5 Period Side Effects That Aren't Cramps

From migraines to joint pain, you cannot ignore some side effects of menstruation.

You may be familiar with the classic signs and symptoms of menstruation—including abdominal or pelvic cramping, lower back pain, bloating or sore breasts, food cravings, mood swings, irritability, headache, and fatigue, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Some people also experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS)—a group of those symptoms that start days before menstrual bleeding and can sometimes interfere with daily life, keeping you from participating in your normal activities. 

But what about the lesser-known side effects of your period? Menstruation may contribute to a flurry of other symptoms, from oral discomfort to stomach troubles and more. Here's what you should know about five (possibly unheard-of) side effects of your period and how to alleviate them.


According to an article published in 2018 in The Journal of Headache and Painmenstrual migraines (otherwise known as hormone headaches) occur in nearly 20% of people around the time of their periods. And the fluctuating levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone levels seem to be the trigger. 

If you're dealing with menstrual migraines, some lifestyle adjustments may help. Getting adequate sleep, regularly eating nutritious meals, exercising, and recognizing things that trigger your migraines (such as stress, alcohol, and the weather) may help alleviate the pain.

Per the National Library of Medicine, taking the birth control pill (also known as "the pill") could either improve your menstrual migraines or make them worse. 

If you are already on the pill, you could try an option that is progestin-only or a low dose of estrogen. Or, you can switch to a non-hormonal birth control method (like condoms or a diaphragm). However, you should consult your healthcare provider about what option works best for your body.

Also, consult your healthcare provider about other drug options that can help treat migraines.


Diarrhea is not an uncommon side effect of menstrual bleeding. According to an article published in 2022 in Pharmacy Today, in the days leading up to your period, your body produces increasing amounts of prostaglandins, chemicals that cause your uterine muscles to contract.

Those contractions allow endometrial tissue (the tissue that lines the inside of your uterus) to shed through the vagina during menstruation. However, they also cause cramps and diarrhea.

Per the National Library of Medicine, you can treat diarrhea by replenishing any lost fluids and electrolytes. Try water, fruit juices, uncaffeinated beverages, sports drinks, or broths to avoid dehydration caused by diarrhea. Also, eating soft, bland food may help ease your stomach. 

For cramps, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen can relieve pain by reducing prostaglandin production. Additionally, placing a warm heating pad on your lower belly may help ease your discomfort.

Yeast Infections

Changes in vaginal pH are common during your menstrual cycle. According to an article published in 2021 in Diagnostics (Basel), those types of changes can disturb the normal balance of yeast and bacteria in your vagina. 

Therefore, you may be more likely to get a yeast infection around your period. Vaginal yeast infections can happen in the week leading up to your period, during it, or right after, per another article published in 2021 in the Journal of Medical Microbiology.

Mild yeast infections may go away in a few days without treatment. However, don't wait to visit a healthcare provider if they last longer than two or three days, don't get better with over-the-counter (OTC) treatments, or reoccur frequently. 

Mouth Issues

During your menstrual cycle, your body experiences fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone. 

Unfortunately, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), high levels of estrogen and progesterone result in more blood flowing to your gums, increasing mouth sensitivity and irritating your gums. Sometimes, that leads to other issues—including swollen bright red gums or salivary glands, canker sore development, bleeding gums, and gingivitis.

Per the ADA, it's important to always practice regular brushing and flossing to maintain good oral health. Visit your dentist if any of those issues become chronic.

Joint Pain

Your period or PMS may also come with a side of joint discomfort as your body experiences a dip in estrogen at the beginning of menstrual bleeding. As detailed in an article published in 2008 in Reviews in Pain, when estrogen levels are low, people report feeling more pain.

Additionally, an increased number of prostaglandins before and during your period may play a part in triggering pain in your muscles and joints, per one article published in 2020 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

NSAIDs are effective at reducing pain that results from elevated prostaglandins.

A Quick Review

In addition to knowing the common symptoms of menstruation, understanding that your menstrual cycle may contribute to other symptoms—including migraines, gut issues, yeast infections, gum soreness, and joint pain—is the first step to treating them.

If your symptoms are so severe that they impact your ability to go to work or school or simply do your daily activities, consult your healthcare provider. 

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