Busting Popular Myths About Menstruation In many parts of the world, periods have long been shrouded in stigma and shame. Details of bleeding can make everyone a little shy or embarrassed, especially during puberty. However, without menstruation, none of us would be here. Menstruation is an integral part of the female experience and it is the reason women can be pregnant and give birth. Believing menstrual myths makes it more difficult for women to talk about their periods and to know whether or not their menstrual cycle is normal or healthy. Most myths are based on hearsay. They help to preserve and perpetuate gender-based discriminations and poor reproductive health for women and men alike. Breaking down these myths can help to right these wrongs and encourage women everywhere to accept and embrace what is a natural and healthy element of their lives. Earlier this week, we asked you what myths you have heard about menstruation. Listed below are the top five responses we received. Periods are dirty and something not to talk about. Fact: There’s a common misconception that period blood is dirty, unclean or toxic, and in some cultures, it may be considered impure. This idea is deeply ingrained. However, given that roughly half of all women – around 26% of the global population – are of reproductive age, periods are nothing out of the ordinary and talking about them shouldn’t be either. From a medical perspective, the blood you menstruate is just as “clean” as the rest of the blood in your body. Think about it: your menstrual flow passes from your uterus and out through your vagina - this is just the vagina’s way of cleaning itself. Periods are a curse or a punishment. Fact: In some parts of the world, women are considered impure, cursed, or sinful while they are menstruating. They are therefore discouraged from touching or washing or in some instances from going outside. Such practices prevent girls from managing their periods safely and with dignity. Many consequently use newspapers and rags which are not substitutes for menstrual hygiene products such as tampons, disposable and reusable pads, menstrual cups, and absorbent underwear. Apart from causing serious diseases, these also restrict the mobility of women and girls who subsequently miss out on work and school. EdUKaid’s Heshima Project provides a holistic, cost effective solution to these challenges and helps to educate girls about their bodies, empowering them to make informed choices and enabling them to remain in education. Only women get periods. Fact: Menstruation is not just a woman’s issue. It is a human issue. Not every woman gets her period regularly or at all, and not every female who menstruates considers themselves a woman. Transgender men may still experience periods and transgender women might not. Periods should last exactly one week each month and the pain is all in your head. Fact: Even if you’re always on time, that doesn’t mean your period will be. More often than not, periods last anywhere between 5 to 7 days and happen every 4 to 6 weeks. But period duration can change each month as can the symptoms that accompany it. Cramps, fatigue, anxiety and more are common before, during, and immediately after your period. These are caused by hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone which fluctuate depending on which stage of your menstrual cycle you are in. In any case, these are completely natural and out of your control. Just remember that your body is unique and so is your cycle. Do not go hiking or camping because bears can smell period blood. Fact: Actually, exercising while menstruating is safe and, in some cases, physical activity can alleviate cramps and even improve mood and feelings of fatigue. Walking is a particularly good and easy form of exercise. For all of you worried hikers out there, several studies conducted in the early 1980s found no evidence linking menstruation to bear attacks. In fact, in most incidents the bears were found to be looking for human food. While it is perfectly rational to be afraid of bears, you shouldn’t be afraid of bears simply because you’re menstruating. Regarding the smell, everyone that menstruates will have a unique natural scent to their blood. A strong odour likely indicates that your pad or tampon needs to be disposed of and replaced. Try not to be too hard on your menstrual blood when it’s just giving you a gentle reminder to tend to your needs every once in a while.