Periods and fatigue go together like gift cards and Christmas — it’s not the greatest combination, but it happens a lot. Fatigue is one of the most reported symptoms before, during, and after menstruation.
Fortunately, period fatigue isn’t a complete mystery. There’s plenty of reliable science that breaks down exactly why you’re feeling so tired. There are also several clear solutions that have proven effective for millions of people.
Whether you get extreme fatigue before your period begins, during bleeding, or after your period ends, there are steps you can take to address the underlying causes.
Fatigue before your period begins
Fatigue before your period starts is very common. People often report feeling extreme fatigue right before the start of their menstrual cycle. The chief cause is a rapid fluctuation in serotonin levels.
You’re likely familiar with serotonin, often dubbed the Happy Hormone. It’s most often associated with mood stability, general wellbeing, and — you guessed it — happiness. Natural fluctuations in your serotonin levels during your period can produce a sense of ‘feeling down’.
Most of the time, extreme fatigue right before your period will disappear once your serotonin levels normalize. However, many studies show that a subgroup of women have clinical levels of severe fatigue before their period. This severity of symptoms is deemed premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
There are more than three million cases of PMDD in the U.S. alone. Millions more experience milder period fatigue, although these cases can still be very disruptive to daily life.
While medical assistance may be necessary, especially if PMDD is involved, there are three potential solutions that have proven effective. They all directly address the most likely underlying issue: rapid fluctuations in your serotonin levels.
Go for a jog — Studies show that physical activity is one of the best drug-free ways to modulate your serotonin levels. One comprehensive review concluded that exercise can lift your mood as well as antidepressant and anxiolytic drugs.
Eat some turkey — Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin. It’s an essential amino acid, meaning you have to get it from an outside source. If you’re tryptophan-deficient, your body may not have enough building blocks to produce enough serotonin. It’s thought that Thanksgiving dinner is so satisfying due to turkey’s natural tryptophan content, but it’s also found in other sources like soybeans, quinoa, salmon, and chickpeas.
Boost your gut — Eating prebiotic foods like apples, oats, mushrooms, and garlic can help create and sustain good gut bacteria. Because 90% of serotonin production occurs in the gut, it’s critical to keep that environment as healthy as possible.
Feeling tired during your period?
If you have extreme fatigue on your period, you may be dealing with another menstrual challenge: a rapid depletion of iron levels in your blood.
Around 30% of people with periods experience menorrhagia — heavy menstrual bleeding — but even light bleeders will see a reduction in iron levels. In addition to severe fatigue during your period, you may also exhibit pale skin and muscle weakness.
Low iron levels can exacerbate period fatigue because women are notoriously iron-deficient. That’s due to diet, but also because women need twice as much daily iron as men. During pregnancy, they need more than three times the intake of men.
Some countries have taken a lead on the issue. Australia, for example, advises its citizens that menstruation is “a time of increased nutritional demand.” Iron deficiency can often be resolved through a change in diet, or by ingesting a daily iron supplement.
Fatigue during your period may be a simple case of iron deficiency, but in rarer instances, you may have a more serious condition like iron deficiency anaemia, hypothyroidism, or hyperthyroidism. See your medical professional if you suspect that may be the case.
Fatigue after your period ends
Postmenstrual syndrome can be just as challenging as premenstrual syndrome. This type of PMS is rarer, however. More than 75% of women report experiencing premenstrual syndrome, but some data suggests that postmenstrual syndrome has a prevalence of just 10%.
If fatigue after your period ends is a common occurrence, there are two chief suspects:
Low iron — Iron deficiency strikes again! If you haven’t replenished your iron stores, you may still feel extra fatigue after your period ends. Even a small decrease can produces aches, pains, and general tiredness. Top off with iron-rich foods or a supplement with added iron. Take note that many daily multi-vitamins don’t include enough iron to offset menstrual losses. Some daily multivitamins don’t include iron at all.
Period fatigue — Periods can be tough enough already. There are more than 100 period-related symptoms, any number of which can cause you to lose sleep, fall behind, or just feel off your game. On your period, everything has to do with everything. Addressing your symptoms can make your entire body perform better. That’s why we carefully designed research-backed solutions like Cramp Aid and Steady Mood. We believe that you deserve to be empowered with the information and tools necessary to feel happy and healthy throughout your menstrual cycle.