Almost half of the world’s population experiences menstruation. Despite that, there are several myths surrounding the biological process of menstruation. These misconceptions have made women’s lives harder in many different ways. They restrict their development and push menstruating women into unhygienic and unsafe conditions. Every month, we push millions of women into the peripheries of society. We even make them believe that their period is something that they need to hide from everyone else.
Society needs to see menstruation as a normal and natural process. There are two ways to bring about this change in attitude. The first is to generate awareness and the second is to prevent the spread of misinformation. Here’s a list of some of the most common myths associated with menstruation.
#1 Period blood is impure
We must note that menstrual discharge is not made up of blood only. It also contains other vaginal secretions and uterine tissue. It is the composition of period blood that makes it different from normal blood. Women are often forced to dispose of their sanitary napkins separately. This is because of the idea that they carry ‘dirty blood’.
Many communities consider not only period blood but also women to be ‘impure’. They are not even allowed to enter the kitchen or places of worship. It is believed that their presence is polluting. This stigmatization of menstruation takes a toll on the health of girls as they grow up believing that it is something that they need to be embarrassed about. So, they end up only talking about it in hushed tones behind closed doors.
Menstrual blood is the only source of blood that is not traumatically induced. Yet in modern society, this is the most hidden blood, the one so rarely spoken of and almost never seen, except privately by women.Judy Grahn
#2 Women become hormonal and unreasonable during their period
It is common to write off women during their period. Many people believe that their hormones make them irrational. Thus making them less capable than their male counterparts. As a result, they lose out on several opportunities in life, especially in the workplace. Moreover, employers often exploit such misconceptions to discriminate against their female employees.
Women usually experience certain highs and lows at different stages of their cycles. But, that in no way makes them erratic or illogical. Hormonal changes and imbalances are not exclusive to women. Men also react to changes in their hormone levels. Therefore, labeling menstruating women as emotional or unpredictable is a rather misogynistic practice.
#3 Girls on their period must avoid physical exercise and exertion
It is a myth that menstruation interferes with women’s day-to-day activities. Some women may find it hard to go about their everyday lives because of the pain that they experience. Yet, a woman’s period does not always have an impact on her ability to perform basic tasks. In fact, most doctors suggest that they should make no changes to their schedule.
Many studies have found that some physical exercise can go a long way in easing period cramps.
#4 You can’t get pregnant if you have sex on your period
Many people believe that women cannot get pregnant during their period. This notion is common even among people from educated, well-to-do families. Women may not be able to conceive on their period but the sperm can live up to five days once inside a woman’s body. Thus, the chances of getting pregnant while menstruating are low. But, they are not completely absent and it is always advisable to engage in protected sex.
#5 Women who spend a lot of time together experience the syncing of their cycles
It is a common belief that if women who have irregular cycles spend time with women on their period they will also get their period. The idea is based on the misconception that this would lead to the syncing up of their cycles. Women often depend on this myth to correct their cycle. But, there is no scientific basis for claiming that women living together have synchronized periods. In fact, empirical evidence disproves this theory completely. It states that the occurrence of synchronized periods is a mere coincidence.
Most myths surrounding menstruation originated in primitive, uneducated societies. Each culture or religion has its unique understanding of the process. But, a common aspect among them all is the stigma that they associate with this process of bleeding out.
It is rather unfortunate that even after years of development and social change many people out there continue to discriminate against women. That too based on a biological process which is well beyond their control. Moreover, the discourse around menstruation remains largely restricted to groups of women. Even the most progressive women feel uncomfortable talking about it to their male friends or family members.
We must educate both girls and boys so that they do not shy away from talking about menstruation and don’t believe in myths. It is a natural process that has a close link with the gift of life. So, no woman should ever feel ashamed of experiencing it or talking about it.