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Drinking on Your Period: Why It’s Best to Avoid Alcohol During Periods

Why it’s Best to Avoid Alcohol During Periods

Drinking on your period should always be avoided. Alcohol has uniquely harmful effects on your cycle. Learn more in our blog!

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer


Addiction Recovery

March 1, 2023

Consumption of alcohol affects men and women differently. According to several studies, women face worse health impacts from alcohol than men, especially for women and binge drinking. And even then, there is not enough information on the internet that investigates rates of alcohol abuse in women. The menstrual cycle is one dispositional element that is thought to influence women's alcohol use. 

By the Numbers:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] reports that around 13% of adult women report binge drinking. 

A new study from RTI international revealed that women with children under the age of five were more prone to excessive drinking, and these rates rose by 323% during the pandemic.  

Having accurate information is essential when it comes to things that can affect our health. There are ways to consume alcohol that can be considered safer than others. Having said that, no amount of drinking is totally safe. It is essential to know what the optimal amount is for you. For some people, drinking even a little bit is harmful: 

People who should not be drinking:

  • Individuals under the age of 21

  • Women who are pregnant or are trying

  • People who operate heavy machinery 

  • Anyone taking prescription medication

Why Does My Period Stop When I Drink Alcohol?

Alcohol causes irregular menstrual cycles (or stops them completely) because it causes the body to increase the production of hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and the luteinizing hormone.

The luteinizing hormone is made in the pituitary gland. In females, this hormone makes the ovaries release eggs and gets the uterus ready for a fertilized egg to be implanted. This hormonal imbalance can stop periods from happening in some women.

Additionally, alcohol can also increase estrogen during the ovulation phase and androgen during the follicular phase. This can worsen menstrual symptoms. Research seems to show binge drinking

Drinking on Your Period: The Effects

Drinking alcohol affects the menstrual cycle.

More specifically, the amount of alcohol that is being consumed decides the kind of effect alcohol will have on the cycle. Several research studies have proved that menstruation is complex and intricate. Women who drink alcohol, even in a controlled quantity, are found to have problems with their cycle. These menstrual troubles can be directly linked to infertility problems. They can also affect the levels of estrogen and testosterone in the body.

Irregular cycles, absence of menses, no ovulation period, sterility, and early onset of menopause are all potential issues in women who abuse alcohol regularly. 

Furthermore, some period symptoms such as headache, breast tenderness, and premenstrual syndrome or PMS can be adversely affected by abusing alcohol for a long time. In a study investigating the effects of alcohol abuse on PMS, scholars found that moderate consumption of alcohol led to the associated risk.

They also concluded that a pattern of heavy drinking leads to a greater risk of negatively affecting premenstrual syndrome.

Overall, the study proposes that there may be a limit below which alcohol consumption might not affect the period symptoms. A separate study observed the effects of alcohol, weight, and smoking on period cramps. The researchers found that women already experiencing cramps might increase their pain by consuming alcohol.

Mentioned below are some health effects of drinking alcohol on your period: 

Drinking on Your Period: Hormonal Imbalance

Consuming alcohol can ultimately stop or lead to irregular menses because it increases the levels of hormones like testosterone and estrogen and even luteinizing hormone in the female body. This results in a hormonal disturbance which can affect when your cycle starts and ends. It can also affect the period and the flow during the cycle.

Binge drinking can also lead to an increase in levels of androgen during the follicular phase and estrogen in the ovulation phase.

Drinking on Your Period: Painful Cramps

Drinking alcoholic beverages can cause bloating and increased water retention. But not just that, it can also worsen period cramps. This happens because alcohol disturbs the working of prostaglandins.

Prostaglandins are responsible for triggering contractions in the uterine muscle during a period. Therefore, higher levels of prostaglandins can result in more painful period cramps. And alcohol makes your period cramps worse by raising prostaglandin levels. But what are prostaglandins? Prostaglandins are a class of lipids produced at the sites of infection or tissue injury to aid in the recovery of wounds and illnesses. They regulate blood flow, blood clot formation, inflammation, and even labor induction.

Drinking on Your Period: Dehydration

Alcohol is known for causing dehydration. It can dehydrate people when it is the only beverage a person has had and when consumed in large quantities. This is why drinking a lot of alcohol during your period is a bad idea. Alcohol can worsen menstrual cramps by thickening up blood and other menstrual fluids, making it more challenging for them to go through the uterus and the cervix and eventually out of the body. 

Drinking on Your Period: Sugar Cravings

Intake of alcohol affects the magnesium levels of the body. The instabilities of magnesium during the period can cause a feeling of dizziness and can make women feel light-headed. Decreased and disturbed levels of magnesium ultimately lead to increased sugar cravings. 

Drinking on Your Period: Heavy Bleeding

Alcohol is a blood thinner and is also responsible for increased estrogen levels. And estrogen causes the growth of endometrial tissue, which makes up the lining of the uterus that is shed during a period. This means that women consuming alcohol during their period will shed more and bleed more than usual.  

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Drinking on Your Period: Understanding Menstrual Cycles

The reproductive system is a highly intricate network. But both sexes need to grasp how it functions. Here, we'll talk about the menstrual cycle and how drinking might disrupt it and cause health issues. The follicular, or proliferative, and the luteal, or secretory, phase, are the two stages that make up the menstrual cycle. Fetal bleeding begins on day one and stops when an egg is released. Ovarian estrogen and progesterone levels are stable during this time, with a spike in estrogen right before ovulation.

