Adele Miner takes a look at some common menstruation myths.
A recent study conducted by Initial Workroom Hygiene revealed that one-third of men believe that speaking about periods in the workplace is unprofessional. It also showed that a vast majority of women feel uncomfortable speaking about menstruation with coworkers, and a whopping 46% of females admitted to being too embarrassed to take a sanitary product out of their bag at their desk, for fear of someone seeing them. So girlos, what’s with all the shame?
In 2020 menstruation shame is unfortunately still very much alive and kicking. We’re taught to hide our period from the moment it arrives and this sense of shame can only lead to misinformation about the topic. Shame lends itself to the myth, from cautionary tales to misleading media news, we’ve been bombarded with myths disguised as facts from the moment our brains could even conceive of the idea of bleeding once a month. A short while back we looked into myth-busting some contraception misconceptions (and had our tiny little minds blown along the way), and now it’s the turn of the period. As we know, knowledge is power and we can only hope that opening up the conversation about that time of the month will help to alleviate some of that shame we inherently feel surrounding it. So, here’s a few menstruation myths that need to be set straight, period.
Fact: Surprise! You can! Now, I remember posing this conundrum to the speaker during our sex-ed talk back in the day, and her answer was ‘it, of course, is less likely but yes you can still get pregnant if you have sex during your period’, which is still all these years later very much fact. Clearblue has cleared up any misconceptions regarding this old chestnut stating that this is because healthy sperm can live in your reproductive tract for days. This means that those little swimmers can be ready to attack as soon as ovulation begins, which in many women’s cases, can be early or indeed late. So, in conclusion, don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant, and die, we kid! But if you don’t want to have a baby do take precautions.
Fact: False! Variability in your cycle length is totally normal, and something many women experience. In fact, irregularity is to be expected when you first begin your period, you are experiencing menopause, you have just given birth, are under a lot of stress, and when you are beginning or ending a method of contraception. Of course, if you are experiencing continually irregular periods when none of the above factors affect you then it’s advisable to visit your GP, but otherwise being irregular is actually pretty regular. We don’t just get our periods one day, have them arrive on the same date every single month until they eventually disappear into the abyss by the ripe age of 50. Variation is to be expected and irregularity is oftentimes completely normal, and nothing to stress about.
Fact: Eh, what?! Whoever came up with that one is some evil little genius who managed to make many a gal paranoid to bits. As it turns out, you can, in fact, swim during your period and there is no reason, medical or otherwise, out there for you not to. While of course wearing a pad is probably not advisable, because pads and water don’t mix, opting for a tampon or menstrual cup if you fancy a dip during that time of the month is the way to go.
Fact: It might be a bit of a shock to the system if you find a thick blob of menstrual blood, but, contrary to popular belief, it’s actually a natural part of menstruation, and totally the norm. Menstrual clots are common with a heavy flow, meaning you’re likely to experience them during the first 2 or 3 days of your period. They form when the uterine lining sheds increased amounts of blood which pools in the uterus or vagina, this blood then begins to coagulate, causing clots to form. It’s only best to seek medical advice if the clots are larger than a quarter in size, are extremely frequent, or cause significant pain, otherwise, don’t be stressing, you’re perfectly normal.
Fact: No, just no. A tampon can’t get lost inside you because there’s nowhere for said tampon to actually go. Yes, that string can seem like a delicate little fecker, but if it were to break off, there’s no need to fret. The vagina canal is only three to five inches long, ending at the cervix, which is too small for a tampon to pass through. If for any reason your tampon string does break off you can retrieve it by relaxing, squatting down, squeezing your cervix muscles and using your fingers to pull it back out. A slightly grim process yes, but there’s no need to rush to A&E, the tampon hasn’t disappeared into the cervix’s chasm.
Fact: Okay I have to admit, this one has shaken me to my very core. While I kind of gathered that a tampon can’t get lost inside you if the string falls off, and avoiding pregnancy by having period sex sounds doesn’t sound like the best plan, I truly did believe that if you spent a lot of time with other menstruating humans your cycles would inevitably sync up. A study carried out in recent years by period tracking app Clue and Oxford University has debunked this myth of syncing periods. The research found that periods will not sync over time between those who spend a lot of time together, but in fact do the opposite, causing the cycles to separate. The fact of the matter is, the likeliness of having a day or two of overlapping periods with those around you is high. For example, you could be on the first day of your cycle while your work colleague is on their last, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have synchronised, it’s just a likely coincidence when more than one female are in close proximity, meaning menstrual synchrony is all fiction, little fact. Cycle sistas no more *broken heart emoji*.
Fact: Oh, how I truly wish that this one was true. But ladies, I am so sorry to report, it isn’t. Unfortunately, there is no scientific reason you should skip on your workouts during your period unless feeling sorry for yourself counts as scientific? Research has shown that light exercising during that time of the month can actually help to relieve symptoms while it’s also beneficial for your overall health. Core exercises are probably best avoided though if you are suffering from cramps or bloating, but cardio and weightlifting is a go-ahead. Please, don’t shoot the messenger.
Fact: Oh, it very much is real. For those of you who may not be aware, PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome, which is a combination of symptoms women experience a week or two prior to their period beginning. The most common symptoms include bloating, headaches, and mood swings. According to the Office Of Women’s Health, around 90% of women claim to experience PMS, a figure that contradicts the claim that it doesn’t exist, (seriously though, who came up with this one!?) What’s more than this, it has recently been found that 3-8% of women suffer from a condition called PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Probably best described as PMS on steroids, PMDD causes severe irritability, depression, and anxiety alongside the standard PMS symptoms too. If you feel you may be suffering from this speaking with your GP or gynecologist may be beneficial to avail of medications and treatments available to you. So yeah, to whoever believes that PMS isn’t real, suck one.
Fact: “Periods are a part of life, and being crippled with pain during that time of the month is to be expected”, except… it’s not. The idea that periods are painful and there is nothing we can do about that is now common discourse and often causes underlying conditions and disorders to go untreated. Conditions like Endometriosis and PCOS affect around 200 million women worldwide and too often are ignored for years. This is because the conditions can cause severely painful periods, which, according to society, is to be expected among women. Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found outside of its normal spot, with its common symptoms being painful periods, pain during intercourse and excessive bleeding. PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels, causing them to produce more-than-normal amounts of male hormones, with its common symptoms being consistently irregular periods or none at all, weight gain, acne, and painful periods when you do experience one. If your period pain interferes with your daily routine you should seek medical attention, because accepting severe pain as a part of life is one myth that seriously needs the boot.
Fact: Going back to that old chestnut that periods are something we should feel shame around. This myth severely needs debunking asap. Menstruation shame is so ingrained in our behaviour that 58% of women admit to feeling a sense of embarrassment when they get their periods. It’s astounding that in 2020 women still feel the need to hide the fact that they menstruate. Feeling it necessary to shove a tampon up your sleeve for fear of someone spotting you with it, or blaming going to and from the bathroom on a ‘weak bladder’ just shouldn’t be. Periods are nothing out of the ordinary and neither is being open about them if you please. Shame, be gone!