The first time I got my period, my mom slapped me in the face. Then she pulled me into a big, congratulatory hug. Like many things associated with initiation into womanhood, the action was upsetting, confusing, and shame-inducing.
It was also based on a complete myth.
In the Jewish tradition, “the slap” supposedly makes the blood rush to your face so you’ll never need to wear rouge. It’s also both a fertility blessing and a warning not to get knocked up out of wedlock — simultaneously sending the message that sexuality is immoral. Truth be told, some of the hottest sex you’ll have all month is when you’re on your period. But I digress…
At Cleo, we declare it’s time to clap back the slap and EVERY menstrual myth or taboo. Here are the top 10 period myths, blown into oblivion forever.
Don’t swim during your period.
Raise your hand if you ever used this excuse as a kid to get out of swim class or swim team practice (🙋). You were lucky that the adult in charge, presumably male, fell for that. Not only is taking a dip when you have your period perfectly fine, but it’s also a great way to get in exercise that can help relieve back pain and cramps. A tampon or menstrual cup will get you back in the water. And don’t buy into ancient mythology, cold water will not make your flow stop, nor will the scent of blood attract sharks. I mean, come on!
PMS is “just hormones.”
One of the more damaging menstruation myths is the notion that once a month, women’s emotions (or mini breakdowns) can be written off as raging hormones to be avoided at all costs. The truth is our bodies go through complex physiological changes during our cycle, and the premenstrual phase leading up to getting your period can be intense. This is when estrogen, linked to happiness-inducing serotonin, drops radically, and anxiety- and depression-provoking progesterone increases. The related mood changes can be challenging to manage and, in some cases, like for those with Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), may necessitate talking to a professional. What you feel is real.
Avoid doing inversions in yoga class when you have your period.
Overall, yoga is a great way to relieve the physical and emotional stress of your period, but you may have heard your instructor caution, “Women, if you’re on your moon, please do not do this inversion.” According to Yoga Journal, the physical problems like endometriosis or “vascular congestion” that were said to be exacerbated by doing inversions have been debunked. As with any exercise, if it’s uncomfortable for you to get into or hold an inverted post, then don’t. Otherwise, feel free to explore the upside of inversions.
Only women get periods.
This is another outdated idea, as transgender men might menstruate. And conversely, not every woman gets a period. Transgender women don’t have periods (although they may experience menstrual symptoms), along with women with amenorrhea, who are in menopause, or who take no-period birth control pills. We need to be more inclusive, period.
You can lose your virginity to a tampon.
Of all the ways to lose your virginity, a slim cotton insert would be the most disappointing… if it were true. This myth stems from the idea that a tampon could “break” the hymen, commonly (and mistakenly) considered the “mark of virginity.” The hymen is a stretchy membrane, but it doesn’t cover the opening of the vagina (except in extreme situations where surgical correction is required). So inserting a tampon won’t “break” or tear it. Virgins, rejoice.
Skip taking baths or washing your hair during your period.
Bathing during menstruation has been done since the beginning of time — and the superstitions that go along with washing and bathing persist too. The idea has to do with hot water making your flow heavier (it doesn’t) or cold water stopping your flow (again, we call BS). Drop that myth with a handful of bath salts into a nice warm tub, and go ahead and soak away your cramps and PMS.
Your period syncs up with other women you’re around a lot
This is one of the more fun myths — after all, sisterhood makes us all feel better. But unfortunately, there’s no real evidence that “menstrual synchrony” exists. Research shows that factors like body mass and menstrual cycle irregularity affect period onset, not the presence of a nearby menstruating friend. Sorry, period pals.
You can “lose” a tampon in your vagina
Another unfortunate characterization of the vagina, there is technically no way to “lose” a tampon inside of you. A typical vagina is only about 3.77 inches (9.6 centimeters), and it has a cervix at the top that would prevent a tampon from going any deeper than that. While the tampon string can get caught up inside your vagina a bit, it’s not hard to use your finger to find and remove it.
Period blood smells bad.
Period blood isn’t “dirty,” nor does it have a bad odor. Comprised of blood and tissue from your uterus, it can combine with naturally occurring bacteria to become a little bit fragrant. That said, it’s not a scent anyone would detect. Keep in mind if you do catch a fishy whiff, you might have a yeast infection or an STD, and you should talk to your doctor.
Menstrual and lunar cycles are in sync.
The moon is a powerful symbol of fertility and female energy. The words “menstruation” and “menses” are from the Latin and Greek for month (mensis) and moon (mene). Indeed, we know the tides respond to the lunar pull, and it makes sense that we’d imagine our monthly flow would behave similarly — after all lunar and menstrual cycles both run around 28 days. But that’s where the similarities end. In a study of over 7.5 million cycles, the ovulation tracking app Clue found that there’s no synchronization between the moon and menstruation. Seems it really is a man in the moon, after all.
So many myths — and one bottom-line truth: We’re done with any shame associated with being a beautiful, complicated, menstruating woman. Join the Cleo community as we take control of the conversation and speak honestly about everything from our periods to our sexual pleasure and everything in between.