Feeling nauseous can be normal before or during a period. But, aside from how unpleasant this is, it can sometimes indicate a health issue.
Below, learn why nausea can accompany a period, strategies for easing and preventing it, and when to seek professional care.
Some people come to expect nausea before or during a period — it is a normal, common symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which is the body’s natural response to the menstrual cycle.
There are various tools and tricks for easing nausea associated with a period.
The most important thing is to keep sipping liquids. Water may be best, and some people find fizzy drinks particularly effective.
Doctors usually recommend clear or light-colored liquids, such as ginger ale, apple juice, broth, or tea.
People often tout ginger for its ability to combat nausea, and many studies confirm this effect.
A person may prefer ginger tea, candies, biscuits, or a preparation of fresh ginger root.
Peppermint is another natural remedy that may believe can prevent or treat nausea.
Studies involving participants who experience nausea from chemotherapy have found that peppermint can significantly ease the issue.
Getting some fresh air or even sitting in front of a fan can reduce nausea, many people find.
Dampening a cloth with cold water and applying it to the forehead may also help ease nausea.
Foods such as dry toast and crackers can be easier for a person to keep down than strong-flavored or greasy foods.
Eating small meals throughout the day can help keep blood sugar levels stable, which is key for people who are vomiting.
Taking a gentle walk may help alleviate nausea — because it involves getting fresh air, it provides a distraction, and because the physical activity may provide its own benefits.
Over-the-counter antinausea medication may help relieve mild or moderate nausea. If the issue is more severe, a doctor may prescribe a stronger alternative.
A person may experience nausea before or during a period for a range of reasons, some of which may be coincidental.
For example, if a person experiences migraine headaches around the time of their period, the nausea may stem from the headache.
When the nausea is directly linked with menstruation, one or more of the following issues may be involved:
This is the medical term for menstrual cramps. Some people experience cramps so severe that they lead to nausea.
A person can experience primary or secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea involves the body making more prostaglandins than usual. Prostaglandins are hormones that control uterine contractions.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is usually related to another condition, such as endometriosis.
Prostaglandins can also make their way into the bloodstream, causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and headaches.
One of the most common causes of nausea before a period is PMS.
People may also experience headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, and changes in mood, such as an increase in irritability.
Around 5–8% of people with PMS have symptoms so severe that doctors recognize it as a separate issue, PMDD, which often requires professional treatment.
Nausea can be one of the many symptoms of endometriosis. This involves tissue similar to the lining of the uterus growing elsewhere in the body.
This tissue changes throughout the month, like the lining of the uterus, sometimes causing inflammation when the person has their period.
According to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, about 200 million women worldwide have this disease.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is inflammation of the female reproductive organs, and it can cause nausea.
People with this condition may also experience a fever, pain in the lower abdomen, and other symptoms. If doctors do not treat it, PID can cause long-term damage and complications.
It is not always possible to prevent nausea during a period.
However, in addition to the strategies highlighted above, a person can do the following to reduce the likelihood of nausea occurring:
- Keep a food diary: By tracking meals, snacks, and any symptoms, a person can identify foods that may be triggering nausea before or during their period.
- Consider the birth control pill: A doctor may prescribe birth control pills to help regulate hormone levels. This can help prevent PMS and associated nausea.
- Ask about antidepressants: In some cases, a doctor may prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or sertraline (Zoloft), to alleviate or prevent symptoms of PMS, including nausea.
While nausea can sometimes be an expected, if highly unpleasant, feature of a period — it can also indicate a wide range of health issues, some of which may require urgent care.
Seek medical attention if the nausea:
- happens for the first time
- accompanies diarrhea
- occurs with symptoms of severe dehydration, such as dizziness and passing little or no urine
- accompanies a headache and sensitivity to light or sound
- occurs with a fever
- causes vomiting that keeps any food from staying down
- causes vomiting that contains blood or something similar to coffee grounds
- causes vomiting that leads to significant weight loss
Nausea can be a normal part of the menstrual cycle. However, it can also signal an underlying issue that needs professional treatment.
If home care techniques do not resolve or prevent nausea, or if any other concerning symptoms are present, consult a healthcare provider.