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Drinking on Your Period: What You Should Know

Drinking on Your Period: What You Should Know

Alcohol affects just about every part of your body, including your menstrual cycle. You may even ask, "Why does my period stop when I drink alcohol?"

Alcohol misuse takes its toll on multiple systems of the body. For instance, long-term misuse damages the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heartbeat, and heart disease. For women, drinking alcohol, especially in excess, can also affect the menstrual cycle. For some women, the effects are so strong that they may even ask themselves, “Why does my period stop when I drink alcohol?” If alcohol has ever impacted your menstrual cycle, find some valuable answers below, as well as helpful information about alcohol rehab and medication assisted treatment for alcohol use.

What is a Menstrual Cycle (Period)? 

When most women talk about their menstrual cycle, they refer to their period, or that “time of the month.” While the period is probably the most noticeable part of the menstrual cycle, there are other things going on physiologically throughout the course of the month, both before and after the period occurs. 

Most women have a menstrual cycle lasting 28 days, but a range of 21 to 35 days falls within what is considered normal. The menstrual cycle describes the length between periods, so the cycle is said to restart on the first day of your period each month.

The cycle occurs in the following stages:

  • Menses: This is the most familiar part of the menstrual cycle, when the uterus sheds its lining, and a woman experiences her period. It involves three to five days of bleeding, but some women may bleed for as long as seven days.
  • Follicular phase: A woman enters this phase after her period. At this time, estrogen levels increase, and the lining of the uterus thickens. At the same time, follicle-stimulating hormone leads to growth in the ovaries’ follicles, and by day 14 of the cycle, one of the follicles develops a mature egg called an ovum.
  • Ovulation: Around day 14 of the menstrual cycle (about two weeks before the next period), luteinizing hormone increases and causes your ovary to release the egg, which is referred to as ovulation. 
  • Luteal phase: Finally, the body moves into the luteal phase, during which the egg travels through your fallopian tubes to the uterus. Progesterone levels increase to prepare the lining of the uterus for pregnancy, and if a sperm fertilizes the egg, it implants in the wall of the uterus. This represents the start of pregnancy. If there is no pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone levels decline, and the thick uterus lining sheds again, signaling the start of another period and the beginning of another cycle. 

How Does the Menstrual Cycle Work?

The body’s menstrual cycle is a product of circulating hormone levels. These hormones are produced by the body’s pituitary gland and an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. As these hormone levels increase and decrease over the course of a woman’s cycle, various physiological activities occur in response. 

Since hormones are the cornerstone of the menstrual cycle, anything that influences hormone levels can affect the processes that occur during this cycle. In fact, the relationship between alcohol and the menstrual cycle occurs through alcohol’s effects on hormone levels, which are discussed more below. 

How does alcohol affect your period?

If you’ve ever lost your period and asked yourself, “Why does my period stop when I drink alcohol?” you may be wondering why alcohol affects your period in this way. As indicated above, the answer lies in alcohol’s effect on hormone levels. Research has found that drinking alcohol can increase levels of estrogen, testosterone, and luteinizing hormone. More specifically, binge drinking (consuming four or more drinks on one occasion) is associated with significant increases in estrogen. 

Hormonal imbalances caused by heavy drinking are one of the primary reasons that alcohol can affect your period. There is some evidence in the research that alcohol consumption can lead to heavier periods as well. Furthermore, other research has found that moderate to heavy drinking during ovulation or the luteal phase causes hormonal disruptions that can reduce fertility. 

In cases of heavy drinking, disruptions to your menstrual cycle may be more severe. Long-term alcohol misuse is associated with a loss of the period, which is medically referred to as amenorrhea. Heavy, ongoing alcohol misuse can lead to dysfunction in the pituitary gland, which is responsible for hormonal functioning. When hormonal functions are disrupted, a woman can lose her period and her fertility. 

Is it safe to drink on your period?

There is nothing inherently dangerous about drinking on your period. In many cases, women can safely drink in moderation while having their period. For women, moderate or low-risk drinking is defined as no more than 7 drinks in a given week, and no more than 3 drinks in a given day. Staying within these limits lowers your risk of developing a clinical alcohol addiction, called an alcohol use disorder.

While some women can safely drink while on their periods, others may find that they are more sensitive to alcohol during this time. Some women may find that the dehydrating effects of alcohol lead to worse cramping, which means it may not be the best idea to drink while on your period. Other women may struggle with fatigue if they drink on their periods, because alcohol can also disrupt sleep.

If you find that you are sensitive to the effects of alcohol during your period, you might consider switching to alternative beverages, such as water, lemonade, fruit juice, tea, or seltzer. 

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When should you drink during your menstrual cycle?

There is no magical time of the month when drinking is safest. Drinking in moderation is generally safe, but excessive alcohol consumption is dangerous, regardless of whether you’re on your period.

Some research suggests that women tend to drink more often both before and during their periods, when compared to after the period has ended. This is especially true for women who struggle with negative emotions during their period. While alcohol may provide temporary relief from negative emotions, once its effects wear off, you’re likely to find that you feel more anxious or depressed.

In fact, studies have shown that drinking during the luteal phase can increase anxiety levels. If you are someone who is prone to anxiety, self-medicating with alcohol in response to emotional changes that occur throughout your cycle can make matters worse. 

If you do not experience negative side effects from drinking, you can probably drink at any time during your cycle, so long as you stay within the safe limits. On the other hand, if you are sensitive to the effects of alcohol, you may want to refrain from drinking during your period, especially if you are prone to cramping, negative emotions, and fatigue. 

FAQs on Periods and Alcohol 

If you’re asking questions like, “Can you drink on your period?” the following information is also useful.

Does drinking on your period make you bleed more?        

