Period myths can be pervasive in our culture. Spanning from the somewhat logical to the downright outrageous, there are many strange ideas that continue to circulate around menstruation.
These rumours, myths and ideas contribute to the misinformation, stigma and shame we experience around periods.
Some of these myths are easily busted, with many of the ideas we had as children around what happens when you start on your blob being dispelled when it actually happens.
But what about those funny little myths that never seem to quite go away?
Well, I’ve picked out the top five common myths about periods that I’ve encountered and found the facts on each so that, together, we can bust those myths!
1. You can’t get pregnant on your period
I hate to break the news to you but YOU CAN GET PREGNANT ON YOUR PERIOD! I’d love this to be true so we can all enjoy some free-loving at that time of the month but alas, it is still possible.
Due to the variations in our cycles and the fact that sperm can live in the womb for up to seven days, there is no window during our periods when you can guarantee that you cannot get pregnant. And while it is less likely that you would conceive on your blob, it is not impossible.
So, make sure you use protection even when the risk of pregnancy is lower. If only we could expel unwanted semen like Zebras do… life would be so much easier.
2. You can’t exercise while menstruating
I remember hearing this when I was a teen – luckily a friend (and known clever person) told me the opposite and I decided to believe her instead of the rumour. Exercising while on your period is totally safe and there is no reason why you can’t continue to exercise while menstruating, in fact it’s recommended!
Exercise can help you beat bloating, may relieve period pains and will boost your energy and mood more than that extra chocolate(*s*) will.
However, it is also totally normal that you might have less energy, coordination or strength during your period. This is due to hormonal fluctuations throughout the month and it’s fine to adjust your routine to focus on gentler, restorative workouts, or to take a break if you need to.
3. Your period stops in water
Ok so, this one is my favourite because I secretly want to believe that it’s true… But unfortunately, it’s actually false.
Your period doesn’t stop in water, but the pressure of the water does stem the flow meaning it is unlikely you will see a trail of blood in the pool behind you unless you sneeze or have a particularly heavy flow. If you want to go swimming on your period a tampon is enough protection against leaks and safe to use, just make sure to change it afterwards.
4. Bears and sharks are attracted by period blood
I get it, they are predator animals and it’s not absurd to think that they would be attracted to blood, right? Well actually wrong! Let’s tackle these one at a time:
- The myth that your period attracts Bears is thought to have originated in Glacier National Park in the US in 1967, when two women were killed by bears, one of whom was on her period. Rumours began to swirl that the reason was due to their ‘menstrual odours’, and despite there being no scientific evidence backing up this claim, it persisted.
- Sharks on the other hand is a rumour probably born from another common myth that sharks can smell blood from a mile away, which is untrue. Sharks sense of smell is similar to that of many bony fish and varies between species, and while they do use smell for hunting, a drop of period blood diluted in the ocean is not enough to get attention.
5. Men can’t get periods
This is not a trick question and the most important on the list of myths to busted.
Trans men can and do get periods – for anyone unfamiliar with the term, trans men refers to people that were born female but identify as male. They may make the gender transition through the way they present their gender (eg. Clothes), the name or pronouns they prefer to use (ie. he/him or they), and for some people (but not all) through hormone or further physical changes. To learn more, campaigning organisations GLAAD and Stonewall both have loads of helpful information to help you get informed.
For trans men, getting a period can be a varied and sometimes difficult experience, particularly if you experience gender dysphoria, a condition where a person experiences distress due to the mismatch between their biological sex and their gender.
While there are ways that periods can be stopped, whether through hormones or surgery, not everybody will want to choose these options and it is important to recognise that there are many trans men that are still managing periods in a world in which people don’t recognise or talk about this experience.
So, there we have it, my top five period myths and the truth we seek! While some of these myths are a bit funny once you know the truth, others can be harmful and perpetuate information that contributes to period shame.
By knowing the facts around menstruation, we can help to boost wellbeing and take care of ourselves better when it’s that time of the month, as well as supporting others. So why not join me in spreading some #PeriodTruths and sharing these myth-busting facts far and wide?
What myths have you encountered over the years? Tell us in the comments below!