7 Period Myths Debunked

Despite being a phenomenon that half the population experiences during their lifetime, the reality of the period seems to be one of the world’s best kept secrets.

In Nepal, the practice of banishing menstruating people into huts outside their homes was practiced until it was outlawed in 2005.

Whether it’s referring to periods as ‘that time of month,’ ‘getting a visit from Aunt Flo,’ or euphemistically saying you ‘have an upset stomach,’ we as a society are reluctant to talk about menstruation.

As such, there’s a lot of superstition and myth surrounding periods and people on their periods, most of which is based on irrational fear and disgust.

But there’s absolutely nothing impure or dangerous about a person on their period; it’s completely natural for those of us with a uterus.

iTHINK discusses seven period myths arising from the stigma around periods, and why they should be debunked.

It’s dangerous to bathe, shower, or swim during your period


In some form or another, myths surrounding periods and water are pervasive across many cultures.

The idea that taking a bath or going swimming will stop you from bleeding isn’t true.

First and foremost, let’s get one thing clear: your period does not stop when you are immersed in water. The idea that taking a bath or going swimming will stop you from bleeding simply isn’t true.

Blood may temporarily slow down or stop flowing out of the vagina because of water pressure and reduced pull of gravity but this is in no way harmful or long-lasting.

That said, period blood won’t attract sharks if you swim in the ocean. There aren’t any reported cases of this occurring and, if wearing a tampon or menstrual cup, you can go swimming without worrying about blood leakage.

Finally, the act of taking a warm bath or hot shower won’t increase your cramps. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: period pains can be relieved by a nice warm bath.

In many cultures, washing your hair during your period is also said to cause problems, either with fertility or the flow of your period. These myths are not based on fact or evidence, so don’t be scared to rinse and repeat while menstruating.

You shouldn’t handle things such as food, flowers, or babies while menstruating

The association of periods and uncleanliness is once again a widespread stigma. This stigma can range from thinking period blood is dirtier than other blood, to cultural ostracization of people on their period.

In Nepal, the practice of banishing menstruating people into huts outside their homes was practiced until it was outlawed in 2005.

In India, entering certain places of worship is forbidden for those on their period, due to the supposed impurity of periods.

Myths exist about people on their periods being unable to make mayonnaise, sushi, pickled vegetables, bread, or whipped cream among other foods, as it is believed they will be rotten or turn out badly.

Other myths suggest that handling plants and flowers while on your period will cause them to die quicker, and that cradling babies while on you period will make them sick.

But periods are not an illness and they are not infectious. They will not contaminate things you touch so long as you stick to basic hygiene rules such as washing your hands (which everyone should do anyway).

Tampons will take your virginity

This myth stems from the idea that tampons will tear your hymen and thus make you no longer a virgin. This belief is false for several reasons.

For one thing, inserting a tampon won’t necessarily tear your hymen. Intact hymens tend to have an opening in them for such things as period blood to flow out and inserting a tampon might not break it.

For another thing, virginity is a social construct and the state of someone’s hymen has nothing to do with it. Sex isn’t just composed of penetrative vaginal intercourse and can involve many other things that can leave your hymen intact.

Furthermore, you can tear your hymen doing a number of activities that don’t include penetrative vaginal sex, including biking, horseback-riding, and gymnastics. And some people with vaginas are simply born without hymens.

You shouldn’t have sex while on your period

The basis of staying celibate while on your period can be based off of different lines of reasoning.

Some simply think that it’s gross, while others may think it presents a threat to sexual partners.

But the truth of the matter is, period sex isn’t dangerous to anyone’s health, and if you are comfortable with it, it doesn’t have to be seen as disgusting.

One thing to be aware of, however, is that while becoming pregnant due to period sex is unlikely, it is still possible.

Sperm can survive for up to a week after sexual intercourse and the possibility of early ovulation means that pregnancy is still a possible occurrence.

So, don’t be ashamed or afraid of having sexual intercourse while on your period, but be sure to use protection as always if you don’t want to get pregnant.

PMS is just in your head

Emotional outbursts during PMS are often treated as a joke. We’ve all heard the sitcom staple of a man reacting to an angry woman with ‘Is it that time of month again?’ followed by a couple of seconds of pre-recorded laughter.

But PMS is a very real consequence of the changing hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, and often occurs when oestrogen and progesterone drop sharply towards the end of the cycle.

Not only does this cause irritability, anxiety, and low moods, but can also cause a number of physical symptoms such as insomnia, exhaustion, headaches, or cramps, all of which certainly don’t help your mood.

Furthermore, though emotions tend to be heightened during your period, the cause of your emotional response is still the root problem that should be dealt with or discussed.

For example, if you’re on your period and crying over a bad day at work, it doesn’t mean that your bad day should be dismissed. You might not cry if the same bad day occurred without PMS, but it would still bother you and still be something to resolve.

Remember, emotions during PMS are just as real as other emotions and dismissing them as an overreaction is not going to help you or anyone around you.

You should avoid exercise when menstruating

If you feel like exercising while on your period, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. In fact, many experts encourage exercising while on your period due to several benefits.

Exercise increases the flow of oxygen to your blood and, as a result, can actually reduce cramps and PMS symptoms. Exercising also releases endorphins in your brain and these ‘feel-good’ hormones can improve your mood.

It might be difficult to be active during the first two days of your period due to a heavy flow, but walking and light aerobics are entirely possible.

As the bleeding lessens, feel free to exercise in ways that are comfortable to you, whether this means going for a jog, a run, or even a swim.

Period cramps are no big deal

Period cramps affect everyone differently. For some, they are a mild nuisance but with some ibuprofen and a glass of water, they all but disappear.

For others, period cramps can be debilitatingly painful and hinder you from participating in everyday activities such as work and school. When this is the case, the cramps are referred to as dysmenorrhea.

Dysmenorrhea isn’t something that you can just ignore, and certainly isn’t something that should be dismissed as an overreaction.

If period cramps are preventing you from concentrating, doing work, or even being able to walk, you should see a doctor. They could be the result of other medical conditions, or a result of factors such as heavy-bleeding or irregular periods, but either way, it’s always a good idea to seek treatment.

You aren’t overreacting just because other people, even other people who menstruate, don’t experience period cramps the same way you do. Everyone experiences different levels of period pains and everyone has a different tolerance to it.

Most of these myths about periods are a result of the lack of conversation about menstruation.

People who menstruate do all they can to hide it, and people who don’t often don’t want anything to do with it.

But accurate education about periods and the entire menstruation cycle is important, both for the safety, well-being, and happiness of those who experience it, and to destroy harmful stigmas surrounding it.