Periods. They’ve gotten a bad rep. And let’s face it, periods play a crucial role in our lives. They’re part of our lives. So, why the stigma?
The REDD Centre for menstruation and women’s health is a multi-disciplinary organisation, whose key goal is to reduce menstrual stigma, raise awareness of period poverty, and create an archive of menstrual knowledge.
“We began as four passionate students, dedicated to hosting events and workshops that educate and improve discussions around menstruators' health, period poverty and feminism, in fun, multi-disciplinary formats,” says co-founder Vladimire Foteva.
“Myth-busting is absolutely one of our favourite things to do!”
So, we asked Vladimire and her colleague Michelle Wellham for the REDD Centre’s top five period myths, and more importantly, the truth. Here’s what they had to say.
Myth 1: Periods are unimportant and should be ignored as much as possible.
FACT: Often considered the fifth “vital sign” periods are vital for gauging overall health. Aside from the obvious benefit of regular periods for conception and contraception planning - irregular, extremely painful or heavy periods, or no periods at all, could indicate hormonal imbalances and underlying health concerns such as endometriosis, fibroids, inflammatory pelvic disease and premature ovarian failure. Bone health, thyroid, and adrenal function are all interlinked with regular, healthy, menstrual cycles as well, so it is important to identify what is healthy, and what is abnormal, for YOU. After all, no two menstrual cycles are the same!
Myth 2: Period blood is dirty, toxic and useless.
FACT: Period discharge is not purely blood, but also contains vaginal and cervical secretions, endometrium (uterine lining) tissue, and amazingly, stem cells! These components were made to nourish a growing embryo-so it certainly can’t be dirty or toxic, and the stem cells found in period blood are under investigation as potential sources for stem cell therapies of the future! So, this idea of periods equating to dirtiness is the stuff of antiquated taboos!
Myth 3: Period pain is mild, and an excuse for menstruators to ‘skive off’.
FACT: Painful periods (dysmenorrhea), can be as painful as labour or, “cutting your finger off without an anaesthetic” as Dr Jen Gunter put it, and are caused by uterine contractions which help expel the shedding lining. Frequently accompanied by other symptoms including diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, migraines, lower back pain, and fatigue, it is completely understandable that menstruators may need to slow down during this time! So, bring a hot water bottle and some snacks, rather than accusations, please.
Myth 4: Periods are a women's issue only.
FACT: Not every (cis or trans) woman experiences a period, and transmen and non-binary individuals may also have periods. Periods affect everyone and are a human rights issue, even if you are not directly bleeding yourself!
Myth 5: You can’t get pregnant while you’re on your period, BUT you also shouldn’t have sex or masturbate!
FACT: Well, which is it? (A two for one here!) Firstly, while yes, you’re shedding the uterine lining during your period, if you have unprotected sex when you’re menstruating it is possible for the sperm to survive for up to a week in the reproductive tract, and fertilise an egg-especially if you ovulated early or have a naturally short cycle. Conception is dependent on the timing of your ovulation, so it’s unlikely, but not impossible. However, while you should always use some form of contraception when you have sex if you don't want a pregnancy, period sex and especially orgasms, actually relieve period cramps; who wouldn’t want to take advantage of increased libido, potentially shorter periods, and extra lubricant!
If you are experiencing period pain, seek out some heat. Our heat packs are the perfect way to ease the tension, especially when paired with your favourite Netflix show and a box of chocolates. What could be better!