We understand. Since blood strains can make people feel self-conscious, we figured it would be beneficial and try to clear up some misconceptions about menstruation.
Remember when we were given the dreaded talk about sex, hair, odour, and other hormonal changes that signalled the impending arrival of puberty? The menstrual cycle is a natural phase that almost all women go through from adolescence to menopause during their reproductive years. Despite this, there are many misconceptions about menstruation, likely due to the fact that many females (and males) are reluctant to discuss it.
Exaggerated patterns are the product of socio-cultural norms. Body hair, for example, is associated with masculinity. So, ladies here’s some hot wax to smear all over your body, because being roasted in hot liquid in hell has to be genuine! A variety of cultural dictums has shaped the ‘ideal’ woman. These stereotypes apply to a woman’s menstrual period as well. These period myths and misconceptions about menstruation lead to gender inequality and prejudice.
Table of Contents
Menstruation’s Mystical Roots
Menstruation is explained in Hindu culture by a tale that dates back to the Vedic period. Indradev assassinated a saint named Veritas and committed a felony of brahma-hatya in a moment of pique (killing a brahmin). When his sacrifices to Lord Vishnu were addressed, he was advised to divide his sins between the earth, plants, water, and women. The curse, on the other hand, had to be accompanied by a reward. While the blessing for women was the ability to produce life, the curse was menstruation.
The Influence of Menstrual Myths
When our mother told us this story, we saw it as a story about a woman’s bravery in sharing other people’s grief. It represents the fact that selfless acts attract blessings. The stereotypes associated with menstruation, on the other hand, have influenced society to believe the exact contrary. “She is too sentimental,” someone says of a woman’s assessment. “It must be the time of the season,” a woman’s righteous rage is misinterpreted as a menstrual rant. Owing to the absence of gender-friendly facilities in schools, many Indian girls fall out when they start menstruating. Menstruation, menstrual cycles, and sexual health are all poorly understood due to the absence of gender-sensitive schooling. A woman’s psychological and personal well-being is worsening.
Most Popular Menstrual Periods Myths and Rumours
It’s past time to debunk some of the most popular period myths.
1. Menstrual pain feels similar to a migraine.
Period pain is nothing like something else you’ve ever felt. The discomfort we experience during our periods is true. We’re not talking about getting a headache or colliding with a sharp bend. Dysmenorrhea is a medical term used to describe menstrual pain. Around 20% of women suffer from dysmenorrhea, which is so extreme that it interferes with their everyday activities. Even for the other 80%, it isn’t “just like a headache”. It can impair our ability to focus and increase our anxiety. So, if your body tells you to take time off from work, curl up in bed and relax before the cramps go away, do so!
2. A menstrual cycle is exclusive to women.
Every woman does not get her cycle. Not every woman getting her period considers herself to be a woman. The trans community is a social concept to which less people now adhere. Transsexual men may or may not have cycles, while transsexual women may or may not have periods. A typical man has a monthly cycle as well (no blood loss but a hormonal cycle). This is a problem that affects people.
3. Blood from a period is filthy blood.
Period blood isn’t a byproduct of the body’s toxins-flushing method. Consider it an advanced type of vaginal secretion, with traces of blood, uterine material, mucus membrane, and bacteria. But that doesn’t mean women can’t have sex, and it doesn’t mean the circumstances aren’t good down there. Period blood is not the same as blood that constantly circulates in the veins. In reality, the blood is less condensed. There are less blood cells in it than in regular blood.
Menstrual bleeding isn’t the body’s method of removing toxins. If you were expecting, your period blood would have provided nourishment for your child. It’s similar to the blood that flows through your veins but contains less blood cells. What could be more filthy than something that has the power to bring new life?
4. A woman who is menstruating is unclean.
Women are not allowed to enter religious institutions, according to the so-called representatives and interpreters of our faith and religious texts. Menstruating women are referred to as impure. Treatment became a curse over time, and it was twisted into prejudices and taboos. The real explanation for this is that a woman’s uterus is regarded as sacred even by the Gods because it is the source of new life. This is why women perform the Paanchang Namaskar to Gods instead of the Shaashtaang Namaskaar, which men perform.
5. Women are always around ‘the time of the month.’
First and foremost, it’s important to recognise that a female’s menstrual cycle is distinct from her era. Menstrual period is the period during which a woman bleeds, but her monthly cycle is the transition from one period to the next. The popular belief is that a woman’s menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, but this is just an estimate. Some women have extended cycles, ranging from 29 to 35 days, while others have shorter cycles. Work, weight variability, feelings, and medicine can all influence when a woman’s period arrives. As a result, remarking that women are “still on their period” is frowned upon. Every time, like every woman, is a one-of-a-kind experience.
