How is menstruation related to pregnancy? Find out.
Menstruation has always been a hush-hush affair.
From medical stores wrapping sanitary napkins in a black bag to women addressing it with weird code names, there's so much mystery and taboo around it, that there's more confusion than aid.
We decided to bust a few common period myths.
1. Myth: Women lose a lot of blood during menstruation.
Fact: The amount of blood normally lost during each cycle is only 28 to 80 millilitres in total (1.5 to 5 tbsp)
This equals 10 to 15 saturated tampons or pads per cycle, with no more than six per day.
Bleeding is relatively heavy during the first few days, and then reduces rapidly.
If you feel your bleeding is abnormally heavy, you might have to consult your doctor.
2. Myth: You cannot get pregnant when you are menstruating.
Fact: Yes, this is rare, but not impossible.
Some women have very short cycles, and can actually ovulate (release an egg) while still shedding the lining of the uterus.
If pregnancy is not desired, it is always necessary to use a condom or opt for other methods of birth control during intercourse.
3. Myth: Virgins should not use tampons
Fact: A tampon is a soft, absorbent cotton wand which can be used in place of a sanitary napkin.
It is inserted into the vagina and soaks up blood as the lining is shed.
It is often presumed that inserting a tampon will tear the hymen in front of the opening to the vagina.
An undamaged hymen was considered proof of virginity. The hymen is usually torn when a woman first has sexual intercourse.
However, the hymen can be torn even by rigorous physical activity or something as accidental as riding a horse or falling off a bike.
Inserting a tampon will not rupture the hymen, since a tampon is smaller and softer than an erect penis.
4. Myth: Menstrual cramps have no cure.
Fact: Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions of the muscle in the wall of the uterus. It is common for menstruation to be accompanied by cramps.
The body produces prostaglandin, a hormone which stimulates the uterus to contract.
Taking birth control pills or antiprostaglandin medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen can lessen cramps. You can also talk to your doctor.
5. Myth: You should not exercise when you are on your period.
Fact: Unless you are experiencing severe cramps and fatigue, it is absolutely safe to exercise during your period.
Exercising when you are on your period increases your energy and vigour leaving you feeling great. Menstruation does not hinder your regular activities in any way.
6. Myth: It is unadvisable to have sex when you are menstruating.
Fact: Some of you might feel uncomfortable of various reasons, but medically you are at the same risk of contracting sexually transmitted disease as at any time of the month.
Menstruation blood increases the probability of transmitting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) if either of the partners is affected.
Always use protection, whether menstruating or not. You are at the same risk for contracting an STD during menstruation as at any other time of the month.
If either partner has an STD, the menstrual blood can make it easier to transmit. You should always use a condom for protection whether menstruating or not.
7. Myth: Menstrual blood is dirty and gross
Fact: Menstrual blood is nothing but the lining of the uterus which has been shed.
The lining builds up every month in order to nourish a fertilised egg.
It is not dirty or gross; it is just a normal body function. The blood only develops an odour when exposed to air.
Maintaining hygiene by frequent changes of tampons or pads can help prevent odours.
8. Myth: You're supposed to get your period by a certain age
Fact: Remember those anxious moments when most girls your age had got their period and you were freaking out thinking if you are ever going to get it?
But girls, it is normal for you and your friends to get your periods at different times.
Most girls start menstruating any time between the ages of 9 and 15, this is also often related to the time that other women in their families got theirs.
But, if there's no sign of your period by the time you're 15, it's a good idea to check with your doctor.
9. Myth: If you miss a period, you're pregnant
Fact: Although pregnancy is the most common reason for a missed period, but there are several other reasons why you might have missed your period.
Your period might not necessarily be on an exact cycle, like every 28 days.
Missing a period is even more common in the first year after you start menstruating.
It can take a about a year for your period to become regular after you first get it. And for some, it might never be regular due to various reasons.
But still, if you are sexually active and miss a period, see your doctor for a pregnancy test.
10. Myth: PMS is only in your head
Fact: It's not just a catchy phrase or an handy excuse to get away with your mood swings.
Pre-menstrual stress is real and totally normal.
Around 20 to 50 percent women have both emotional and physical symptoms five days before their periods start.
Exercise helps relieve this stress, but you might need to see your doctor if it's really bad.
11. Myth: It's unhealthy to skip your period.
Fact: Hormonal birth control can lessen the bleeding or stop your period all together.
Some skip their periods due to health problems, such as anemia or painful cramps. But it's advisable to check with your doctor, if you are sexually active, and use birth control to skip your periods.
You could also get routine pregnancy tests just in case.
12. Myth : Your period stops when you get in the water
Fact: Your period doesn't slow down or stop in water -- it just may not flow outside the vagina because of the counter pressure of the water.
So, if you're planning to take a dip, you would want to use a tampon or a menstrual cup.
13. Myth: You can't swim in the ocean when you have your period because sharks will attack you
Fact: No, they cannot smell you. There's no scientific reason which explains this bizarre myth. Thank heavens!
It is not as complex as you think it is. Those days of the month will seem less cumbersome if you concentrate more on facts and less on hearsay.
Eat healthy, work out, and stay informed.
Visit a doctor if you notice anything strange. Embrace menstruation, it's not something to be ashamed of.
Lead image used for representational purposes only. Image: Esparta Palma/Wikimedia Commons