‘Don’t touch the pickle,’
‘Don’t enter places of worship and the kitchen,’
‘Don’t exercise or strain yourself, you are bleeding a LOT!’
We’ve all heard the restrictions and advice when it comes to our periods. Well-meaning or insidious, there is a lot of hushed conversation about menstruation, but what separates fact and fiction?
Now, we’re moving on from the shame and stigma attached to our bodies and collectively talking about previously shushed subjects. So let’s bring period myths out in the open and see what holds up.
Common Myths About Period
For example, can you avoid getting pregnant if you have sex on your period? NO!
Here are some more myths, busted:
Myth 1: You Lose a Lot of Blood During Your Period
Going through up to five pads during those ‘heavy’ days might skew our perception of how much we really bleed.
According to the National Health Services UK, on an average, women only bleed around 6-8 teaspoons of blood per cycle, with the highest being 16 teaspoons total! Even with heavy bleeding, or menorrhagia, the blood lose still amount to just four tablespoons per day.
Anyone who experiences wearing a menstrual cup for the first time probably discovered the same magical release from this misconception.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and it may be cause to call up your gynecologist if the bleeding is affecting your life, making you anemic, or lasting for longer than the average 4-7 days.
Myth 2: The Food You Cook Will Spoil
This fiction spreads far and wide, across the world.
In some parts of central Maharashtra, The Guardian reported on gaokors or huts that women are banished to where they stay separately and don’t cook. Women in other parts of India are also told not to enter the kitchen or touch sour foods.
Chhaupadi, the practice of banning menstruating women to huts outside the house still continues despite a ban in place in Nepal.
Many women are still barred from entering the kitchen, and one of the explanations given is that the woman is unclean and her touch can sour the food.
Even in Japan, the no kitchen rule exits where women are discouraged from making sushi as their periods give them an imbalance in taste.
These myths are born from idea of impurity around menstruation – but a woman on her period is just as clean and hygienic.
It’s great to have men and other genders pull their weight in the kitchen but not by barring women just because they are menstruating.
Myth 3: Period Pain Affects Everyone; PMS is Not Real
Like every person is unique so is every period cycle. But on average, only 20% of women experience debilitating period pain.
Although 20% is a lot of women, this also means that for the other 80%, the pain is not very severe.
However, most women (90%) experience at least one symptom of Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS and it is not a made up disease to justify mood swings or cravings.
Menstruation is a time of hormonal change, and the varying levels of estrogen and progesterone impact our bodies and minds in myriad ways from fatigue to irritability.
So if you do experience a lot of pain during this time, it is not normal – consult a doctor who understands the pain is not in your head.
Myth 4: You Shouldn’t Exercise
When there was less awareness around, many people assumed periods were a sickness and you needed to rest in solitude.
But like all the annoyingly cheery period ads tell us, we really can do anything on our period that we would do on any other day of the cycle.
In fact, exercising can even help with the pain! However, it is also perfectly acceptable to want to take it easy if you feel sick or tired. The important point is that there must be a choice and it must be of the person who is menstruating alone.
Myth 5: Showering is Unsafe, Will Cause Infertility
From Afghanistan, where it is believed that showering on your period or washing your hair causes infertility, to the US where it is considered unsafe as it may increase bleeding – this myth has traveled across the world.
Besides being untrue, this is worrying as not cleaning yourself opens you up to a host of infections.
However, hot water can work as a soothing balm to relieve menstrual cramps and muscular tension. And it is important to wash yourself with water during your periods.
Speaking of water – there is another misconception that your period stops when you’re in the shower or swimming. The truth is that the water pressure of the shower and the buoyancy of your body in the water help keep the blood inside your vagina, but the flow is not stopped. In fact, swimming on your period can help alleviate the pain too. As soon as you are done with your activity, your period will resume with its scheduled program.
Myth 6: Tampons Make You Lose Your Virginity
There is a lot to unpack with this myth from the flawed concept of ‘virginity’– it’s a social construct and the hymen (or lack of) is no indication of sexual activity – to the flawed understanding of tampons.
The vagina is stretchy, and inserting a tampon inside is usually not painful as the period blood provides helpful lubrication. It may take a few tries, but if it’s hurting perhaps try a new position or consult a doctor.
Additionally, the hymen is a stretchy membrane too, which may or not widen with a tampon or even sexual intercourse. The type of hymen every woman has is different, but if it would completely cover the vaginal opening no discharge would come through. This would be dangerous, and would need to be corrected via surgery.
On the same subject, another misconception is that tampons can get lost inside your vagina. In fact, the vaginal walls hold the tampon in place.
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