A period also called as menses/menstruation, is a time when your body releases tissue it no longer needs.
This tissue comes from the uterus, which is where a baby (fetus) can develop in your body. Every month, the lining of the uterus gets thicker to prepare for a fertilized egg, to support pregnancy. If the egg doesn’t get fertilized, that lining is released from your body in the form of blood, through the vagina (an elastic, muscular canal with a soft, flexible lining, which is a part of the female reproductive tract). This monthly process is called menstruation or menses or a period.
So when you are on your period, your body is just getting rid of a small amount of blood and some unneeded tissues. The average menstrual cycle is about 28 days, but this can vary in some women due to various factors.
The menstrual cycle is a normal process that occurs in every girl, right from puberty until menopause. Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a child’s body matures into an adult, occurring usually between the age of 10 to 14 years in girls and between 12 to 16 years of age, for boys. Menopause is the natural stopping of the female’s regular menstrual cycle.
Despite periods being an important biological process in your life, there are still a lot of misconceptions, confusion, and myths revolving around menstruation. In this article, we will look at the top 8 myths and the actual facts about periods that you need to know.
8 Myths and Facts About Your Periods
Myth 1: Your periods come once every 28 days.
Fact: Menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman and from cycle to cycle, especially when you just begin to menstruate. Your menstrual cycle can range anywhere from 21 days to 35 days, and this is considered normal. If the time between the two cycles keeps changing and your periods come earlier or later, then it is known as irregular periods. When irregular periods are associated with inconsistent menstrual blood flow, it is called oligomenorrhea.
Irregular periods occur due to various factors such as your age or other health conditions. Lifestyle triggers like increased exercise, smoking, alcohol abuse, caffeine, travel, stress, and certain medications and birth control pills can also cause irregular periods.
Myth 2: Exercise is bad for you when you have your periods.
Fact: Exercise during your period can help reduce pain due to menstrual cramps. Exercise is good for overall period health since it can reduce bloating (extra water weight), an annoying symptom of periods. It also releases endorphins (the feel-good hormones) that can reduce mood swings, crankiness, and make you feel light and energized. Exercise can also lighten and regulate your period flow.
It is advisable to do light to moderate intensity exercises like walking or light jogging.
You can also opt for yoga or pranayama (breathing exercises) to relieve stress, anxiety, and irritability.
If you go to the gym to workout, avoid high-intensity workouts during your periods.
Myth 3: Eating sour foods will worsen your periods.
Fact: The food you eat does not decide the flow of your periods. There is absolutely no connection between your periods and sour food consumption, like tamarind, curd, and pickles. However, it is necessary for a woman to maintain a healthy diet like beans, roti, pulses, brown bread, yogurt, etc., during her menstruation.
Myth 4: You can’t go swimming when you have your period.
Fact: Swimming during your period is not a problem. If you want to swim during your periods, it is always advisable to use tampons or menstrual cups.
Tampons are menstrual products, inserted inside your vagina for absorbing blood and other secretions during menstruation. A menstrual cup is another female hygiene product that is inserted into your vagina to collect blood during menstruation.
Myth 5: You should sleep on the floor or in a different bed/room while in your periods.
Fact: It is to note that, menstruation is not contagious and does not cause any harm to anyone else sleeping in the same room as you.
Myth 6: You are not allowed to talk about your periods in public. If you do so, you will be outcasted and shamed publicly.
Fact: This myth is not at all true! Do you think before you talk about your hair, your dresses and television programs, your eyeliner or nail polish shade? Talking about your periods is also the same, and no different. Periods are a natural phenomenon in every woman’s life and talking about it is normal.
Myth 7: You should avoid sex when you have your period.
Fact: Having sex during your period is safe. It can be a little messy but is fine as long as you and your partner are both consenting.
Sex during your period can help boost and elevate your mood. It results in the release of ‘happy hormones such as dopamine (an organic chemical released by the brain that plays a role in how we experience pleasure) and oxytocin (associated with empathy, trust, sexual activity, and relationship-building).
Myth 8: If you don’t get your period, you are definitely pregnant.
Fact: Pregnancy is not the only reason you may miss your period. There are many reasons that can delay your periods and a delay doesn’t necessarily mean that you are pregnant. Your period could be delayed due to stress, sudden weight gain or loss, or hormonal changes.
It is important to understand that if you are menstruating, it doesn't mean you are not pregnant. You may bleed (when your ovulation cycle is normal) and mistake it for your period. Your fertility (the natural capability to get pregnant) is at its peak when you ovulate. So if you have sex during this time, it could actually make you more likely to get pregnant.
If you are worried about your missed period and suspect that it could be due to pregnancy, take a pregnancy test to clear any doubts.
Period myths are also a result of various socio-cultural norms, especially in developing nations, including India. Most often, these myths are formed due to a lack of awareness and the right knowledge. Believing in myths like these can hamper you from understanding and learning more about your period. Always consult your doctor for the right information and seek advice accordingly.
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2. Garg S, Anand T. Menstruation related myths in India: strategies for combating it. J Family Med Prim Care. 2015 Apr-Jun;4(2):184-6. doi: 10.4103/2249-4863.154627. PMID: 25949964; PMCID: PMC4408698.
3. womenshealth.gov. 2021. Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle. [online] Available at: <https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle> [Accessed 16 January 2021].
4. Unicef.org. 2021. 7 Alarming Myths About Periods We Have To End Now. [online] Available at: <https://www.unicef.org/rosa/stories/7-alarming-myths-about-periods-we-have-end-now> [Accessed 17 January 2021].
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