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Period myths you should stop believing

Health
 Many people shy away from talking about periods (Photo: iStock)

I was recently in the company of a male friend and my menses or what some call ‘shark week’ started earlier than expected.

When I informed him of this, he was utterly shocked but what was even more surprising was his response; “I thought all ladies receive their periods at the end of the month?”

Details about the monthly period are often obscured in such myths and beliefs and today we revise these misconceptions:

Periods only occur at the end of the month

A period is not like a month-end paycheck. It can occur at any time of the month depending on one's cycle. The menstrual cycle is the entire time from one period to the next. The timings and length vary from woman to woman, the average being a 28-day cycle.

Some women however experience longer cycles from 29 to 35 days while others experience shorter cycles due to various reasons. Medication, lifestyle, and health conditions are some of the factors that can affect one’s cycle.

Period blood is dirty blood

Let's get it clear that period blood is not rejected blood. Just because it comes out of the vagina, it should not be equated to a mechanism of flushing toxins out of the body.

Quite the contrary, the menstrual fluid is just but a harmless mixture of blood, vaginal secretions, mucus, and tissues that were not used to cultivate a baby. Period blood is not dirty and one should not be termed as dirty or impure because they are on their menses.

 Not all women have their periods at the end of the month (Photo: iStock)
You can spread infection when on your period

According to Dr Jane Machira, a medical expert at Clinix, the first question to ask your partner is if they have any infection before engaging in sexual relations.

If one had a blood-related infection or a yeast infection, it’s easier to transmit because then, the chances of spreading it are high, especially when untreated.

Dr Machira further states that period blood is usually pure, and assuming the lady did not have any kind of infection, then no transmission will occur through sexual intercourse.

Period pain is like any other pain

It doesn't come as a surprise to hear that menstrual cramps are indeed painful. Some women experience light and painless periods while some describe it as the most agonizing experience of their lives.

Painful menstruation is also called dysmenorrhea. It’s not like stubbing your toe on the edge of a table, or one hot slap on your bare back.

The pain can render you debilitated, forcing you to take a break from school or work and curl up on your bed, sofa, or even the floor in agony hoping for the cramping to end.

One cannot get pregnant during their period

Yes! you can very much get pregnant during your period. Cycles are different and if you ovulate early, it is possible to get pregnant. For instance, if you have unprotected sex on the last day of your period, and ovulate two days later, you might get pregnant.

Sperms can live for up to five days within the female reproductive tract and there is a slight chance for one to find its way to a released egg. It's okay to enjoy sex even during your period as long as you take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from unwanted pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections.

 It is important to know that period pain is not like any other pain (Photo: iStock)
Menstrual pain reduces when you give birth

Taking comparisons from different ladies, each had a different experience after birth. For some, there was an increase in flow but a decrease in pain, and the latter for others. According to Dr Jane Machira, this can qualify as both a myth and a truth.

She states that the menstrual pain levels after giving birth vary depending on the individual. Every woman has a type of hormone called prostaglandins which is responsible for dilation or cramping of the uterus.

It is, therefore, possible that after birth, the prostaglandins could make the uterus dilate more than it used to. On the contrary, someone who used to experience a lot of menstrual cramps could end up finding it a relief.

Periods sync

I bet you’re not the only one who's heard of or believes in period synchrony. Period syncing is based on a theory (The McClintock effect) that when in physical contact with another menstruating person, your pheromones (a chemical produced which changes the behaviour of another if of the same species) influence each other, aligning your monthly cycle.

Some research has however gone to disapprove of these claims. According to Forbes, a study was conducted by Oxford University and the period tracking app company Clue. The data collected from over 1500 people demonstrated that it's unlikely that women can disrupt each other's menstrual cycles by being in close proximity to one another.

A similar study was published in 2006 which involved 186 people living in a dorm in China. The conclusion was that women do not sync their menstrual cycles. It is all but a coincidence.

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