The Period Talk
Women’s bodies have captivated people for years, especially men. Truth be told, a lot of women don’t understand much about their own bodies. Educating yourself on the science behind your own beautiful, strong body can help you better advocate for yourself.
We are going to talk about it all. Here’s my crash course of what a period is.
Periods occur because of changes in hormones, specifically the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Those hormones are responsible for establishing and strengthening the lining of the uterus, or the womb. They are key to nurturing the bed so to speak, for a fertilized egg when pregnant. Eggs are fertilized with sperm derived from the male body. When a fertilized egg isn’t present, which basically suggests you aren’t pregnant, the body sheds mucus lining, bids of the uterus lining, bacteria and blood. This is what we call a period. “If you do get pregnant, your body needs the lining — that’s why your period stops during pregnancy. Your period comes back when you’re not pregnant anymore”(What is Menstruation?: Get Facts About Having Your Period). The menstruation cycle takes about a month and undergoes four phases.
There is a bit of misinformation surrounding the origins and realities of a woman’s period so we are here to debunk the myths and spread the truth. We are all about open, honest dialogue.
Myth: Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a fabricated, exaggerated theory.
Reality: Nope, it’s legit. The severity of a woman’s PMS varies person to person, but “is likely caused by hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, falling dramatically when your body realizes you’re not pregnant” (Kurey). About 3 of every 4 women experience a few symptoms of PMS, which can include irritability, depression, muscle or joint cramps, changes in appetite, abdominal bloating, breast flare ups, breast tenderness, acne, anxiety and more. The symptoms usually subside as the hormone levels rise again.
Myth: Tampons will break your hymen which therefore makes you impure.
Reality: A hymen is a thin, fleshy tissue near the opening of the vagina, but they can differ in shape. They may be visible with a handheld mirror and a flashlight, or not. Some women are born with a very small hymen, should they even have one at all! They can be pretty accessible with a tampon, yes, but they can “break” through almost any kind of physical activity. Hymens also, like most internal body parts of a woman, don’t actually ever break; they just s t r e t c h. Virginity is a conceptualized societal projection, and nothing biologically happens to a woman after having sex for the first time (aside from potential pregnancy, but you know what I mean. Nothing breaks!).
Myth: Sex during a period won’t cause pregnancy.
Reality: A common PMS symptom many women experience is an increased libido. In many instances, period sex can also alleviate the intensity of cramps so, you do you. However, keep your contraceptive handy because you can still get pregnant when having sex– even on your period. Firstly, safer sex is better sex. Secondly, sperm can live inside women for up to 10 days. Lastly, if you have an irregular cycle, your fertility window may overlap with your period, too. Your fertility window offers your highest chance of pregnancy.
Myth: Only women get their periods.
Reality: In an ever changing society, we have adapted to more inclusive language and approaches. Not every woman gets her period, and some transgender men still have periods. “Having a period can be a stressful experience for some trans folks because it’s a reminder that their bodies don’t match their true gender identity” (What is Menstruation?: Get Facts About Having Your Period), while others may be indifferent.
Myth: Food touched or prepared by someone of their period will be poisoned or spoiled.
Reality: Unless you are taking your vaginal discharge and spearing it all over your food, no. Every other sane and considerate human washes their hands after using the bathroom (for any reason). Preparing food is the same whether you are on your period or not.
Myth: Bathing or swimming while on your period will cause infertility or bodily harm.
Reality: Choosing not to cleanse yourself for 4-10 days is gross… I mean, no one should ever cleanse the vagina with any kind of fragrant soap because it offsets its pH balance. Plus, vaginas are self-cleaning because as women, we are miraculous creatures, but the body’s natural cycle of shedding the uterus lining because there isn’t a fertilized egg to begin a pregnancy, does not affect your outer being.
Swimming with modern day feminine products should not cause any distressing bodily obstructions. Maybe before the creation of tampons or pads, the idea of released period discharge in a beach or pool was off-putting. I totally understand, but with menstrual cups and tampons, women can spend the day swimming and diving and floating without releasing anything.
Periods are such a blast, aren’t they? The myths about periods are even better. There are plenty more that aren’t even listed here! Please do your own research before accepting an assumption or idea about a woman’s body. Women should be at the forefront when enacting legislature surrounding a woman’s body. These misconceptions about periods aren’t just surface-level complaints– it runs deeper than that. It’s shameful and degrading to have a systematically male-dominated society ignorantly dictate how a women can make decisions about her health.
You know your body better than anybody else. Treat it kindly and decide for yourself what suits it best. What works for some women may not work all, but remember, you should always consult your primary care physician or gynecologist with any questions or health concerns. We are not medical experts, nor should you treat his posting as a source of credible medical advice.
As they say, everything men can do, women can do bleeding.
Kurey, Pamela. The Truth About 5 Common Period Myths – Chester County Hospital – Penn Medicine. 11 July 2019, www.chestercountyhospital.org/news/health-eliving-blog/2019/july/period-myths.
“What Is Menstruation?: Get Facts About Having Your Period.” Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/health-and-wellness/menstruation.