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Home > Learn > Nutrition > >Can Dehydration Delay Your Period?

Can Dehydration Delay Your Period?

Sep 21, 23 8 min

Originally published 12/19/2022. Updated for accuracy and relevancy on 09/21/2023.

There are many factors that can affect your period, but can dehydration delay your period? Read on to learn more.

By OBGYN and fertility specialist Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

A late period could mean a lot of things. Pregnancy, irregular cycles, hormonal changes or imbalances, but what about dehydration? Let’s talk a little more about factors that affect your period, how water plays a role in the menstrual cycle, and ways to prevent dehydration.

Supporting Your Body During Menstruation

Those of us with a period know that it can take a lot out of you every month. The symptoms leading up to and during menstruation are often uncomfortable, which is why many of us enjoy curling up in our most comfortable clothes with a heating pad and whatever sweets or snacks we’re craving. While this is a great short term solution, there are other habits we can adopt to properly support our body throughout menstruation. Factoring in some “good-for-you” foods along with some “good-for-your-cravings” foods can make a world of difference. Drinking plenty of water and cutting back on things like caffeine and alcohol are a few that come to mind.

How Much Delay Is Normal In Periods?

What is considered normal and abnormal when it comes to the menstrual cycle depends a lot on somebody’s age, underlying conditions, fertility history, and more. In general, a normal cycle is anywhere from 21 to 35 days long. It’s normal to experience a little bit of fluctuation with the menstrual cycle, especially if you aren’t somebody that has always had a very regular cycle. If you notice your period is a day or two late, you’re still likely within the “normal” cycle range. If you’re more than a day or two late, you may want to reflect on any possible explanations such as a new medication, recent unprotected sex, other symptoms that may be indiciatve of an underlying condition, etc. If you’re ever concerned about a delayed period, take an early result pregnancy test and speak to a healthcare provider to get a better understanding of what might be going on. You can also test your hormones at home with various lab kits. 

What Can Delay Your Period?

Many of us have very regular periods, some of us have unpredictable periods, and all of us are susceptible to having fluctuations in our periods when it comes to duration, symptoms, and flow. There are many things that can alter our hormones and in turn, affect our periods. Conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, iron or other vitamin deficiencies, and lifestyle factors such as exercise, smoking, weight, and stress are probably the most common factors for impacting menstruation. A study by BMC Women’s Health concluded that modifiable factors such as smoking, weight, and exercise are associated with cycle irregularity and early menopause. [1] The study also suggested that adopting healthier lifestyle practices such as smoking cessation, stress management, and weight control can improve reproductive health overall. [1] 

Dehydration 

So we know that other factors can play a huge role in our menstrual cycle, but what about hydration? Water is crucial for all life, especially for the functioning of our bodies. [2] Water is used to lubricate our joints, aid in digestion, maintain healthy skin, and more, including menstruation and the entire menstrual cycle. In fact, blood is approximately 83% water, and water makes up the majority of all human tissue. [3] 

A semi-experimental BMC study found that water intake may have a modifying role in reducing the duration of menstrual bleeding and pelvic pain associated with menstruation. [4] Healthy water intake, around 2,200 ml/ 9.5 cups a day for females, can prevent blood from thickening and in turn, cause a shorter, less painful period. [5] There isn’t much data on whether or not dehydration can actually delay the onset of your period, but we do know that dehydration may cause a longer, more painful period. [4] While the results of this study are interesting, it’s important to note its limitations, including self-reported data, uniform study participants, and confounding variables such as diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption. 

Regardless of whether you’re menstruating or not, dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, dry mouth, lightheadedness, and can lead to severe complications such as organ failure and death. [6] There is increased fluid loss during menstruation which may exacerbate any effects of dehydration. Drinking plenty of water daily, and especially around your  period or when exerting a lot of energy, is extremely important for the functioning of your entire body as well as making your period more manageable. 

TL/DR: Increased water intake may alleviate painful period symptoms and decrease the duration of your period. 

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What Can Cause Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when someone isn’t taking in enough water, or is losing more fluid than they’re taking in. 

