10 myths about periods that you may still believe
This is the third installment in our Period Series. This series aims to help teens understand the changes that they're going through without feeling ashamed. We'll try to dispel all the myths that your teen may read or hear and help them better understand that menstruation affects everyone and is a natural part of growing up.
- Dear tween me, let’s talk about your period, sweetie
- INFOGRAPHIC: Which menstruation product is the best for you?
- Bloody hell! That's not fair!
I clearly remember my great-grandmother yelling at me and my cousins if we’d shower or take a bath at night, her reason being that we’d get our periods while we were sleeping.
Looking back, I think it was her way of stopping us from bleeding on our bed sheets? However, I know she firmly believed this myth; all the women in my family remember this warning from her. Being the rebel that I am, I still shower at night sometimes and yes, I have washed my fair share of blood stains from my sheets. Perhaps she was right and she’s currently looking down on me like:
Or it could be that my flow was heavy on those days and I should have set an alarm to change my tampon at night?
My great-grandmother’s period myth is among thousands that young girls are taught. While the stigma of menstruation is very slowly fading because of the rise of feminism, these myths have been around for centuries and dispelling them will not happen overnight.
Here's a list of some menstruation myths:
1. In some parts of the world, women have to go into solitary confinement while they are on their period because they are considered unclean.
2. I remember when my younger brother was born; my grandmother barred all the women past puberty from entering the room my mother and new-born brother were in because they were unclean and would bring bad luck upon the baby. Only once his umbilical cord had fallen off were they allowed to touch him.
3. In some parts of India, women cannot water plants or cook during their period. They are considered unclean and therefore they will contaminate all the food they touch. This will continue until 4 days after their menses have ended.
4. In France and countries that used to be a part of the French colonies, it was believed that women could not make mayonnaise while they’re menstruating because the mayonnaise would curdle.
5. In Afghanistan, it is believed women who bath during their period will become infertile. Many women in the country use reusable sanitary pads or linen but are ashamed of washing these and hanging them up to dry; as a result they end up wearing the same sanitary pads for long periods of time which causes vaginal and pelvic infections that could ultimately lead to infertility.
Also read: Pregnancy myths debunked
7. Some girls are told not to wash their hair when they're on their period otherwise they will have very limp and unappealing hair.
8. In Ancient Rome it was thought that menstruating women were dark witches. It's not hard to see why – bleeding for a few days without dying is somewhat magical!
9. There are countless myths surrounding sex during menstruation.
- Some people still believe that it is impossible to fall pregnant while you’re on your period, which is not true. While it is uncommon, it is very possible depending on the length of your cycle and the date you ovulate.
- In some cultures, men believe that a man will lose his penis if he engages in period sex.
- In olden days, some believed children conceived during menstruation would be monsters! In the book The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation the children are described as “puny, languid and moribund”. The children would then bring a number of horrible diseases with them such as leprosy, syphilis, scrofula and virulent ulcers of the skin. Apparently, the children would also be “entirely stupid, dull, loutish, silly, deprived of sense and understanding and entirely unskilled to anything good”.
Period sex is messy and very lubricated but it’s not a curse, some people absolutely love it! In fact, some studies say that period sex can relief women from period cramps.
Also read: 6 bizarre birth stories
10. Medieval Europeans burnt toads to ease heavy flow. They would then wear the ashes in a pouch near their vagina. I like to think they invented the modern day fanny pack.
There are many more myths about periods. Most of them allude to the fact that women are unclean and should either be excluded from society while they menstruate, not touch anything or even come in contact with plants, food or newborn children. We know these myths are not true and hope that they will fall away so we can look back one day and laugh at the absurdity of it all.
If you still believe that menstruating women are unclean, consider the following quote by Maia Schwartz:
What myths were you told about periods? Share you stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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