Despite half of the world’s population experiencing a period at some point in their lives, there are still so many unfounded myths around this topic. From the weird (no perming your hair until after your first period) to the downright ridiculous (don’t go camping because bears can smell your blood!), there are some real doozies out there. Here, we’re focusing on the more commonly encountered myths, plus a few puberty related rumours, too. Let’s debunk some menstruation misconceptions!
Myth #1: Using Tampons Means You’re Not A Virgin Anymore
If the mean girls of your school told you that using a tampon to absorb period blood means you’re no longer a virgin, they’re wrong. Plain and simple. Losing your virginity is when you decide to have sexual intercourse with another person, not when you put something in your vagina. This myth likely comes from the fact that many cultures associate losing one’s virginity with the (painless) tearing of the hymen - a thin membrane found in the vagina.
This isn’t true either, since the hymen can remain intact even after sex, or can be torn by something as simple as exercise. The hymen is stretchy, and inserting a tampon doesn’t necessarily mean it will break. So, if you’re worried that using a tampon will mean you’ve officially “done it”, you can relax.
Myth #2: You Can’t Go Swimming Or Take a Bath On Your Period
We’re calling cowpat on this one! If anyone has ever told you you cannot go swimming or have a bath while on your period, ignore them. There are several layers to this myth. One is that, when submerged in water, the vagina tends to naturally stop bleeding which is bad for your health. The bleeding doesn’t stop internally, but you may notice pressure from the water temporarily stops blood from exiting the vagina. Secondly, for the length of time you are likely to swim for or be immersed in a bath for, this isn’t bad for your health.
Having a warm bath during your period can actually help ease any tummy pain you may experience, but it’s worth noting that when you’re in a pool, blood can still come out, so it’s advisable to use a tampon to avoid embarrassing leaks. Also, while we’re on the topic of periods in water, you can still go swimming in the ocean. Sharks can’t smell your period blood (*eye roll*) and won’t snack on you, we promise.
Myth #3: You Can’t Get Pregnant While On Your Period
If there’s one thing we desperately want you to take away from this blog post, it’s that you CAN get pregnant if you have sex on your period. Seriously, ladies, this myth has been spread around high schools for years, and even nowadays the misconception is offered up like factual advice from teens around the world. A girl can become pregnant any time she is having sex without birth control - and remember, sometimes even with birth control as it’s not 100% reliable!
Even while you’re bleeding and at your least fertile, there is always a small chance the sperm and egg will meet and create a baby. Plus, don’t forget that sperm can live inside the vaginal canal for up to 5 days, so if you are sexually active, please never rely on your period as a suitable form of birth control - it’s not.
Myth #4: Your Breasts Won’t Grow After You Begin Your Period
Nope, wrong. If you’ve just had your first period and your breasts haven’t yet developed (or they have, but barely) then try not to worry because this isn’t the end of the line. Your breasts can still grow bigger in size after you have had your first period. In fact, your boobs will change in size throughout your life; they develop in your teens, change shape throughout adulthood, and tend to get bigger when you have a baby. Don’t believe that the breasts you have now are what you’ll be stuck with forever because it’s just a myth.
Myth #5: Your Periods Will Sync Up With Your Friends
This one’s tricky, because in a lot of cases you might indeed find yourself having a period around the same time as your friends. Period synchrony has been studied for years; the belief is that when women live in close quarters or spend a lot of time together, the hormones and pheromones released will cause periods to “sync up” so they experience their bleeding and PMS symptoms simultaneously.
It’s nice to think we might be experiencing our cramps in solidarity for our fellow sisters, but it’s largely believed that there are too many modifying factors for any research to be taken as the truth. The bottom line? Any synchrony is just a happy accident.
Myth #6: Period Blood Is Dirty
Sadly there are many parts of the world that still see menstruation as ‘dirty’ and ‘impure’, and even limit what activities women can take part in while they are on their period. The fact is, period blood is no different from the blood you might see from a nosebleed, or what comes out of a cut anywhere on your skin. The myth that period blood is somehow more unclean than any other blood is damaging in some cultures, and the sooner we start being more open about periods and less secretive about their existence, the sooner we can encourage more equality around the world.
Have you heard a myth about periods and puberty that we haven't listed here? Tell us over on Instagram @itsyoppie so we can debunk it together!