Basic factors such as how much someone is eating and drinking, as well as common causes of fluid loss such as urine, sweat, tears, and diarrhea are the simple causes of dehydration. Other factors that could influence hydration include [4]:

  • Illness: Any illness that is causing someone to sweat, vomit, or have loose stools is going to put them at an increased risk of dehydration.
  • Diabetes: High levels of glucose in the bloodstream puts someone at a higher risk of dehydration due to an increased urine output.
  • Alcohol and other diuretics: Coffee, tea, and alcohol are all diuretics that increase urine output and may put someone at risk of dehydration.
  • Climate: Hot and dry climates increase the need for fluids and may also increase the risk of dehydration.

How To Stop Dehydration

If you are already dehydrated, it’s important to focus on drinking fluids, especially mineral water and other hydrating fluids containing electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential nutrients that have a major role in hydration, as they help balance cellular fluid, regulate muscle and nerve function, and keep the body functioning at its prime. Electrolytes may even give you energy. Factors that could worsen dehydration include:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Chronic illness
  • Increased sun exposure
  • Diuretics 
  • Strenuous exercise

Tips To Prevent Dehydration

Sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of drinking 9-10 cups of water a day. To ensure you’re maintaining appropriate fluid intake, try out these tips:

  • Reduce alcohol intake: As mentioned previously, coffee, alcohol, and tea are all diuretics that increase urine output and increase the risk of dehydration. 
  • Infuse your water: If you find it hard to drink plain water, try naturally infusing your water. Fruits, herbs, and some vegetables such as ginger, mint, berries, cucumbers, lemon, and more can add some flavor to your water bottle. 
  • Eat your water: There are many foods with high water content that can help you reach your hydration goals! Cucumber, melon, grapefruit, zucchini, skim milk, and more, are great options that are full of water. 
  • Hydration packets and electrolytes: Electrolyte drinks or sports drinks can be a great option as long as they have the right ingredients. Minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium help our cells and organs function to keep us healthy. You do want to avoid products with high added sugar contents, high caffeine content, and artificial sweeteners and chemicals.
  • Sparkling water: If you enjoy soda or don’t enjoy drinking flat water, you could always try adding in sparkling water for a bubbly, healthier hydrating option.

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Key Takeaways

  • Menstruation can be impacted by hormones, stress, weight, hydration, smoking, and more
  • Healthy lifestyle practices such as smoking cessation, stress management, and weight control can improve reproductive health overall
  • Water is used to lubricate our joints, aid in digestion, maintain healthy skin, and more, including menstruation and the entire menstrual cycle.
  • A semi-experimental study demonstrated that water intake can decrease painful period symptoms as well as the length of your period.
  • Many fruits and vegetables have a high water content such as melons, strawberries, lettuce, cucumbers, etc.
  • Hydration drinks can be a great addition to increase your fluids, but be sure to keep an eye out for added chemicals, sweeteners, and caffeine
  • Magnesium is a key electrolyte that can support relaxation, calcium absorption, and bone health. Check out Drink Mix Duo for Natalist Magnesium Plus drink mix and Hydration & Energy drink mix. 

References:

  1. Bae J, Park S, Kwon JW. Factors associated with menstrual cycle irregularity and menopause. BMC Womens Health. 2018;18(1):36. Published 2018 Feb 6. doi:10.1186/s12905-018-0528-x
  2. Popkin BM, D'Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(8):439-458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
  3. Zhang N, Zhang F, Chen S, et al. Associations between hydration state and pregnancy complications, maternal-infant outcomes: protocol of a prospective observational cohort study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2020;20(1):82. Published 2020 Feb 7. doi:10.1186/s12884-020-2765-x
  4. Torkan B, Mousavi M, Dehghani S, et al. The role of water intake in the severity of pain and menstrual distress among females suffering from primary dysmenorrhea: a semi-experimental study. BMC Womens Health. 2021;21(1):40. Published 2021 Jan 28. doi:10.1186/s12905-021-01184-w
  5. Meinders AJ, Meinders AE. Hoeveel water moeten we eigenlijk drinken? [How much water do we really need to drink?]. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2010;154:A1757.
  6. Dehydration. NHS Inform. Feb 2023. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/nutritional/dehydration#symptoms-of-dehydration
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