There is some evidence that alcohol may increase bleeding during your period, but it is unlikely that moderate alcohol consumption that falls within safe limits has a significant effect on menstrual bleeding. If you are a heavy drinker and engage in ongoing alcohol misuse, hormonal imbalances from alcohol may lead to increased bleeding.

Does alcohol make your period worse?       

Alcohol consumption, especially when it is excessive, can lead to hormonal disruptions that can make menstrual bleeding heavier. Consuming large quantities of alcohol can also cause hangover symptoms that can make cramping and other period side effects worse. Alcohol period cramps and other side effects are more likely when you consume alcohol in excess.      

Studies also show that heavy drinking is linked to PMS symptoms, because of its association with disruptions in hormone levels and neurotransmitter activity. This means that symptoms like fatigue, bloating, and headaches may be more severe in women who consume large amounts of alcohol prior to their period. 

Why am I spotting after drinking alcohol?       

If you are experiencing spotting between periods, and you believe it is because of alcohol, it may be due to hormonal disturbances.       

Can alcohol make your period late?        

People sometimes ask, “Can alcohol delay your period?” If you are a drinker, and your period is late, it could be due to hormonal imbalances from alcohol consumption. Such hormonal imbalances are unlikely to occur with occasional or moderate drinking. Rather, they occur with alcohol misuse, such as heavy drinking or binge drinking.     

Research has found that alcohol is linked to irregular menstrual cycles, but only in people who drink often. Compared to those who drink no alcohol, women who drink four or more times per week are 58% more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles. If you drink regularly, it is possible that alcohol can disrupt your menstrual cycle and make your period come later.

Do you get drunk faster on your period? 

Some studies with animals have suggested that blood alcohol content (BAC) is higher when alcohol is consumed during a female’s period, but human research has not confirmed this. One study with women found that the effects of alcohol did not vary based upon the phases of the menstrual cycle, suggesting that the intoxicating effects of alcohol are not different or more intense during a woman’s period.           

Is it bad to drink beer while on your period?    

Consuming any form of alcohol in moderation is generally safe. For women this means up to seven drinks per week, or an average of one per day throughout the week. Having one beer with dinner or while enjoying an evening out with your friends isn’t likely to create any problems while you’re on your period. However, binge drinking beer may lead to sickness that makes period symptoms worse. Furthermore, binge drinking at any time of the month is risky and increases your chances of developing an alcohol use disorder.     

Does drinking alcohol affect fertility?

Research has shown that consuming alcohol can decrease your fertility levels. In fact, even moderate drinking can negatively affect fertility. If you’re trying to get pregnant, refraining from drinking is the healthiest choice. Not only can drinking impact fertility; there is also a chance that you may become pregnant without realizing it. If you continue to drink, you could unknowingly expose the developing baby to alcohol, and there is no level of alcohol consumption that is considered safe during pregnancy. 

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Tips for Drinking During Your Period

If you choose to consume alcohol while on your period, there are some tips and tricks you can follow to stay as safe and as comfortable as possible. Some of these tips apply to other times of the month, because it’s never safe to drink in excess or to place yourself at risk of harm from drinking.

When drinking on your period, following these tips can be helpful:

  • Drink in moderation, defined as no more than three drinks in a given day, and no more than seven over the course of the week. While the standard recommendation for women is no more than one drink per day, experts also state that you can safely have up to three drinks in one day as long as the weekly total does not exceed seven drinks.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water, especially if you are going to be drinking. Dehydration from alcohol consumption is associated with cramping, which can make period cramps even worse. 
  • Prioritize healthy sleep by keeping a consistent bedtime and wake up time. Since alcohol can disrupt sleep, it’s important to cut off drinks a few hours before bedtime. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and comfortable, to minimize sleep disruptions from alcohol. Because period symptoms can cause fatigue, it’s critical to maintain an adequate sleep schedule at this time.
  • Limit alcohol before your period if you’re prone to PMS, since it can increase symptoms for some women.

When to Seek Medical Help

If alcohol is affecting your period, and you’re wondering whether it’s time to seek medical help, it’s important to take a look at your drinking habits. If you regularly consume excessive amounts of alcohol, and you’re unable to stop or reduce your drinking, you may be living with an alcohol use disorder, which is the clinical term for an alcohol addiction. 

Continuing to drink, even when it causes or worsens a health problem, such as PMS, infertility, or loss of your menstrual cycle, is a warning sign of an alcohol use disorder. Once you have developed this type of disorder, it is difficult to stop drinking, because chronic alcohol misuse causes changes in the brain that lead to compulsive drinking

If you’re living with an alcohol use disorder, it’s important to seek treatment, especially since alcohol misuse can cause numerous health problems for women. For instance, heart damage and cognitive decline from alcohol misuse tends to be worse in women when compared to men. Women who drink are also at increased risk of breast cancer, even when they consume alcohol in small quantities, and drinking during pregnancy or during the childbearing years increases the risk of birth defects, premature birth, miscarriage, and stillbirth.

For women, the risks of alcohol misuse extend far beyond problems related to the menstrual cycle. If you find that alcohol has begun to interfere with your daily functioning, and you’re still unable to reduce your drinking, reaching out for treatment is the first step in recovering. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication, talk therapy, and support group meetings, and it can reduce your risk of future alcohol-related health problems.

Recover From Alcohol Misuse With Confidant Health

If you are seeking support to help you recover from alcohol misuse, Confidant Health is here to help. We offer virtual alcohol rehab services, so you can begin your recovery journey from the comfort and privacy of home. We also offer medication assisted treatment for alcohol use, which can lower your cravings and make it easier to stay on track.

Download our app today, available on both the App Store and the Google Play Store, to get connected with recovery resources. 

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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