Retrograde menstruation is the backward movement of menstrual fluids through the fallopian tubes and into the peritoneal cavity. Although the exact reasons that cause it to occur are unknown, the condition is believed to be a major cause of endometriosis. Certain signs and symptoms can suggest that the problem is occurring, and if symptoms occur, health experts recommend seeing a gynecologist or other healthcare professional.
In normal menstruation, the uterine lining sheds following ovulation without fertilization. Blood and endometrial tissue push forward out of the vagina, typically creating steady flow for 3-7 days of menstruation. When retrograde menstruation occurs, some blood and tissue flow backward up the fallopian tubes instead of forward and down through the vagina. If endometrial tissue clogs the fallopian tubes or reaches the peritoneal cavity, inflammation and illness can occur.
It is not known exactly what factors will cause the tissue to move in the wrong direction. Some suggest that vigorous yoga inversion poses, where the legs and hips are held above the torso, could cause some blood and tissue to flow up instead of down. For this reason, some health experts recommend avoiding yoga inversions or any other form of exercise inversion that could affect blood flow during menstruation.
Some medical professionals suggest that almost all women experience some retrograde menstruation. Because the fluid and tissue can drain harmlessly, many may experience no symptoms and have no idea that the process occurs. The condition is typically diagnosed during pelvic exams or other gynecological examinations, usually after symptoms of inflammation have become to appear. Common symptoms that can suggest this condition include stomach pain, soreness of the lower abdominal area, and cramping even after menstruation ceases.
Endometriosis is the main concern when symptoms appear. This chronic condition is still little understood and difficult to treat, potentially giving victims frequent cycles of serious pain. Endometriosis refers to the growth of endometrial cells outside the uterus, such as on the lining of the pelvis, the fallopian tubes, or the intestines. These cellular implants can cause severe pain by settling onto nerves or leaving scars behind when detaching. The condition is believed to contribute to female infertility and chronic, often severe, pain in the pelvic region.
Although there may be several factors that contribute to the appearance of endometriosis or other pelvic infections, many health experts see retrograde menstruation as a leading culprit. To receive prompt diagnosis, women should contact a health professional for a full pelvic exam if symptoms such as pain, blood in the urine, odd or irregular menstrual bleeding, or diarrhea occur. This problem only happens after menstruation has begun, but endometriosis can sometimes occur in pre- or post-menopausal women.