From wilting tulsi plants to ruining pickles, the myths and taboos surrounding menstruation abound aplenty. In some parts of the world, women are shunned from kitchens, places of worship and in the others, they are asked to reduce contact with the outside world. And a common denominator in all these myths is that women are impure when they are on their periods. Is it true? Is there any scientific backing to these myths? Why are they still in practice?
These questions are just as enigmatic as the origin of these taboos, and they are prevalent not only in third world countries but around the globe. The reason?
Lack of Awareness
While there is no rule book when it comes to periods, there are few things that science can help you logically answer. Increased awareness is a step towards eliminating the social stigma and the queasy feeling that accompanies many women when they talk about their period.
So here at the Logical Indian, we decided to bust a few myths surrounding menstruation and ride the crimson wave with a little more awareness.
Myth 1: The Universal Period Cycle
Period cycles vary for every woman. There is no universal scale. It’s perfectly natural for a period to last anywhere between three to seven days. Most women who haven’t reached menopause usually have a period every 28 days.
However, a healthy menstrual cycle can range from every 21 to 35 days. And as generations go by, even the age at which girls attain their menarche can be faster. Contrary to our older generations, it’s not uncommon for girls as young as 8/9 years old to start puberty too.
This is thought to be due to several factors such as better overall health and diet. However, other things such as stress, being overweight and climate can all influence the age at which girls start puberty.
Myth 2: Hot showers increase the flow
If there is one thing about hygiene and personal care, it’s that it is never harmful. While hot water can help stimulate blood flow, this can help relieve menstrual cramps and ease muscular tension. Only make sure you don’t burn yourself on scalding water or freeze in icy cold waters. Period or no period, there nothing comfortable about that.
The pressure from the water may temporarily prevent the blood from flowing out of the vagina. Although as soon as you are out of your shower, everything will be back to normal.
Myth 3: Say no to Exercise; avoid swimming
Contrary to popular beliefs exercising during periods results in better performance, sleep, mood and in combating period cramps and PMS symptoms. Just make sure you have plenty of fluids and keep a check on a healthy diet. As hard as this seems, this is vital on any other day too.
And when it comes to swimming, pads don’t exactly hold up in the pools. But, with the right hygiene products, you are all set to swiftly cut across waters. Using tampons or menstrual cups is an option you might want to look into. And no, don’t worry, you will not bleed in the pool or attract sharks with your period blood. That’s a taking it a little to far.
Myth 4: Your periods can sync with your girl gang
Women who often spend an awful lot of time together might tell you they get periods around the same time. Weird coincidence? That’s precisely what it is. While there are many ways to prove you and your girl gang are similar, syncing periods is a bit of a stretch.
Numerous research studies conducted on period synchrony haven’t surfaced with any conclusive proof to validate this claim. Maybe in the meanwhile, your girl gang could share a pair of pants instead like the movie ‘the sisterhood of travelling pants.’
Myth 5: Period blood has a bad smell
While we each have our unique fragrance, menstrual blood itself has no odour. It’s made of blood and tissue that sheds from your uterus, and when mixed with the naturally occurring bacteria in your body, it may smell a little less than fresh, but this doesn’t warrant that anxiety where you assume people will smell a repulsive odour from you.While we are at it, here are few facts that pass the scanner.
Fact 1: PMSing is real
PMSing is a word that is casually thrown around. It’s not all in your head. It’s a signal your body is giving you that you might have your periods soon. Common symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome can be emotional (like irritability, depression or fatigue or and physical (cramps or headaches). It’s just a part of the changing hormone levels in the body.
Fact 2: You don’t lose a lot of blood
Sanitary pads give exaggerated imagery of how much women bleed. On average, a woman only loses about 60 millilitres, or 2.7 ounces, of blood during each period, according to PubMed Health. (That’s just a little more than 16 teaspoons throughout your entire cycle)
Fact 3: Dark Chocolate helps
Here’s another reason to love chocolates, Dark chocolate that helps to avoid period cramps and mood swings. It is rich in antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory. It also has magnesium which boosts serotonin in the brain. Other foods that help include Pomegranate, which is a natural diuretic with high fibre content. Bananas and pineapples help with reducing period cramps and give your body the magnesium and the vitamins it needs. Pineapple also helps with body water retention.
Fact 4: Breastfeeding your baby can affect your cycle
In some parts of the world, women continue to breastfeed their newborns for several years – not just for the standard six months as is common practice in Western cultures nowadays.
Interestingly, as a woman breastfeeds, it can serve as a natural contraceptive (due to the interaction of certain hormones) and therefore, she doesn’t get a period. These routines mean that a woman can live with relatively few periods throughout her childbearing years. That is if she chooses to breastfeed her child for long and often enough.
Fact 5: You can get pregnant if you are on your period
While the average length of a menstrual cycle is 28 days, many women have cycles that last between 21 and 35 days. Ovulation also varies—women with a longer cycle of 35 days might ovulate around day 21, while those with a shorter cycle of 21 days are likely to ovulate around Day 7. Also the egg you release during ovulation can live for between 12 and 24 hours. Sperm can live for about three days. You do the math. If there is one thing constant about periods, it’s unpredictability.