slow dramatically or go into overdrive, both of which can make a person feel sick.

Multivitamins and Anemia

Women who are prone to anemia may also experience nausea on their periods if they take an iron-containing multivitamin or nutritional supplement. Anemia happens when there are low levels of iron in the blood. Iron is an essential nutrient, but when someone who is deficient or nearly deficient takes large doses of it the stomach often has a hard time processing things. Women who are already low on blood iron are often particularly deficient while losing blood on their periods. Iron supplements are really important during this time, but the accompanying nausea can be acute. Most medical professionals recommend taking vitamins with food in order to minimize this side effect.

Uterine Fybroids

Fibroids or benign tumors are another potentially more serious cause of menstrual nausea. Uterine fibroids are sometimes also called “polyps” or “myomas,” and they can happen for a number of reasons, most of which have to do with genetics or chemical imbalances in the blood. Fibroids are harmless in the sense that they don’t contain cancerous cells, but they can be troublesome when it comes to proper reproductive health. When the uterus sheds its lining during menstruation these growths often become inflamed or irritated, which can be quite painful and can lead to nausea in some women.

Endometriosis

Perhaps the most serious cause of nausea during menstruation is endometriosis, which is a disorder that involves abnormal uterine growths. These growths, known as endometrial implants, are similar to fibroids in that they are abnormal and can hinder reproduction and regular menstruation, but different both in terms of how the growths develop and where they are located.

In most cases, fibroids are tumors that grow when cells reproduce abnormally. Endometrial implants, on the other hand, are basically cells and tissues from the uterus that begin growing and rapidly multiplying in other nearby areas, commonly the ovaries and bowel region. Uterine tissues in these regions that break down as a part of regular menstruation can cause nausea along with many other more serious symptoms.

What Can Be Done

Mild nausea that passes in a day or two is usually considered a somewhat normal symptom of menstruation, and women who experience it don’t typically have a cause for major concern. Many over the counter menstrual pain relievers, particularly those containing ibuprofen, can be helpful. Some women also find that heating pads placed on the lower abdomen can be helpful, and drinking peppermint or raspberry leaf tea might also relieve some symptoms.

Nausea that is severe, that leads to vomiting, or that doesn’t go away on its own may require medical attention. Most experts say that if the condition is interfering with a person’s daily life or disrupting their routine to the point that they can’t function the way they normally do, they need to get help. Women who are concerned about their period symptoms are usually wise to write down all of their symptoms, even those they think aren’t related, and then book an appointment with a medical provider to get to the root of the problem.

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Discussion Comments
By anon981915 — On Dec 15, 2014

I have had severe nausea before my period since I was a teenager- I'm now middle-aged, and am experiencing worse symptoms than before! I've had three surgeries for complex ovarian cysts and endometriosis, with the last surgery culminating in one ovary being removed. I have also had severe fibromyalgia and arthritis, which is unbearable before and during my period, and which I attribute to endometriosis. The doctors all say that's nonsense, and that I must be on birth control pills, but I'm unable to tolerate them due to side effects. I've been infertile my whole life, so obviously, this has been a huge problem for me as well.

Good luck to all you ladies out there! Keep up the good fight, and don't stop until you find a knowledgeable doctor who can give you a proper diagnosis and treatment.

By DylanB — On Aug 17, 2012

@OeKc05 – I think that if you had endometriosis, you would be experiencing a much wider range of problems than just colon pain and frequent defecation. The symptoms would be bad during your menstrual period, but you would also be having problems throughout the rest of the month.

My cousin has endometriosis, and she complains of pelvic pain almost all the time. Her nausea and pain during menstruation are so unbearable that she cannot function unless she is on strong pain killers.

She also has issues with fatigue and arthritis. Her doctor told her that these were all related.

By OeKc05 — On Aug 16, 2012

Endometriosis sounds scary! I wonder if I might have it. I do have severe menstruation pain and nausea every time, and a lot of the pain seems to be coming from my colon.

I always feel like I need to defecate while on my period, and sometimes, I do get diarrhea during that week. The pain is not confined to my uterus at all, and this worries me.

By wavy58 — On Aug 16, 2012

My severe cramps during my period always cause me to get nauseous. I've always had them, and sometimes, they get so bad that I have to leave work.

The thing that helps me the most is an over-the-counter medicine that treats both pain and bloating. It is a diuretic, so it does make me urinate rather often, but I would put up with that any day to get some relief.

This pill also improves my mood somehow. Perhaps it is just because the unpleasant effects of menstruation have been relieved, or maybe there is something in it that works on the mind.

By feasting — On Aug 15, 2012

Drinking peppermint tea has helped me reduce nausea during my period. Peppermint is actually good for treating nausea at any time, but I especially appreciate it during this time of the month.

It soothes my stomach. I drink it every morning while menstruating. It is good either hot or cold, and when I take it to work with me, I keep it cold in a cooler.

I tried using chamomile tea once, but I could not tolerate the taste. It isn't sweet or pleasant, and it just tastes like something I should not be putting in my mouth!

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