Heatwaves and hormones - does heat really impact your period?

Can heat actually make period pain worse? What are the best ways to make yourself more comfortable if you’re struggling? We’ll break it all down for you in this blog.
Adam Hamdi
Written by

Coni Longden-Jeffeson

When the temperature rises it’s usually a time for celebration - especially here in the UK! 

However, if your period hits at the same time as a heatwave, you might find that you’re struggling with symptoms more than usual. But can heat actually make period pain worse? And what are the best ways to make yourself more comfortable if you’re struggling? We’ll break it all down for you in this blog. 


Key Takeaways


  • Our blood vessels swell when we get hot which can make period pain and PMS migraines more intense 
  • Researchers have found that cortisol - your stress hormone - can increase d in warmer months 
  • Higher cortisol levels can lead to oestrogen dominance - which can make make your period symptoms a lot worse
  • Staying hydrated is the best thing you can do to reduce the impact of the heat on your period symptoms 


Are period symptoms really worse in the heat?


Technically speaking, a hot climate doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a more painful or difficult period. For example, there’s no research to support the idea that period pain is worse in Zambia than it is in Finland! However, if you are not used to the heat and notice that you feel more uncomfortable when your period comes in the Summer months - it’s not in your head! There are a few physiological factors at play that could be heightening your symptoms. 


Dilated blood vessels


When we’re hot, our blood vessels dilate to help increase blood flow to the surface of the skin, so the blood can cool down - and in turn cool down the rest of our body. This is why you’ll often end up with a red face if you’re particularly hot and sweaty! Now, in some cases dilated blood vessels can be helpful for our period experience - as it can increase blood flow to the uterus and keep things moving! However, if blood vessels are swollen and trying to get as much blood rushing to the surface of the skin - we can experience the opposite effect. 

Likewise, swollen blood vessels can increase the pressure in our bodies which can also be pretty painful - especially if you’re someone who suffers from premenstrual migraines!  


Heightened cortisol

You might assume that the Summer months are when we’re at our most relaxed. But studies have found that our levels of cortisol (aka the stress hormone) are at their highest during Summer. Whilst more research needs to be done to understand exactly why this is - we already know that stress can exacerbate period pain and other PMS symptoms. 

When our cortisol levels are high, this is a sign to the body that we’re too stressed to reproduce and this can play havoc with our oestrogen and progesterone levels- and can even lead to oestrogen dominance. The knock-on effect of these hormonal fluctuations can be increased PMS, more intense period pains and even delayed or missed periods.  


Lack of sleep

Many people will find it hard to sleep during - or just before - their period. A survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that around 30% of women reported disturbed sleep during menstruation. 

This can be down to a few factors - from period pain keeping you awake to hormonal fluctuations causing havoc with your melatonin levels. But our core body temperature is also usually at its highest just before our period arrives. Throw in a heatwave and you’ve got a recipe for a hot, sleepless night. Sleep is when our body naturally rests, repairs and revives, so if you aren’t getting your recommended 8 hours you might find that symptoms like migraines, pelvic pain or cramps are worse - especially as a lack of sleep has been linked to inflammation.   


Increased water retention

Whether you struggle with endo belly or just experience a little more bloating around your period, you’ll know how uncomfortable it can be. Bloating around your period is caused by water retention and when does our body try to retain more water? When we were dehydrated. 

In a heatwave, we become dehydrated more quickly and our body tries to hold on to as much moisture as it can - which can lead to increased bloating. High temperatures can also sometimes cause the bad bacteria in our gut to thrive - outweighing the good bacteria. This imbalance can lead to a whole host of uncomfortable stomach issues - from increased bloating to diarrhoea.


How to stay cool and manage your period in the heat


Whatever you’re up to this Summer, follow these handy tips and invest in these useful tools so you can manage your period no matter how hot things get! 


Stay hydrated


This is the number one piece of advice for managing your period (and overall health) during a heatwave. Try to drink at least 2.7 litres a day but don’t be afraid to have a little more! 


Food hydration hacks


Want to up your hydration even more? Eat foods that have a high water concentration! Add cucumbers and tomatoes to your salad, snack on watermelon and peaches and have delicious broth as a healthy lunch. 

Avoid pads


Choosing the right period care products can make a huge difference in how you feel in a heatwave. Traditional pads are full of plastic and can be uncomfortable at any time - let alone when you’re already feeling hot and sweaty. Tampons or menstrual cups will help you feel cooler and fresher in your intimate area.  

Ditch the hot water bottle


This may sound obvious but, whilst heat therapy might be helpful for period pain, it's not the one to go for if you are struggling with rising temperatures. The Myoovi kit offers faster pain relief than a hot water bottle with the added benefit of not driving up your core body temperature!