6. When women are on their cycle, it’s perfectly acceptable to ignore their feelings.
During this time, a woman’s body undergoes significant physical changes. When a female is “PMSing,” her estrogen levels plunge while her progesterone levels skyrocket in the days leading up to the start of her cycle. Progesterone is connected to the portion of the brain that induces fear, panic, and depression, while estrogen is linked to dopamine, the “good hormone.” Hormones have a confusing effect on mood, so while progesterone can depress some sentiments, it also has a mood-balancing impact. It’s tempting to dismiss seemingly dramatic mood swings as “just hormones,” but mood swings triggered by hormones are real.
7. Periods are a private matter.
Periods are a biological crisis. Menstrual sanitation was declared a public health concern by the United Nations in 2014. Many people may not have exposure to the period hygiene, services, or assistance they need. In India, girls skip one to two days of school every month due to their cycles, which can significantly impact their education and future.
8. Hormones are what make women who they are.
When it comes to hormones, women have long been criticized for being “hormonal.” To understand female behaviour, some men have even equated our emotions to hysteria, as if it were a disease, but here’s the deal: Everyone has glands, and nobody likes them to be interfered with. Not even men. Take, for example, this male contraceptive report, which was halted because participants were unable to cope with the contraception’s health consequences of acne, injection discomfort, and psychological disturbance. Women embrace the same side effects from birth control, even though they have a negative impact on our overall health.
9. Menstrual blood is dangerous
Common correlations with evil spirits, guilt, and humiliation around human reproduction also compound cultural expectations and spiritual taboos on menstrual periods. In certain cultures, women bury their menstrual clothes to save them from being used by bad forces. Menstrual blood is considered harmful in Surinam, and a malevolent individual may cause harm to a menstruating female by black enchantment. A female’s menstrual blood is often thought to be capable of imposing her will on a man. Surprisingly, such principles are still performed in Asia, including India. However, no logical or empirical explanation seems to exist.
10. Nutritional myths for period
In some states of Asia, strict dietary prohibitions are also observed during the menstrual period, such as the avoidance of sour foods such as yoghurt, tamarind, and ketchup by menstruating girls. The menstrual flow is thought to be disrupted or stopped by such foods. In terms of exercise, several studies in India or anywhere else have shown that many young girls assume that exercising or engaging in physical activity during menstrual cycle aggravates dysmenorrhea, while real workout may help alleviate premenstrual disorder and dysmenorrhea complications, as well as bloating. Exercise also stimulates the release of serotonin, which makes one feel happier.
11. The Impact of Period Myths on Women’s Lives
Many communities’ taboos regarding menstruation have an effect on girls’ and women’s psychological well-being, mindset, lifestyle, and, most significantly, fitness. When females in many less advanced nations start menstruating, they quit school in huge numbers. Over 23% of Indian girls fall into this category.
In addition, female teachers face challenges due to their monthly menstrual cycle. As a result, the absence of sufficient hormonal security alternatives and/or clean, secure, and personal sanitary conditions for female teachers and students and a gender-unfriendly classroom environment and infrastructure jeopardise the privacy rights.
There are also sanitation and safety problems to address when it comes to females and periods. In India, over 77 percent of menstruating females use an old fabric that is often recycled. Furthermore, ashes, papers, leaf litter, and husk sand are used by 88 percent of Indian women to facilitate absorption. Inefficient lavatories and lack of protection can increase vulnerability to infections, with the odour of period blood putting girls at risk of stigmatisation.
The latter may have serious consequences for their mental health. The difficulty of discussing menstrual taboos and attitudes is exacerbated by the fact that girls’ awareness and understanding of adolescence, menstruation, and sexual health are extremely limited.
Read Also: Menstruation in India is still taboo!
How to Dispel Myths for Periods
In an attempt to optimise the reproductive health of teenage girls and women, it is necessary to take a competitive strategy to combat the perceptions and social restrictions regarding menstruation, based on the evidence available.
- The first and most important strategy in this regard is to raise consciousness about reproductive health among young women. Young girls also have little awareness of menstruation due to their moms and other female relatives’ aversion to addressing the subject with them. Older women may be unaware of scientific reality or good hygienic practices, instead passing on societal taboos and prohibitions that must be followed.
