10 Myths & Misconceptions About Women's Periods We Gotta Set Straight
Menstruation is a normal part of a woman's life, and yet, there are many hearsays and myths surrounding this 'special time' of the month
Humans used to depend on word of mouth for information and advice, so there were tonnes of superstitions passed down from mother to daughter.
However, so much progress has been made in science and medicine. So, let's try to move past these unnecessary and restrictive rules surrounding women's periods.
Myth 1: Drinking cold water will worsen your period pain
From a scientific point of view, no food and drinks — or the different temperatures at which they are consumed — should affect your menstruation.
A medical officer from the Ministry of Health, Dr Ena Liew, also told SAYS that drinking and period pain are two separate events.
"Menstruation is related to the reproductive system, whereas drinking is related to the gastrointestinal tract. There is no evidence of cause and effect," she said.
However, it is important to stay hydrated – you just have to decide what temperature water you like best.
Myth 2: Washing your hair when you're menstruating is bad for your health
"There is absolutely no reason for you not to wash your hair during your period," affirmed Dr Liew.
"No studies have showed any side effects from hair washing. In fact, personal hygiene is even more important when you're on your period," she said.
She added that soaking in a warm bath may actually help relieve menstrual cramps instead.
Scientific studies have found that localised heat therapy, be it a warm bath or a heating pad, on the lower abdomen can lessen menstrual pain by reducing abdominal muscle tension.
Myth 3: It is unhygienic for women to go swimming while menstruating
It may be hard to believe, but it is absolutely safe for women to go swimming during their periods.
This myth probably came before the invention of internal feminine hygiene products. Women now have tampons and menstrual cups that make it safe, comfortable, and sanitary to participate in water-related activities on their periods.
In fact, China national swimmer Fu Yuanhui broke the taboo on international TV too, revealing that she was on her period when she swam the 4x100m medley relay during the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Myth 4: Exercising while you're on your period can damage the uterus
It is perfectly fine for you to go exercise while you're on your period.
According to Dr Liew, the uterus is a very hardy organ – it is situated deep inside the pelvis and cannot be damaged simply from vigorous exercise.
"Instead, some studies have found that regular exercise can boost your mood and reduce menstrual cramps," she said.
So, you do you. While some women enjoy exercising, many others prefer to be less active when they have heavy flow and pain.
Myth 5: Period blood is 'dirty blood'
There is no such thing as 'dirty' blood in the body. All blood is normal blood.
The vaginal bleeding that you see every month is the result of your womb shedding its lining when pregnancy does not occur.
So, menstrual blood is just a mixture of unused uterine tissue and blood – you might occasionally get small, chunky clots and that is okay.
Blood colour can also range from pink to dark red, depending on your flow and day of your period. Fresh blood tends to be bright while older blood is darker, and both are normal to be seen during periods.
Myth 6: Girls will lose their virginity if they use tampons during their first periods
This is absolutely a myth because, let's set this straight: a broken hymen does not prove a person has had sex and virginity is a social construct anyway. It should not be a worry.
Dr Liew agreed. She explained, "If losing your virginity is referring to breaking the hymen (a thin piece of fibrous tissue that is found inside the opening of the vagina), you must know that the hymen naturally already has holes that allow menstrual blood to flow through."
"The hymen can also break on its own from other everyday movements, not just sexual intercourse."
So, no, using a tampon will not take away anyone's 'virginity'. Although for first time users, it may be difficult to insert a tampon the first few times and that is normal. Take your time or make an appointment with a healthcare provider to teach you.
Myth 7: You can't get pregnant from having sex during your period
"It is highly unlikely, but not impossible," cautioned Dr Liew.
She told us that even though the general menstrual cycle is predictable, some women have irregular menstruation as well as irregular ovulation (release of eggs from the ovaries).
So, there is a possibility that her fertility window could overlap with her period.
"And so, even though you are bleeding, there is a chance that you could get pregnant when having sex because you have no idea if you are still ovulating," she said.
Therefore, always practise safe sex.
Myth 8: Taking painkillers every time you have period cramps is bad for you
It's common to have menstrual cramps during the first couple of days of your period.
If natural remedies such as using a heat pack does not relieve your pain, it is definitely okay to take painkillers for your period pain, such as paracetamol or over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications.
It should not be shameful to take painkillers – they not only help to relieve discomfort and cause your uterus to cramp less, but can also make your period flow lighter. You will also feel better to carry out daily chores.
Ask a doctor for a prescription on how to take NSAIDS safely, but most importantly, always take them after food to prevent stomach ulcers.
Myth 9: Women who spend a lot of time together will have their menstrual cycles sync up
While period syncing is a popular belief that women will start menstruating on the same day every month after spending time together, it is difficult to prove.
An initial study in the 1970s suggested that body chemicals called pheromones synchronised the cycles of women living together.
However, further studies failed to support those findings and showed that they may instead be random events, and that synchronisation is more likely due to the laws of probability.
Myth 10: Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), mood swings, and period pain is all just in your head
According to WebMD, PMS is a real syndrome of emotional and physical symptoms experienced usually one to two weeks before your period.
Symptoms vary greatly among women and can include bloating, headaches, mood swings, sleep changes, and acne.
"As many as 75% of women experience PMS," added Dr Liew. She added that it is degrading for anyone to dismiss the experience and period pain reported by a large minority of women, as well as prevent them from seeking relief from their symptoms.
"Some women do require more emotional support from those around them during this time."
And that's it! But, to reiterate: Menstruation is a regular biological function and not some ancient taboo
The practices surrounding women having their periods should be supportive, not limiting!
Contraception does not have to be a taboo topic either. Here is all you need to know about birth control in Malaysia:
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