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What is Retrograde Menstruation?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for The Health Board. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon353002 — On Oct 27, 2013

I have some experience with this. This article is misleading. For me, what usually causes retrograde menstruation is a lack of exercise or physical activity.

If you are sedentary and then spend a bunch of time upside down, it certainly will not help your flow. But if you are regularly physically active, this greatly helps your body get all of the blood and tissue out.

By ceilingcat — On May 17, 2012

Out of all the endometriosis causes out there, this is one that I've never heard of. And I have endometriosis, so I've done a little bit of reading on the topic. Realistically though, I don't exactly care what caused my endometriosis, I just care about treating it.

Anyway, I think it's unfortunate that problems from retrograde menstruation can continue to bother women after they stop having their periods! How unfair. However, I suppose all the tissue and inflammation will still be there, even though the woman isn't menstruating anymore.

By indemnifyme — On May 17, 2012

@KaBoom - I wouldn't get worried just yet. I'm sure yoga can cause this, but I doubt it happens that often. Don't you think there would have been some kind of major news coverage if yoga caused this frequently? I do! Plus, I have a ton of friends that do yoga, and none of them have difficult periods that I know of.

Anyway, I have endometriosis, but as far as what causes endometriosis, I'm not sure if mine was because of retrograde menstruation. I know it definitely wasn't caused by yoga, because I'm not a regular yoga practitioner.

By KaBoom — On May 16, 2012

Vigorous yoga poses can cause your monthly menstrual cycle to flow the wrong way?! They should really warn women about this before they do yoga. I've done several yoga classes in the past, and I've never had an instructor warn me to avoid any poses during my period. I'm definitely going to let all my friends know about this!

That being said, it almost seems like just being upside down can cause retrograde menstruation. That is very disturbing for women who do other athletic activities, like gymnastics.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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