If you're dealing with a swarm of uncomfortable PMS symptoms — think headaches, mood swings, and fatigue — you might have wondered if you should skip out on happy hour with your friends in fear of your alcoholic beverage of your choice making you feel worse.
As it turns out, alcohol could potentially have some effect on the symptoms you experience before the onset of your period.
"There has been some research to suggest that PMS symptoms like headaches, mood disturbances, and breast tenderness can be worse with consuming alcohol," Heather Irobunda, MD, FACOG, a board-certified ob-gyn based in New York City, said.
Because alcohol is a diuretic, it can cause you to urinate more, which in turn could contribute toward dehydration. That dehydration could intensify the discomfort of a headache, Dr. Irobunda explained. What's more, if you experience mood swings during your period, alcohol could make the experience of that symptom worse because alcohol has the potential to affect moods.
Apart from specific symptoms being amplified, Amy Roskin, a board-certified ob-gyn and The Pill Club's head of clinical operations and medical director, said that a study from 2017 found that those who drank more heavily had a higher association with PMS.
"The theory behind this was that alcohol use might alter hormone levels during the menstrual cycle," she said. "In addition, drinking alcohol might also affect neurotransmitter serotonin and gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) activity. These chemicals are thought to play a role in PMS as well."
As for alcohol's effect on your flow and the regularity of your period, Dr. Irobunda said that casual drinking shouldn't impact the menstrual cycle. However, heavier drinking can contribute towards irregular periods.
"Heavy drinking can cause longer periods of time between menstrual periods. Additionally, if your drinking is heavy enough to cause liver damage, this can cause heavier flow. This is usually seen in those with alcohol dependence and not occasional or casual alcohol use," she said.
So about that glass of red wine? Dr. Irobunda confirmed that you can drink on your period. However, drinking isn't recommended for certain medical conditions, so it's important to follow the advice of your own medical provider when it comes to alcohol consumption.
Based on the risks of alcohol's effect on the menstrual cycle and body in general, Dr. Irobunda said it's not advised to partake in heavy drinking. It's also worth mentioning that the Mayo Clinic defines moderate drinking for healthy adults as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.