Despite the fact that almost half of the world’s population has them, loads of people still don’t know much about periods.
And it’s not just guys that haven’t got a clue – even those of us who were born with a vagina can be guilty of believing myths about that time of the month.
In some countries and cultures, women are considered to be “dirty” while they’re on their periods.
In reality, the vagina is an incredible self-cleaning machine. Over the course of a month, our womb lining gets thicker to prepare for a fertilised egg if we become pregnant. If an egg doesn’t get fertilised, that lining gets shed to make room for a fresh layer.
So no, periods aren’t dirty or impure…they’re literally life-giving. Here are five more myths about periods that can do more harm than good:
1. You can’t get pregnant on your period
It’s unlikely but you definitely can fall pregnant while on your period.
Our fertility dips and climbs at different parts of the month and the week of menstruation tends to be when we’re least fertile – but that doesn’t mean that we can’t conceive. It really just depends on the length of your monthly cycle.
Peak fertility tends to happen 12 to 16 days before the start of the next period, because that’s when the ovaries produce and release fresh eggs.
If your cycle is quite short (21 days, for example), then that’s going to speed up your ovulation window.
And don’t forget that sperm can survive inside the genital tract for up to five days.
2. Women’s periods eventually sync up
How many times have you heard that we all start to sync up if we spend enough time with each other? Yeah, it’s probably a myth.
The theory of “period synchrony” first appeared as a scientific idea in an article published in 1971.
It argued that if women lived in close quarters, they’d start to see their periods aligning. But scientists have since thrown some doubt onto the findings.
No subsequent studies have ever been able to replicate the findings of the initial study, with a 2006 study finding “no conclusive evidence for the existence of this phenomenon”.
Scientists got 18 pairs and 21 triples of uni-aged women living together for five months in Polish dormitories.
They concluded that “menstrual synchrony was not found”, and that “these results provide further evidence that women do not synchronise their menstrual cycles”.
3. Tampons can get lost
Vaginas are a “closed unit” – meaning that your vaginal canal is only up to around five inches long. There’s no way for anything to get lost up there and that’s important because you really don’t want foreign objects travelling around your cervix.
But that also means that what goes in can come out…push down too hard and a tampon might start to move.
Unlike a menstrual cup which works by creating a suction-effect against your vaginal walls, tampons rely on your own vaginal muscles to keep them up there.
If you don’t have a very strong core or pelvic floor, you may be more at risk from runaway tampons. And if you’ve had a baby, your pelvic floor is likely to be quite weak.
Most vaginas are only around 9.6cm deep, and tampons have strings to get them out. If yours does ride up a little bit, there’s only so far it can go – it definitely can’t travel upwards indefinitely.
4. It’s unsafe to skip periods
It was recently revealed that women don’t have to have a period every month and that it’s totally safe to use birth control pills back-to-back.
The U.K.’s Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare issued new guidelines on combined hormonal contraception, saying that there was no health benefit to taking a break.
If you’re on the pill, it’s not as though the bleeds are genuine periods anyway – they’re just chemically induced withdrawal bleeds.
So if you have heavy or painful periods, or PMS, then you may not feel that having a period is worth the aggro.
5. You shouldn’t have a bath
Bizarrely, some people think that women shouldn’t take baths on their periods, due to the fact that hot water stimulates bleeding. But hot water can help to relieve cramps and muscular tension.
There’s literally no reason not to have a bath…you’re not going to end up lying in a pool of your own blood.
In fact, having a hot bath is probably going to make you feel a whole load better and will help you keep the vulva clean.
Using harsh intimate care products can actually disrupt your delicate bacterial balance down there, leading to infection. Freshwater and mild soap are all you need.
Hot baths may also help to reduce inflammation and ease depression – useful if your PMS is bringing you down.