Let’s talk about one of our not-so-favorite topic “periods”, our monthly companion from teen-hood to middle age.
Menstruation, commonly referred as ‘period’, is the process of discharging blood and mucosal tissues in the lining of the uterus through vagina at about monthly interval. Periods are a vital part of any woman’s life. Every menstruating woman has a different relationship with their monthly cycle. For some, it may create anxiety, fear, pain, shame, or embarrassment while for other women, it can be a sense of peace, relief, or gratitude.
Menstruation has always been surrounded by various taboos and myths, which makes it difficult for young girls and women to talk about their periods and related problems. The myths have also given rise to many social, cultural and religious norms that exclude menstruating women from many aspects of socio-cultural life.
We’ve gathered some interesting myths and facts to clear any misunderstandings about periods.
Myth 1: The standard menstrual cycle is 28 days
Most women have a misconception that the standard menstrual cycle is 28 days. There is no such universal scale; the period cycle can vary widely among women.
A recent study found that only 13 percent of women have a 28-day cycle. However, a healthy menstrual cycle can range from 21 to 35 days.
The perception that ovulation occurs on the 14th day, based on the 28-day cycle now seems arbitrary. Ovulation which is the release of an egg from ovary typically occurs in the middle of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Hence the fertility advice based on a 28-day cycle can be hindering rather than helping women to conceive.
For those women who are trying to conceive, regular tracking is the key solution as ovulation happens on different days for different women.
Myth 2: Every woman has Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
This is another myth that comes from the popular misconception that any symptoms that occur just before the period are directly related to PMS. The fact is that, just because a woman experiences some premenstrual symptoms does not mean they have PMS. Most women may have at least one sign of PMS every month and it is not the same for everyone. According to research, only about one in four women have PMS.
PMS is a combination of physical, behavioral, and emotional changes in women before their periods. The varying levels of female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) throughout the menstrual cycle can result in PMS. Most common symptoms are fatigue, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and moodiness.
Myth 3: You lose a lot of blood during your period
The sanitary pad advertisements may have exaggerated the imagery of how much women bleed during their periods. According to Pub Med Health, a woman loses only about 60 milliliters or 2.7 ounces of blood during each period.
But, if the menstrual bleeding lasts more than 7 days and if you need to change your tampon or pad in less than 2 hours, it needs medical attention. The medical term for such heavy or prolonged bleeding is menorrhagia. Untreated heavy or prolonged bleeding can lead to anemia and other health issues.
Myth 4: Delaying your period using birth control pills is unsafe
Another widespread misconception is that it is unsafe to use birth control pills to prolong the period. However, recent guidelines from the National Women’s Health Network indicate that it is safe to delay menstruation through birth control pills. It is also agreed by most gynecologists.
Although there are no such known health risks associated with skipping menstruation, it should not be recommended for women who are susceptible to blood clots or women who have high blood pressure or diabetes.
Myth 5: You can’t get pregnant during your periods
This is one of the most common period myths. Though the fertility isn’t that good during periods, there are changes of getting pregnant.
In some women, the cycle can be irregular and hence the ovulation date is harder to predict. The egg released during ovulation can live for between 12 and 24 hours. Considering the fact that sperm can live for about three days, having unprotected sex can coincide with the ovulation period and may result in pregnancy.
Myth 6: Say no to exercise during periods
On the contrary, exercising during periods can be beneficial. Regular physical activity during periods can improve your mood, help in combating period cramps and alleviate PMS.
A study reveals that, women who have exercised 3 days in a week for at least 30 minutes for an 8-week time frame had less menstrual pain compared to those who didn’t exercise. Additionally, the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) states that physical activity can boost energy levels in women during their periods.
Myth 7: Virgins shouldn’t wear tampons
Since its invention, tampons have been the subject of moral panic and health scares. The fact is that any girl who has her period can use a tampon and it has nothing to do with virginity- which is about sex.
The myth is mostly based on whether a tampon will affect the hymen, a thin, stretchy rim of tissue surrounding the vaginal opening. Tampons are designed to be worn in the upper part of the vagina, away from the vaginal opening without affecting the hymen.
The type of tampon comfortable for a girl is very subjective. If a girl is new to tampons, she must explore different sizes and styles; she will be able to decide which ones fit her correctly. Parents must make sure that she knows how to use them correctly and safely.
Myth 8: An irregular cycle is indicative of infertility
This is another common belief that irregular menstrual cycles are a sign of infertility. But the fact is that occasional irregular cycle is very common. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), about nine to 14 percent of women have irregular periods.
Disruptions in sleep, exercise routine, and stress levels can alter the delicate balance of hormones and lead to irregular periods. Fertility is based on ovulation. Irregular periods can make it difficult to calculate the ovulation period, but it does not necessarily indicate infertility.
Myth 9: A girl getting her first period at age 10 isn’t normal
There’s no right age for a girl to get her period.
Most girls get their first period when they are between the ages of 10 and 14. However, it may occur earlier or later in some girls. Puberty happens because of changes in hormones in the body and it differs in each girl.
However, if a girl does not have her period even after the age of 16, it is important to seek medical attention as delayed puberty can lead to other medical conditions like primary amenorrhea (failure of menses to occur by age 16 years, with normal growth and secondary sexual characteristics.)
Myth 10. Talking to your daughter about periods before she starts will scare her
Talking to your daughter about menstruation is an important step in helping her understand and be comfortable with their periods. Sharing information about personal subjects like periods can be a little awkward for both parents and daughter. Before initiating a talk about menstruation, look for the visible signs of puberty that indicate the arrival of menarche.
Try talking about your own period experiences, as a teen and as a woman so that she can relate to the subject in a more personal way.
Make sure you talk to your sons too about puberty and menstruation!!
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- Talking to Your Child About Periods. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/talk-about-menstruation.html . Accessed on: 10-09-2020.