- Community-based reproductive health campaigns can be beneficial in accomplishing this goal. There is also a need to raise awareness about the menstrual period among school administrators.
- Female empowerment by literacy and increased decision-making capacity can also help in this regard. Because of their poorer literacy rate, women and girls are often exempted from judgement calls. Female rights play an important role in maintaining the quality of the population as a whole and, in specific, in breaking down cultural taboos.
- With a sex viewpoint, sanitary napkins and appropriate hygiene and shower facilities should be made accessible. There are approximately 132 toilet facilities for females in Delhi, which is just 8% of the 1534 for males. Low-cost napkins can be manufactured and distributed domestically, especially in the rural and shanty town areas where access to the material is limited. Since 2010, the Indian government has authorised a program under the National Rural Health Mission to strengthen menstrual hygiene for 1.5 million teenage girls by delivering low-cost sanitary pads in remote regions.
- In order to combat deeply ingrained social values and cultural stigma, increasing the position of the man and resolving the male partner’s belief system is also important. Men and boys usually know much less about menstruation, but it is critical that they must do so to help their wives, children, mothers, teachers, workers, and peers.
- Health professionals, Social Health Campaigners, and Anganwadi volunteers must be sensitised about menstrual cycle biology so that they can propagate this information in the community and mobilise welfare support to dispel menstruation-related misconceptions. Clinics that have adolescent-friendly medical services must also have specialised personnel to tackle these challenges.
As a result, it is obvious that multi-sectoral changes are necessary. Physical infrastructure, hygiene and sewerage projects must be linked to health awareness and reproductive health services in order to approach the problem holistically. Menstruation is a perfectly natural biological occurrence, and young girls and women should be aware that they only have the ability to reproduce once.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Isn’t menstrual blood simply blood?
Blood and extra fluid from the endometrium make up menstrual blood. It may also comprise the remains of an unfertilized egg that travelled down the fallopian tube into the womb during ovulation.
2. Is Soaking in a Napkin or Tampon a Symptom of Menorrhagia?
It is not unusual for a pad or tampon to leak through. On the intense flow days of your period, it’s likely that you’ll need to turn from a normal to a more absorbent or “mega” pad or tampon. Although it may seem that you are losing a lot of fluid during the menstrual period, women only lose about 2-3 tablespoons on average. However, some leakage can be too severe or last a long time. A truly heavy period is described as dripping through pads or panty liners every hour for several hours, having to double up on hygienic protection or waking up in the middle of the night to adjust it, leaking for more than seven days, or exhibiting anaemia symptoms.
3. Who Gets a Lot of Periods?
Anovulatory patterns are the most common cause of menorrhagia, which is caused by a mood disorder (menstrual cycles without ovulation). There won’t be any progesterone in the system to maintain the cycle normal if an egg doesn’t always get extracted during the usual ovulation period, resulting in heavy postpartum cramping. Menorrhagia is most common in teenage girls who have just begun ovulating, as well as females in their 40s and 50s who are entering menopause.
4. Is It Safe to Exercise During Menstruation?
There’s no excuse to avoid exercising or routine strenuous activity while you’re on your period unless you have extreme cramping (dysmenorrhea) or abnormal blood flow (menorrhagia) that meddles with your ability to engage in sports exercise. Your time is a natural bodily feature, not a disability. Many nutritionists advise exercising during menstruation to help relieve cramping because physical exercise, such as cycling, sprinting, swimming, surfing, or dancing, releases antioxidants that block pain.
5. Is it possible to become pregnant while menstruating?
Although getting pregnant while on your cycle is impossible, it is still probable. If you get pregnant during your time, it means you either have an exceptionally short monthly flow or a long period that links your ovulatory stage with the start of menstruation. Since an egg only lives in your oviduct for around 24 hours before being fertilised, if sperm is active during that period (and sperm will live for 3 to 4 days), you could become pregnant.
6. Is PMS just a figment of your imagination?
PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a legitimate syndrome, despite its image as being something that people use to justify their zippy attitudes or chocolate hunger pangs at the time of their cycles. It’s marked by a slew of signs that generally begin a week or two before menses and fade by the time the period arrives. According to Mayo Clinic experts, about three out of every four menstruating patients face physical and/or emotional hormone levels. Breast sensitivity, inflammation, water retention or weight gain, insomnia, joint pain, nausea, hunger pangs, mood swings, stress, anxiety, restlessness, and other PMS symptoms are all normal. PMS may be relieved by making lifestyle changes, taking medications, or taking nutritional or dietary supplements.