When ovulation occurs, the body enters the luteal phase, characterized by elevated levels of progesterone and estrogen. During this menstrual cycle period, progesterone does not compete with estrogen. The luteal phase lasts around 14  to 16 days since the corpus luteum declines after ovulation.

During both these phases, the uterus is busy creating a perfect environment for developing a fertile egg. But, if the process of fertilization does not take place, women experience menstruation and bleed.

Day one of the cycle starts with the onset of menstruation and ends with the first day of your next period, usually about 28 days. Estrogen and progesterone are the main regulating hormones involved in the whole process. They are even responsible for causing unwanted period symptoms. This is why estrogen levels drop during periods; women feel sad, irritated, and sensitive. 

How the Menstrual Cycle Influences Alcohol Consumption

Since it has several adverse health impacts, the relation of the menstrual cycle with alcohol consumption is a growing area of research. In 2015, 13 studies that examined the effects of the menstrual cycle on alcohol consumption were evaluated. This investigation led to the revealing of excessively variable outcomes.

While some studies showed that women drink more alcohol during the premenstrual and menstrual stages, others found the opposite- diminished premenstrual alcohol consumption. Others reported no change at all.

In 2020, another similar study was conducted by the Liverpool Center for Alcohol Research at the University of Liverpool. The study found that participants with natural cycles confirmed experiencing more alcohol cravings during the follicular phase.

But on the other hand, women who were on birth control did not show any difference in alcohol consumption throughout the cycle. The second group participants even exhibited higher drinking levels than the first group.

This study suggests that alcohol consumption in women is affected by female reproductive hormones.

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Alcohol During Periods Should Be Avoided

The information we have gone through by now suggests that alcohol may not be the best choice of beverage, especially for people who are on their period. Being a diuretic, pure alcohol, or even an alcoholic drink increases the rate at which bodily fluids are released. This means that you can easily dehydrate your body if you do not ensure to drink enough water after a night of heavy drinking. Dehydration can worsen periods by leading to more painful cramps, a feeling of being dizzy, and completely exacerbating the whole experience. Hormonal imbalance during periods already causes these symptoms, and drinking alcohol makes them even worse.

This is why alcoholic beverages must be, if possible, completely avoided or reduced to a very small amount during a menstrual cycle.  

Women and Problem Drinking 

Besides causing problems during the menstrual cycle, alcohol brings in additional, equally harmful problems for women. It is true that women do not drink as much as men. However, when it comes to problems caused by alcohol, women are equal to or surpass men. For instance, a new study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), revealed rates of death involving alcohol increased more for women (85%) than men (35%). These deaths could have resulted from suicides, alcohol-related accidents, heart disease and stroke, and liver cirrhosis. 

A woman's genetic makeup determines how quickly she experiences the buzz from alcohol, how enjoyable drinking is for her, how drinking alcohol will harm her health in the long run, and even the likelihood of developing alcohol use disorders. Therefore, each woman must consider a variety of criteria when determining when, how much, and how often to drink, including her age, her family's history of alcoholism, her risk of developing diseases like breast cancer and heart disease, as well as any prescription drugs she might be taking.

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What Does Alcoholism Look Like for Women? 

Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that can harm the drinker or others. It looks the same for men or women. The following scenarios, if repeatedly occur in a year, indicate that a person might be abusing alcohol:  

  • Missing home and child care responsibilities to drink

  • Continuous absence from work 

  • Consuming alcohol in a dangerous situation, like before driving or operating heavy machines

  • Hurting someone while drunk

  • Getting into accidents 

Alcoholism is a disease, and it affects everyone who abuses it. However, it affects women in worse ways than it does men, even though it is not completely clear why women tend to develop more health risks related to alcoholism. 

Alcoholism is a chronic illness and can be life-threatening. Feeling high, sleepy, or relaxed are the immediate effects of consuming alcohol. And some people become so used to these effects that they develop a problem. Alcohol becomes more important than food to the drinker. Several factors are responsible for alcoholism, including genetic makeup, family, and surroundings. Recognizing that you might have a drinking problem can be difficult. Here are some characteristics that can, in some way, help you diagnose alcoholism:

  • Cravings: strong feelings of compulsion or almost need to drink

  • Dependence: Experiencing withdrawal symptoms like shaking, sweating, nausea, etc., when you stop drinking

  • Loss of Control: Being physically incapable of stopping yourself from drinking

  • Increased Tolerance: The need to consume more alcohol than before to experience a high or a buzz

Have a Drinking Issue? Call The Edge Treatment Center Today

When your menstrual cycle has been affected by a heavy drinking pattern, it is best to cut down on alcohol. However, if the problems persist, it is advisable to seek advice from an addiction professional.

As for women with a drinking problem or alcoholism, depending on the severity, they may require treatment. For example, women who struggle with alcohol but aren't yet alcohol dependent might be able to cut back or stop drinking on their own or with little assistance. But women who experience clear signs of alcoholism must admit to a professional facility that cares for alcoholics. 

It is essential to know that alcohol harms women more than it hurts men. And this is why women need to be more careful while consuming alcohol, especially when they are on their period. If you are experiencing a problem while cutting down on alcohol, it is best to ask for help from professionals on how to stop or reduce drinking.

The Edge Treatment Center provides expert help for alcohol abuse. We'll start by helping you find a drug detox center for your needs and budget. Our outpatient drug rehab will give you every tool and resource you need to leave alcohol abuse behind.

Don't gamble with the health risks or an alcohol overdose. Get help for drinking today. Reach out to The Edge Treatment Center today to learn more.

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