Your period can come with a lot of uncomfortable symptoms, from cramps to fatigue. It can also make you feel light-headed.
In most cases, it’s normal to feel a little light-headed during your period, but it can be a sign of an underlying condition. The three biggest reasons for this symptom are:
- anemia from blood loss
- pain from cramps
- action of hormones called prostaglandins
We’ll explore these causes more and let you know how you can treat lightheadedness during your period.
Potential causes of feeling light-headed during your period include:
Prostaglandins are hormones that help regulate many bodily processes, including your menstrual cycle. However, it’s possible to produce excess prostaglandins during your period.
Excess prostaglandins can cause your cramps to be worse than normal, because they can contract the muscles in your uterus. Some prostaglandins can also constrict blood vessels throughout your body, which can cause headaches and make you light-headed.
Cramps are the feeling of your uterus contracting, which happens during your period in order to help shed the uterine lining. They can range from mild to severe.
Cramps are a normal part of a menstrual cycle, but severe cramps may be a sign of an underlying condition such as endometriosis.
Pain from cramps, especially severe ones, can cause you to feel light-headed during your period.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
PMDD is a severe form of PMS, where symptoms are severe enough to disrupt daily life. It often lasts until a few days after you get your period, and can cause lightheadedness.
The cause of PMDD is unknown, but may be an abnormal reaction to hormone changes. Many of those with PMDD require treatment.
Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. This can make you feel light-headed.
Iron-deficiency anemia, which is the most common type of anemia, can be caused by heavy periods. If you have iron-deficiency anemia, you may need to take iron supplements during your period.
Like other types of migraine, period-related migraine causes one-sided, throbbing attacks that can cause you to feel light-headed.
Hormones can affect your hydration levels, and their fluctuations around your period can make you more likely to become dehydrated. This can make you feel light-headed.
Your hormones can affect your blood sugar levels. While your blood sugar is typically raised before and during your period, fluctuating hormones can cause hypoglycemia for some people. This is because estrogen can make you more sensitive to insulin, which lowers your blood sugar.
People with diabetes are more prone to hypoglycemia than people who don’t have diabetes.
Toxic shock syndrome
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare but very serious disease. It has become rarer in relation to periods since certain super-absorbent tampons were removed from stores, but can still happen if you leave a tampon in for too long.
Lightheadedness may be an early sign of TSS, along with:
Lightheadedness doesn’t always happen by itself. Here are some other symptoms you might experience with it, and what condition they may indicate:
- Pain. This could be due to cramps or migraine.
- Nausea. Several conditions are associated with nausea, including:
- Fatigue. This might be due to PMDD or anemia.
- Diarrhea. Cramps, TSS, and prostaglandins can all trigger diarrhea.
- Headache. You may get headaches or headache attacks, which are associated with:
- toxic shock syndrome
Lightheadedness right before or right after your period is generally not a cause for concern. Lightheadedness before your period could be caused by premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or PMDD.
After your period, it could still be caused by anemia, as your body continues to make more red blood cells after heavy bleeding. It may also be caused by fatigue from having your period.
However, see your doctor if lightheadedness lasts for a long time or interferes with your daily life.
Treatment for lightheadedness during your period depends on the cause. Potential treatments include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce effects of prostaglandins. If cramps are your main issue, take ibuprofen or another NSAID as soon as they start.
You can also use a hot water bottle or heating pad, or gently massage the area to reduce pain. To prevent cramps, exercise regularly throughout your cycle, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and smoking when you have your period.
PMDD requires treatment, either with lifestyle changes or medication, including birth control or antidepressants. You can take antidepressants for two weeks a month, before and during your period, or all the time.
If you’re anemic, your doctor may recommend iron supplements. You can also eat more iron-rich foods, such as spinach or red meat. If your heavy periods have an underlying cause, such as fibroids, you may need other treatment.
Treatment for period-related migraine is similar to treatment for other types of migraine. When it starts, you can take NSAIDs or a prescription medication if you have one.
If you have severe or frequent migraine attacks, your doctor may recommend preventive treatment. Taking antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) between ovulation and getting your period may also help reduce migraine.
Drink water or a sports drink to rehydrate. If you feel nauseous, be sure to drink small amounts at a time. Avoid certain beverages, such as:
If you’re severely dehydrated, you may need medical attention.
Eat or drink a fast-acting carb without fat or protein, such as fruit juice or candy. As soon as you feel better, try eating a more substantial meal to help stabilize your blood sugar.
Toxic shock syndrome
TSS is a serious condition that requires medical treatment. Call your doctor immediately if you have signs of this condition.
The best home remedy for lightheadedness itself is to lie down until the feeling passes. There are also home remedies for some underlying causes. These include:
- taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as NSAIDs, for pain
- using a heating pad or hot water bottle for cramps
- diet and lifestyle changes, such as reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake and eating healthy foods
- making sure you get enough sleep
In most cases, lightheadedness during your period is normal and temporary. However, it could also be a sign of a more serious condition. See your doctor if you have:
- cramps severe enough to interfere with daily life
- a very heavy period, where you regularly need to change a pad or tampon every hour
- a period that lasts for more than seven days
- any unexplained changes to your cycle
- signs of severe dehydration, including
- Signs of severe hypoglycemia, including:
- Signs of toxic shock syndrome, including:
There are many reasons you may feel light-headed during your period. While many are normal and temporary, it could also be a sign of an underlying issue.
If your lightheadedness is severe or long-lasting, you may need to see your doctor.