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Period Myths

Don't Believe These Lies About Menstruation

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Updated March 26, 2014

Myths about periods and the menstrual cycle have been around as long as women have been menstruating. On a recent visit to the Museum of Menstruation, a strangely interesting archive of the history of menstruation and women’s health, I read in a 1963 booklet written for mothers that … “your daughter may have heard that a dental filling will fall out of her tooth if put in on “those days.” Or that a permanent wave won’t “take” then.”

The booklet calls these myths “absurdities,” then advises mothers to explain to their daughters that good diet, regular elimination, regular exercise, and good posture…” help prevent menstrual cramps.

OK, so maybe they were half-right. Good nutrition and regular exercise can help to reduce the severity of menstruation cramps, PMS, and PMDD. Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of regular physical activity also improves your overall physical and emotional health, as well as reduces your risk of many diseases including heart diseases and cancer.

We’ve all heard myths about menstruation. Sometimes we know the myths are just that – myths. Then there are times when we’re not sure, and times when we just believe the myth. How many of these myths have you believed?

  1. You can’t go swimming during your period. Perhaps this myth started in the days before internal devices such as tampons were popular. Or it could have been a fear of cramps while swimming or that menstrual blood could contaminate the swimming pool. Regardless of what started this myth, there is no reason that you cannot safely swim during menstruation.
  2. It’s unhealthy to have sex during your period. While some women feel may feel uncomfortable about having sexual intercourse during menstruation, it’s perfectly OK, and may even help relieve menstrual cramps. In fact, although not scientifically proven, researchers have associated sex during menstruation with decreased endometriosis, as well as with several other health benefits including a long life; absence of heart disease, stroke, and breast cancer; healthy immunity; regulating the menstrual cycle; pain management; and improved quality of life. While the health benefits of sexual intercourse need more study, there is no health reason not to have sex during menstruation, so, go ahead, and have sex during your period if you want to!
  3. Don’t wash your hair when you’re menstruating. There is absolutely no reason not to wash your hair, or take a bath or shower during menstruation. In fact, a nice warm bath can do a lot to relieve menstrual cramps and premenstrual tension. You might want to avoid cold water during your period since it could, theoretically, cause uterine contractions that could increase menstrual cramps.
  4. Girls shouldn’t use tampons during their first periods. Another complete falsehood. There is no reason not to use tampons during your first period. Just make sure you read the instructions and insert the tampon correctly. A properly inserted tampon doesn’t pinch or cause any type of discomfort. In fact, you won’t feel anything if your tampon is inserted correctly.
    See: Tampon Tips for Teens
  5. You won’t get pregnant if you have sex during menstruation. Don’t count on it! Unless you’re using The Pill, an internal device, or another hormonal type of contraception, there are no safe days. Unless you are in a long-term, monogamous relationship, you should always use condoms during sex, even if you take The Pill or use another form of contraception. Contraceptives do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases or STDs.
  6. You shouldn’t exercise or do strenuous activities during your period. Menstruation is a normal function. Your period is not a disability, you can do anything during your period that you can do when you’re not menstruating. Once treated as a time when women were "sick," menstruating women rested, stayed home, and didn't socialize.

Sources:

How Shall I Tell My Daughter?; Modess 1963, MUM.org; accessed 09/18/07.

Ask Dr. Cullins: Sex; Planned Parenthood; accessed 09/18/07.

Readers Respond: Menstrual Myths Girls Have Been Told

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Menstrual Disorders
  4. Myths and History
  5. Myths About Periods: Lies Women Are Told About Menstruation

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