The menstrual cycle is a normal process experienced by nearly all women from puberty until menopause—their childbearing years. Despite this, there are still a lot of myths and misunderstandings about menstruation, perhaps because many women (and men) find it embarrassing to talk about openly.
Let’s see what the medical definition says.
Menstruation is a natural biological process that happens in women’s bodies. Every month, a woman’s body prepares itself for pregnancy; if no pregnancy happens, the built up lining in the uterus is shed, which marks the start of the woman’s period. Menstrual blood exits the uterus through the cervix, and flows out of the body through the vagina. Menstrual blood is composed of blood, extra tissue from the uterine lining, and possibly remains of the unfertilized egg cell that went down the fallopian tube and into the uterus during ovulation.
What are the common myths you’ve heard?
Myth #1 Exercise and strenuous activities should be avoided during your period.
There’s no reason to avoid exercise or regular strenuous activities while you’re on your period, unless you’re experiencing severe cramping (dysmenorrhea) or excessive blood flow (menorrhagia) that hinders you from doing physical activities. Your period is part of your body’s normal functions, and you should be able to carry on with your daily activities normally. In fact, doctors recommend getting exercise during your period, especially aerobic activities such as walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming because they can produce chemicals that help block out pain.
Myth #2 Period blood smells bad.
Every woman emits her own unique scent, but menstrual blood itself has no smell. It’s composed of blood and tissue shed from your uterus, and may smell a bit less “fresh” once it’s blended with naturally occurring bacteria in the body—but don’t worry, it’s highly unlikely that other people can smell it. Have you ever smelled someone else’s period? Doubtful. Vagina’s aren’t intended to smell like flowers despite what sanitary pads and tampon commercials might make you think. Even so, it’s important to keep yourself clean by changing your sanitary pads or tampons regularly, and washing your vulva with soap and water (just don’t douche your vagina because it can disrupt the pH balance and make it easier for infections to set). Since the thought that menstrual blood smells bad is just an illusion, you don’t have to worry whether other people can smell it. If you notice that it smells fishy or there’s something off about it, consult your doctor. Foul odor down there may be a sign of a yeast infection.
Myth #3 You lose a lot of blood during your period.
This is totally not true. On average, women only lose around two to three tablespoons of blood every period, or up to four tablespoons if you experience menorrhagia—however, there are also outliers. If the amount of blood you lose already affects your life, then it’s time to worry about it. Filling up more than seven sanitary pads or tampons a day, bleeding for more than seven days, or becoming anemic are all indicators of losing too much blood, and you should see your doctor. Take note that heavy bleeding isn’t normal or healthy, and the amount of blood women normally lose during their period isn’t even close to too much blood.
Myth #4 Don’t wash your hair or take a bath when you’re on your period.
There is absolutely no purpose of avoiding washing your hair or not taking a bath while on your period. In fact, a warm bath can help relieve menstrual cramps and premenstrual tension.
Myth #5 It’s unhealthy to have sex during your period.
Having sex during menstruation may make some women feel uncomfortable, but it’s completely okay if you do so. This myth may have come directly from a religious teaching that forbids sex during menstruation. Sex during your period doesn’t pose any health risk—in fact, there has been evidence that suggests sex help relieve menstrual cramps. If you choose to have sex during your period, go ahead! Just don’t forget about contraception if you don’t have plans of getting pregnant.
Myth #6 Washing your face with your first period blood will prevent pimples.
This is disgusting, unsanitary, and false all at the same time. This ritual and pimple growth have no connection at all. Pimples and outbreaks can be attributed to fluctuating hormones during the menstrual cycle, which can make your face more oily and lead to pimples.
Myth 7# Jump from the third step of the stairs to make your period last for only three days.
Aside from being false, this myth is also unsafe. Menstrual flow normally lasts three to five days, sometimes even seven, and jumping from the third step of the stairs has nothing to do with how long it will last.