It’s fairly common to experience nausea during your period. Typically, it’s caused by hormonal and chemical changes that occur during your menstrual cycle. These changes are normal and aren’t a cause for concern.
Sometimes, though, nausea might indicate a more serious condition. In this case, your nausea will likely be accompanied by other symptoms such as severe pain or fever.
Read on to learn about what causes nausea during your period, when you should see a doctor, and possible treatments.
There are several causes of nausea during menstruation. These conditions range in severity, so it’s important to pay attention to your other symptoms.
Dysmenorrhea, or painful menstrual cramps, is the most common cause of nausea during periods.
In primary dysmenorrhea, the pain is caused by increased uterine contractions. This happens when your uterine lining make larger amounts of prostaglandins, a hormone that controls uterine contractions.
In secondary dysmenorrhea, menstrual pain is related to another medical condition, like endometriosis.
Menstrual cramps usually involve the:
- lower abdomen
Sometimes, cramps can feel uncomfortable enough to make you nauseous. The high levels of prostaglandins may also enter your bloodstream and cause nausea.
Other symptoms include:
PMS involves physical and emotional symptoms that occur 1 to 2 weeks before a period. The symptoms continue when your period starts but go usually away after a few days.
Medical experts believe PMS is caused by the hormonal changes that take place during the menstrual cycle. PMS also involves dysmenorrhea, which can cause nausea due to pain and increased prostaglandins.
PMS may also cause:
- breast soreness
- back pain
Emotional symptoms may include:
- mood swings
- crying spells
- sleep issues
PMS symptoms affect more than 90 percent of menstruating women, so it’s extremely common. The severity of the symptoms, though, can vary quite a bit from one person to the next.
PMDD is a severe form of PMS. The symptoms are similar but serious enough to disrupt your daily life.
Like PMS, PMDD is related to hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle. However, in PMDD, the hormonal changes can lead to low levels of serotonin, a natural chemical in your brain. This imbalance may cause intense emotional changes.
PMDD causes the same physical symptoms as PMS, including nausea and cramps.
Emotional symptoms include:
- panic attacks
- trouble focusing
- severe fatigue
PMDD is a lot less common than PMS, and only affects about 5 percent of menstruating women.
The tissue that lines your uterus is called the endometrium. It swells, breaks down, and sheds during your menstrual period.
When similar tissue grows outside your uterus, it’s called endometriosis. It typically affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and tissue around the uterus.
Like the endometrium, this tissue thickens and bleeds during your period. Since it can’t leave your body like the tissue in your uterus, it expands and causes pain instead.
The pain can be so severe that it causes nausea. If the tissue grows near the intestines, it can cause nausea and vomiting, especially during a period.
Other symptoms include:
PID is an infection of the upper reproductive tract. It often happens when a sexually transmitted infection in the vagina spreads to the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes.
PID doesn’t always cause symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you might have:
- lower abdominal pain
- pelvic pain
- irregular periods
- pain during sex
- abnormal vaginal discharge
- painful urination
Nausea can occur if the infection is severe. Other symptoms of severe PID include:
It’s important to note that PID doesn’t only cause nausea during a period. If you have PID, you’ll likely have nausea and other symptoms in between your periods, too.
It’s normal to feel uncomfortable symptoms during your period. But these symptoms shouldn’t interfere with your daily life.
Visit your healthcare provider if you have:
- menstrual cramps that continue for more than 3 days
- severe lower abdominal or pelvic pain
- nausea or vomiting that persists
- abnormal vaginal discharge
The treatment your doctor prescribes will depend on the underlying cause of your nausea. Depending on the cause, treatment may include the following types of medications.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a common treatment for menstrual pain. They work by reducing prostaglandins, which, in turn, can relieve cramps and nausea.
NSAIDs are available over-the-counter, so you don’t need a prescription. Commonly used NSAIDs include:
- ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- naproxen (Aleve)
Selective serotonin uptake inhibitors
PMS and PMDD may be treated with selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are antidepressants that increase your brain’s serotonin levels.
SSRIs mainly treat emotional symptoms. Plus, SSRIs can cause nausea in some people. Your doctor can recommend an SSRI that causes minimal side effects.
Oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, are designed to prevent pregnancy. They work by controlling the hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle. This may help relieve some emotional and physical symptoms, including nausea during periods.
Generally, oral contraceptives are used to treat:
- heavy periods
- painful periods
- irregular bleeding
If you have PID, you’ll need antibiotics. Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic for your specific infection.
It’s important to finish your prescription, even if your nausea and pain go away. This will reduce the risk of complications.
In addition to medical treatments, some home remedies may help relieve nausea. These include:
- Ginger. A traditional remedy for nausea and cramps, ginger can regulate your body’s prostaglandins. Try ginger tea or lozenges.
- Peppermint. Peppermint extract also helps reduce prostaglandins, which can ease nausea. Many people use peppermint aromatherapy or drink peppermint tea.
- Fennel. The anti-inflammatory properties in fennel may help ease pain and nausea during menstruation. You can consume fennel as a capsule, tea, or tincture.
- Cinnamon. Cinnamon contains a compound known as eugenol that may suppress prostaglandins. This may reduce menstrual bleeding, nausea, and pain.
- Bland foods. If you feel nauseous, eat bland foods until you feel better. Follow the BRAT diet, which includes bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.
- Controlled breathing. Deep breathing exercises may help relax your muscles and ease nausea.
- Acupressure. Nei Guan, or P6, is a pressure point on your inner wrist. Placing pressure here may help reduce nausea, headaches, and stomach upset.
In general, it’s not uncommon to feel nauseous during your period. It’s usually caused by high levels of prostaglandins, which increase near the start of your period. The nausea should go away within a few days.
If you have mild nausea, or if you’re waiting to see a doctor, give home remedies a try. Natural treatments like ginger, cinnamon, and acupressure may help ease your nausea.
If your nausea gets worse, or if you feel severe pain, be sure to see your doctor. They can determine what’s causing your symptoms, and help figure out the best type of treatment.