Buckle in – it’s time to bust through some period myths
Over the last thousand years there have been some really extraordinary allegations made about the ‘curse’ of menses.
According to Roman naturalist Pliny The Elder (yes his actual name, yes people took him seriously), periods had the power to destroy crops, send dogs mad, wither fruit and kill bees.
In the 50s, people said you shouldn’t wash your hair during your period because you would get cancer, and medieval Europeans thought period blood gave you leprosy.
While you’re less likely to hear such horror stories on your lunch break these days, there are still a lot of misconceptions about what can and can’t happen during your period. So whether you’re a girl worried that a beach trip will end with Jaws chewing your leg off, or a guy who read somewhere that period sex would corrode your penis, let’s take a look at exactly how wrong these are.
#1: You can’t have sex on your period
You absolutely can!
It might not be your particular jam, but period sex is 100% possible and a lot more people are having it than they might admit. It can be a bit messy depending where you are in your cycle, but the muscle contractions your body notches up during sex have actually been reported to reduce side effects like cramping.
So if you feel the urge, in the words of Crazy-Ex Girlfriend, “put down a towel and party ‘till it’s dry!”
#2: You can’t get pregnant while on your period
If you take any one of these debunks to heart, LET IT BE THIS ONE.
While it is highly unlikely that you will get pregnant if you have sex during your period, there’s no foolproof way to tell when you will next ovulate – so it can still happen. If you’re planning to indulge, don’t let your contraceptive guard down.
#3: If you miss a period, you’re DEFINITELY pregnant
This is not strictly true. If you’re having unprotected sex and you miss a period, then pregnancy is definitely the most common cause – but there are lots of other reasons why you may miss a period, especially when you’re a teenager.
Although most people who get periods have one every four to five weeks, they can often occur over a much longer, or shorter, time span.
Your overall physical and mental health can impact on your cycle – so factors like strenuous exercise, certain medications, stress, serious weight loss or moving between timezones can all make a difference. If you’re worried about an irregular cycle, make an appointment to see a doctor so you can talk it through with them.
#4: PMS is not a thing
Oh, it’s a thing. One of the biggest effects of getting your period is called pre-menstrual syndrome or tension (PMS, PMT) – and the symptoms can hit you up to two weeks before you start your period. No one knows exactly what causes PMS, but it’s widely thought to be changes in your hormone levels.
PMS can cause breast pain, cramps or muscle pain, spots, an upset stomach, mood swings, bouts of festering irritation, anxiety or difficulty concentrating – so don’t let anyone tell you you’re just ‘being moody’.
#5: You shouldn’t exercise or go swimming on your period
A lot of period folklore dictates girls should do little more than lie face-down in a darkened room groaning while they’re on their period – but if you feel up to it, light exercise can help ease the side-effects of a period like cramping.
It’s an urban legend is that periods stop when you get into water – you will keep bleeding, but the pressure of water can sometimes slow the flow.
However, that does not mean that if you go swimming on your period you might get eaten by a shark. Yes, great whites have a keen nose for blood, but they’re just as likely to nab you if you’re a bit sweaty.
And on that note…
No. Just no.
Want to hear some more insane period myths? Check out this great article on Bustle.
More concerned with reality? Brook has some practical period advice here.