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Oh yeah — period poop is totally a thing. Thought it was just you? That’s probably because most people don’t get into their monthly bouts with loose stools that fill a toilet bowl and stink up the place like nobody’s business.

But just because they’re not sharing doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

For the record: A change in the consistency, frequency, and smell of your poop during your period is very common. We’ll get into all that and other doozies, like how to keep your tampon from rocketing out of your vagina when you bear down.

Blame prostaglandins. Just before your period begins, the cells that make up the lining of your uterus begin producing more prostaglandins. These chemicals stimulate the smooth muscles in your uterus to help it contract and shed its lining each month.

If your body produces more prostaglandins than it needs, they’ll enter your bloodstream and have a similar effect on other smooth muscles in your body, like in your bowels. The result is more poop.

Did we mention the stronger cramps, headaches, and nausea? Mo’ prostaglandins, mo’ problems.

This aspect’s likely because of your premenstrual eating habits. You can blame unusual food cravings on the hormone progesterone.

Progesterone helps regulate your period. It rises before your period to help prepare your body for conception and pregnancy.

High levels of progesterone during the premenstrual phase have been linked to compulsive eating before your period. This explains why you want to stuff all the feels and irritability down with ice cream and chocolate at that time of the month.

The change in your eating habits can cause foul-smelling stool and those pesky period farts.

Resisting the urge to overeat and avoiding refined sugars and processed foods can help.

Hormones again. Low levels of prostaglandins and high levels of progesterone can both slow digestion and make your poop go MIA.

If you have period constipation, upping the fiber in your diet, exercise, and drinking lots of water can help keep things moving. If you’re really stuck, a gentle over-the-counter laxative or stool softener should do the trick.

Excess prostaglandins don’t just make you poop more. They can also give you diarrhea.

And if you’re a coffee drinker and tend to partake in more coffee to help perk you up during your period, that could make diarrhea worse. Coffee has a laxative effect.

Switching to decaffeinated coffee may not be of much help, since it also has a laxative effect. Cutting back is your best bet if you find it makes your diarrhea worse.

If all else fails, just focus on drinking lots of water to prevent dehydration.

A few things can cause pain when you poop while on your period, including:

  • constipation, which can make stool hard and painful to pass
  • menstrual cramps, which can feel worse when you strain to poop
  • diarrhea, which is often accompanied by stomach cramps
  • certain gynecological conditions, including endometriosis and ovarian cysts
  • hemorrhoids, which can develop from constipation, diarrhea, or spending too much time on the toilet

Totally normal. Remember, uterine and bowel contractions are caused by prostaglandins, making it hard to tell the difference between the two.

Plus, cramps are often accompanied by a feeling of pressure in the pelvis, low back, and even the butt.

Pelvic muscles and how things are situated inside make some people more likely to push a tampon out during a bowel movement. Straining to pass a hard bowel movement can also dislodge your tampon.

Poop happens. You can’t change your anatomy.

However, the following options might help:

  • Eat foods to prevent constipation and help make stools easier to pass.
  • Avoid bearing down unnecessarily during bowel movements.
  • Try alternatives to tampons, such as a menstrual cup, which is more likely to stay put.

If you’re one of the chosen few who can poop without losing a tampon, there’s no reason to change your tampon unless you get poop on the string. Feces can contain harmful bacteria and can cause vaginal infections if it accidentally gets on the tampon string.

If you want to change your tampon every time you poop, it’s your prerogative. If you’d rather not, just hold the string to the front or side to avoid getting feces on it, or tuck it into those handy labia. Easy peasy!

Period poop can get messy. Without a tampon in, it can look like a crime scene when you wipe.

Flushable wipes can be your best friend during your period. Look for wipes that are free of perfumes and chemicals to avoid drying out or irritating your skin.

You can also finish off with some wet toilet paper if you don’t have wipes on hand.

If you can’t seem to find relief from your monthly poop issues or are having severe or persistent symptoms, an underlying gastrointestinal or gynecological condition could be why.

Some common conditions with symptoms that are influenced by your menstrual cycle include:

Talk to your doctor if your symptoms persist or get worse, or if you experience:

Treatments are available that can help. Periods don’t need to be any crappier — literally — than they already are.