What Are the Symptoms of Retrograde Menstruation?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Women who perform inverted and twisting yoga poses while menstruating may experience backflow.
Women who perform inverted and twisting yoga poses while menstruating may experience backflow.

There are usually no discernible symptoms of retrograde menstruation for most women. Moreover, this condition is common and occurs often. This condition is simply described as backward flow of some menstrual blood. Instead of exiting the uterus and the vagina, the blood moves up the fallopian tubes and deposits in the abdomen. This is usually harmless, but doctors do think it might be one of the potential causes for endometriosis in a small percentage of women.

Pelvic pain may be a sign of retrograde menstruation.
Pelvic pain may be a sign of retrograde menstruation.

If any symptoms of retrograde menstruation exist, they might include reduced menstrual flow and shorter periods. Alternately, absence of bleeding with normal period signs, like cramping, irritability, bloating and skin changes, might suggest the condition. In most cases, the backward and forwards flow are simultaneous, and any retrograde flow can’t be observed.

Endometriosis causes the tissue that normally grows inside the uterus to spread to other parts of the body.
Endometriosis causes the tissue that normally grows inside the uterus to spread to other parts of the body.

A few women who pay careful attention to menstrual cycle behavior see slightly less flow or may have a period that is a little shorter. This might be especially noted if women perform inverted and twisting yoga poses while menstruating, which can cause backflow. On the other hand, most women experience at least a little retrograde menstruation, and the majority of them don’t practice yoga.

Reduced menstrual flow and shorter periods are possible symptom of retrograde menstruation.
Reduced menstrual flow and shorter periods are possible symptom of retrograde menstruation.

When people ask questions about the symptoms of retrograde menstruation, they may really be inquiring into the symptoms of endometriosis. This is a condition that causes endothelial cells, which make up the lining of the uterus, to migrate to other parts of the body and spread. Since menstrual blood contains these cells, when they are deposited in the abdomen instead of in the vagina, it might cause growth of endothelial tissue outside of the uterus.

Retrograde menstruation may cause irritability and bloating.
Retrograde menstruation may cause irritability and bloating.

The symptoms of endometriosis, which aren’t always apparent at first, can include pain in the pelvis, lower back, and lower abdomen, and irregular, heavy periods. Some women suffer diarrhea or constipation. Due to scarring the cells may create as they spread, fertility can be impaired, too.

It can’t be assumed, however, that endometriosis is a complication or even one of the symptoms of retrograde menstruation. This still might be an area worthy of inquiry, especially for women with endometriosis. Some physicians have suggested that slight surgical corrections to the fallopian tubes may reduce the amount of endothelial cells deposited in the abdomen.

Significant changes in menstrual cycle behavior may indicate pelvic inflammatory disease.
Significant changes in menstrual cycle behavior may indicate pelvic inflammatory disease.

Most women should not be concerned about whether they currently experience or will develop this condition. Still, it makes good sense to tell physicians about serious pelvic pain, repeated missed periods or significant changes in menstrual cycle behavior. These may indicate other conditions, too, like pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal infections, or pelvic inflammatory disease.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

bear78

If this condition leads to or contributes to endometriosis, then treatment should be easy right? Can't something be done to prevent blood from traveling up the fallopian tubes? I can now understand why many women experience relief from endometriosis after having their ovaries removed. It's because menstruation stops.

burcinc

@Lostnfound-- I don't think you can know whether retrograde menstruation is occurring just from the symptoms. Stress, by itself, can cause shorter, irregular periods. I think the doctor needs to do a physical exam and also some diagnostic testing to determine retrograde menstruation. So it might not have happened to you after all.

serenesurface

@Grivusangel-- I hadn't heard it before either. If many women experience this at one point in their lives, why don't doctors mention it more often? Why aren't women warned against upside down yoga positions during menstruation? I'm actually upset with medical professionals that they don't mention this to their patients.

I do yoga regularly, including when I'm menstruating and I've certainly down upside down positions that could cause retrograde menstruation. If I knew, I would have avoided them. I will avoid them from now on, I'm just upset that it took me so long to learn about this.

Lostnfound

I think I've experienced some retrograde menstruation before, although I didn't know that's what it was. I had a shorter period than usual, was fine for about three days, and then had a day where I spotted all day long. That's the only time that has ever happened to me. I was under a tremendous amount of stress at the time, so I'm not sure if that could have been a factor or not.

I do know I was kind of freaked out by the issue, and went to the doctor for it. The doc said nothing was wrong, but didn't mention retrograde menstruation. I still don't know for sure if that's what it was, but I do have my suspicions.

Grivusangel

Never heard of retrograde menstruation! I've heard of many causes of endometriosis, but retrograde menstruation has never been on the list, although, as the article suggests, it could be a contributing factor.

I think endometriosis is one of those idiopathic conditions that will never get a finding for a definitive cause. I only hope that treatment for it improves one day. If a cause could be found,. then there might be a way to prevent it, but who knows?

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    • Women who perform inverted and twisting yoga poses while menstruating may experience backflow.
      By: icsnaps
      Women who perform inverted and twisting yoga poses while menstruating may experience backflow.
    • Pelvic pain may be a sign of retrograde menstruation.
      By: Piotr Marcinski
      Pelvic pain may be a sign of retrograde menstruation.
    • Endometriosis causes the tissue that normally grows inside the uterus to spread to other parts of the body.
      By: blueringmedia
      Endometriosis causes the tissue that normally grows inside the uterus to spread to other parts of the body.
    • Reduced menstrual flow and shorter periods are possible symptom of retrograde menstruation.
      By: picsfive
      Reduced menstrual flow and shorter periods are possible symptom of retrograde menstruation.
    • Retrograde menstruation may cause irritability and bloating.
      By: Creativa
      Retrograde menstruation may cause irritability and bloating.
    • Significant changes in menstrual cycle behavior may indicate pelvic inflammatory disease.
      By: joshya
      Significant changes in menstrual cycle behavior may indicate pelvic inflammatory disease.
    • Retrograde menstruation may be a cause of endometriosis.
      By: joshya
      Retrograde menstruation may be a cause of endometriosis.