Retrograde menstruation: When your body decides to bleed backwards

We’re going to be bold here and assume that if you haven’t experienced it yourself (or work in gynaecology), you won’t know what retrograde menstruation means. And no, it’s not something out of a science fiction movie and it also doesn’t have anything to do with how the stars are aligned during your period.

So, what is retrograde menstruation?

It very simply means that your menstrual blood is flowing backwards rather than leaving your body via the “normal” route. Generally, it’ll flow into your fallopian tubes and because they are porous, it can get out of there and straight into your pelvic cavity. All of that sounds a lot worse than it is, promise! It actually affects up to 90% of people who menstruate to some extent, so you could say it’s pretty common!

How do you know if you have retrograde menstruation?

Well, you don’t really. Even if you’re experiencing retrograde menstruation right now, you’ll unlikely be aware of it. Why? Simply because it doesn’t really cause any symptoms other than the odd cramp. So, if it’s not really severe, you probably won’t even notice it. If it’s getting severe, however, and the symptoms of your period are starting to impact your daily life, you should consider having a chat with your doctor. There’s really no reason why you should suffer through painful and debilitating periods!

And what actually causes retrograde menstruation?

The answer is: We don’t really know. Only very little research has been done that looked at the cause of retrograde menstruation. The little research that has been done suggests that asynchronous contractions might be to blame. This means that the muscles in your uterus contract in a way that sends the menstrual blood backwards and into your fallopian tubes rather than downwards and out. But, generally, we don’t know why your menstrual blood doesn’t just follow gravity and leave your body where a cup, pad, tampon, or whatever you’re using is already waiting.

 

So, how is retrograde menstruation diagnosed if you don’t know you have it?

Well, if you don’t know that you have something, do you really need a diagnosis? Probably not. And that’s exactly why your retrograde menstruation is likely never going to be diagnosed if you don’t suffer from severe symptoms. If you experience symptoms like nausea & vomiting, intense cramping, or dizziness during your period, please speak to your doctor as this can potentially point towards a more serious condition that will need to be investigated.

Can retrograde menstruation be treated?

There’s currently no treatment for retrograde menstruation as it’s not really considered to be a problem if it’s not connected to a different condition like endometriosis. Which brings us to our next point. Research suggests that there could potentially be a link between retrograde menstruation and endometriosis. Now, don’t panic! Even though we’ve said most people who menstruate will experience retrograde menstruation to some extent, the majority of these people doesn’t have endometriosis (you can breathe again now!). There’s a theory (and we really want to stress the theory part here!) that most bodies are perfectly capable of getting rid of unwanted menstrual blood and tissue in the pelvic cavity so it doesn’t have enough time to deposit and grow where it shouldn’t. If your body isn’t able to get rid of the tissue, however, it will grow, and organs and you’ll develop endometrial tissue where you don’t really want any. It’s a bit like a weed in your garden if you think about it. The new endometrial tissue will then react to your menstrual cycle, just as the one in your uterus does. But again, this is just one of many theories around the causes of endometriosis. If you want to know more about it, check out this article here.

Summary

There really isn’t much of a summary; not even sure why we’ve bothered with the header. The most important thing for you to note here and now is that retrograde menstruation is definitely nothing to worry about and fairly common. Just try and see it as yet another completely normal part of your period.

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