Without periods, none of us would exist. Menstruation is as natural of a process as it is to eat or breathe, it’s something almost half the population goes through every month, then why don’t we even call menstruation by its name? Euphemisms exist for a reason. The impact of such menstrual taboos and secrecy is clear: they lead to ignorance, myths, and ultimately detriment the health and welfare of billions of people worldwide. It’s the 21st century, drastic changes are required to encourage positive social norms and ultimately enact behavioral change. The knowledge surrounding the menstrual cycle of menstruators still are shrouded by myths and taboos older than time. These myths not only reflect completely inaccurate claims but also perpetuate “theories” about the biology and behavior that can be detrimental. It’s not just men who need to be educated, even menstruators themselves are led astray.
I remember one time I overheard a conversation where someone thought that women were always on their periods, i.e., they always bled. Even the thought of such absurdity sounds comical but if you give it another thought, the underlying lack of knowledge that most people have when it comes to menstruation is apparent. As menstruation predates all written records, the taboo surrounding menstruation was probably propagated by superstition in the early ages, something our favorite Uncle Tom tried decoding in his articles.
Today we’ll try to take away the traditional associations with shame and embarrassment by addressing some of the common myths believed by both men and women. Uncle Tom already addressed some of the old and common myths like not being able to cook or go to a temple and the truth behind them, so we’ll deal with some of the more modern ones -
1. We’ll start with the common one. Even though it is called the “time of the month”, the act of menstruation itself lasts for 2 to 7 days. However, the menstrual cycle lasts the entire time from one period starting to the next. The cycle lasts anywhere from 28 to 35 days and even then, factors like stress, medications, birth control, and illness might cause fluctuations. For some menstruators, it’s the same, like clockwork, every month. For some, it wildly varies. Symptoms, flow, and duration can change with it getting better or worse, shorter or longer over the years.
2. You might’ve heard that Endometriosis is just a “bad period”. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, it causes pain, infertility, and a host of other problems. 1 in 10 menstruators has endometriosis, which means they have womb tissue growing on other organs/tissues of their body. During their time of the month, no matter where this tissue resides, it will begin to bleed/shed itself, with no way to exit the body. This can lead to cyst formation, adhesions, and more pain. It usually involves the ovaries, bowel, or the tissue lining the pelvis, though sometimes it can spread beyond the pelvic region.
3. Even if you don’t have any medical issues like endometritis, some might think that just because menstruation is natural, it “isn’t a big deal”. Sure, some people have pretty chill periods. But they are the lucky ones. Menstruation can hurt a lot. So much so that you can’t stand up straight all the way. Some people bleed so much that they have to change their pad or tampon every 2–3 hours. Some people vomit. There are a lot of health problems associated with menstrual health, and they can shut your life down during your time of the month. Just like with the last few myths, everyone is unique and thus, has very different experiences.
4. Again, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it is necessary to have it every month. It’s actually totally fine for someone to not have periods because of contraceptives. Uncle Tom debunked the myth that menstruation is a way the body cleanses itself and keeps it healthy. The reality is that the body only needs to menstruate in order to shed the uterine lining (in the form of menstrual fluid) that is created when there is the possibility of pregnancy. Some medicine prevents ovulation and stops that uterine lining from building up, so there isn’t anything to shed or bleed out.
5. There is also a related myth that menstruators can choose when to have menstruation or even control when to bleed, which is again completely false. It is not possible to hold the blood in the same way you hold your pee. When it’s time, the menstrual fluid is flowing and there is nothing you can do to stop or delay it.
6. Even though we called it “blood” above, it’s not really blood, it’s mostly uterine tissue that’s being shed, but some people do bleed a lot, so much so that they can become fatigued and anemic. The correct term to use is menstrual fluid. There’s nothing intrinsically “impure”. So, there’s no reason sanitary products should be kept in private and covered when being purchased. Buying a sanitary product is like buying soap or toothpaste, they all are personal hygiene products and there is no shame in buying or using them.
7. All people who menstruate have PMS. This is akin to saying everyone has depression. In truth, just because a person experiences some premenstrual symptoms it does not mean they have PMS. Premenstrual syndrome is a medical diagnosis of multiple symptoms including both emotional and physical discomforts. While some people might experience premenstrual symptoms of low to moderate intensity, if they don’t have a significant negative effect on a person’s life, this is not considered PMS.
8. This brings us to our final myth, only women menstruate. Not every woman menstruates and not every female who gets a period considers themselves a woman. Transgender men may still menstruate, just as transgender women might not.
Menstruation isn’t always just a “woman’s” issue. It’s a human issue. Period.
These myths propagate only due to our ignorance. The gaps in knowledge we are scared to fill because of the whole taboo and secrecy surrounding this topic have given rise to this. How many times have you seen someone speak up and freely ask questions regarding menstruation? Why does everyone get uneasy when someone does it anyway? It’s something that needs to be stopped right now. So, come on people! Learn more, go gain actual insights, and stop the spread of these myths, so that this stops right here and right now with our generation!
Written by Kinshuk
Designed by Dheeraj & Ramya