On any given day, 800 million girls and women will also have their period. As common as it is, there are still many communities that don’t openly discuss menstruation or worse, still believe in out dated, incorrect facts.
Here’s a few… You can’t touch a pickle jar or it will go bad, you cannot prepare sushi, you can’t enter a temple, bathe in the same tub as family members, or drink cow’s milk, because you might poison the entire herd. In fact, it’s best if you just chill out in a dark shed, away from other people for 7 days.
Sounds insane, right? Yet, even today, many countries around the world still hold these beliefs about menstruation. You’re probably thinking how ridiculous it sounds, but even in western countries, there are menstruation myths that have been passed down, generation to generation, spurring on many false beliefs about having a period.
Knowing the difference between fact and fiction is a key part of ensuring that the world becomes a safer place in which to have a period. Check out the facts here and help your daughter find clarity and confidence.
MYTH NO. 1: PERIODS ARE DIRTY
The belief that periods are gross, dirty, or impure is one that manifests across the world in many different ways. It could be a passing comment from a friend, saying “ew” if you mention your period, or it could be a more serious cultural situation. In western Nepal, the now-banned practice of Chhaupadi dictates that menstruating people must be banished to a shed outside their homes, because the belief is that people become “impure” during their periods.
Of course, menstruation is neither impure nor dirty — it’s just a natural function of a body that isn’t pregnant. What’s coming out is some blood and extra tissue grown in the uterus to accommodate a pregnancy; once the body realizes it isn’t pregnant, this is no longer necessary.
MYTH NO. 2: PERIODS ARE PRIVATE & SHOULDN'T BE TALKED ABOUT
Menstruation is actually just a very routine, normal function of the body that, for most people who experience it, is very much a non-event. It isn’t dirty, it doesn’t prevent someone from engaging in everyday activities like school or sport, it’s not a mystery. So, just like any other bodily function, periods don’t need to be kept on the down-low. Maybe you aren’t the kind of person who announces your bodily functions in the first place — that’s totally fine. But the point is that we shouldn’t be made to feel shame because of our periods.
MYTH NO. 3: PERIODS SHOULD LAST EXACTLY ONE WEEK
Everyone’s period is different. It's perfectly natural for a period to last anywhere between three to seven days. The “28 days” marker is only an average, and the majority of women in any given month don’t have a perfect cycle, more so for young teens who will often have irregular periods while their bodies are adjusting, a “regular” period for someone over 18yrs could mean anything from 21 to 35 days long.
MYTH NO. 4: YOU LOSE A LOT OF BLOOD DURING YOUR PERIOD
The average female only loses about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during her period. Even if you’re someone who experiences menorrhagia (heavy bleeding), your uterus still only releases about 4 tablespoons of blood.
Heavy periods are not necessarily a sign that there’s anything wrong, but they can be disruptive to everyday life, so if you find you are using the equivalent to more than seven pads/tampons a day, bleeding for much longer than seven days, or becoming anaemic then you need to see your doctor.
MYTH NO. 5: PERIOD BLOOD HAS A BAD SMELL
If you’ve ever been in class and caught a whiff of your period and thought, “OMG, I hope no one else can smell that I’m on my period,” you’re not alone. You also might find it hard to believe that the menstrual myth of period blood smelling bad is, in fact, a myth.
We each have our own unique scent, menstrual blood itself has no odour. It’s made of blood and tissue that sheds from your uterus, and when mixed with the naturally occurring bacteria in your body and once expelled mixes with air that it may smell a little less than fresh but it's highly unlikely that anyone else can smell it. Have you ever been able to smell when someone else was on their period? Doubtful.
Vaginas aren’t meant to smell like a bed of flowers, despite what conventional sanitary commercials might make you think but remember it is important to keep yourself clean by showering/bathing once a day and if you notice a very strong fishy odour or sense that something’s off, see your doctor. A bad smell could be indicative of a yeast infection.
MYTH NO. 6: PMS IS ALL IN YOUR HEAD
It’s characterised by a variety of symptoms that typically begin a week or two before menstruation, and can include: pimples, bloating or weight gain, headaches, joint pain, food cravings, mood swings, depression, irritability, anxiety and breast tenderness, all due to the varying levels of estrogen and progesterone during a cycle.
Gynaecologists suggest most girls/women will suffer from at least one PMS symptom every month.
MYTH NO. 7: YOU CAN’T SWIM ON YOUR PERIOD – SHARKS ARE CIRCLING
The weather is warming up, and you should feel free to hit the pool/beach no matter what time of the month it is. While some people have incorrectly said it’s not sanitary to go in a pool during your period (menstrual blood isn’t dirty, as we explained above, but most people don’t want any bodily fluids in the pool), the truth is that you’re actually less likely to bleed at all when you’re in the water. “The counter pressure of water might stop a menstrual flow from entering water,” If you don't believe it, test it out for yourself in the bathtub. But beyond that, things like tampons and swimwear designed specifically for periods can help you avoid any potential leakage.
And while it’s true that sharks are attracted to blood in the water, there’s no actual evidence that having your period will induce a Jaws-like scenario. According to Popular Science, you’re just not losing enough blood to make sharks swarm toward you — and the blood you are losing isn't all blood. As we mentioned above, periods are made of tissue, along with things like mucus and a little bit of actual blood.
MYTH NO. 8: YOUR FRIEND GROUP WILL HAVE SYNCED-UP PERIODS
This is a cute idea, but it’s unfortunately not true. A few years ago, a study debunked the idea that our periods’ timing can change depending on whom we’re around, finding that varying cycle lengths are most likely the reason we sometimes find ourselves menstruating at the same time as our friends. It doesn’t have anything to do with the moon or something cool like that, which is honestly disappointing. But we’re here for science, so we have to bust even the fun myths.
MYTH NO. 9: YOU SHOULDN'T EXERCISE DURING YOUR PERIOD
If you feel like exercising, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. It's actually a great way of controlling PMS symptoms and menstrual cramps because it increases the supply of oxygen to your muscles.
Myth NO 10: Talking to your daughter about periods before she starts will scare her
What’s more likely is that if you don’t talk to her first, she may be scared when she starts bleeding or be able to support a friend. Because girls typically begin menstruation any time between ages 9 and 16 (for most girls, between 11 and 13), starting the conversation about puberty and periods should be a natural ongoing discussion from early primary school years. Purchasing a few pairs of Knicked Pre-period undies eliminates any worry leading up to a first period.
If your teen is old enough, this is also the perfect opportunity to discuss sexual relationships.. Still today a lot of females believe YOU CAN’T GET PREGNANT WHEN ON YOUR PERIODand while it's not likely, there's always a chance. Ovulation can be unpredictable and so can menstrual cycles.