We’ve all heard it: “Never trust someone who bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.” If you’re one of those guys who transforms into a pre-pubescent boy the moment a woman refers to her monthly period, the time has come to educate yourself and face your fears.
Sadly, menstruation remains taboo in many places around the world. Islamic tradition prohibits menstruating women from touching the Qu’ran, performing prayer, making tawaf around the ka3ba, fasting during holy days, or having sex with her husband. In Ghana, menstruating women are regarded as a bad omen and neither allowed to cook for men nor enter male-occupied spaces (which would be most public places). In Nepal, the Hindu-rooted practice of “chhaupadi” banishes menstruating women to cattle sheds for the duration of their periods. During this time, women are not allowed to touch their parents, attend school, enter their home or temple, or eat anything aside from rice and bread. If a woman disobeys, she risks bringing “death or destruction to the family”. Unfortunately, if she obeys, she risks bringing death to herself. Just last month, a 15-year-old Nepali girl died in a “menstruation hut” due to smoke inhalation from a controlled fire (ten other girls have died in similar huts over the past nine years, according to Nepali police, though these figures are likely underreported).
Enough with the emotional blackmail. Enough with these patriarchal traditions that conveniently seek to portray menstruation as unclean when it’s actually an essential reproductive function without which none of us would exist.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Menstruation is a normal and regular monthly occurrence for women of fertile age (between ages 12-51 on average).
- Your mom has/had a period. So did both of your grandmothers. If they’re of age, your sisters and your aunts and all of your female relatives also menstruate.
- While most women bleed an average of five-seven days, some women bleed as few as two days. Most women experience their heaviest flow on day one and it slowly peters off throughout the week.
- On average, one menstrual cycle will release less than one cup of blood. Not much, eh?
- Period blood is more than just blood. We are literally shedding the lining of our uterus.
- It does not attract sharks or bears (with the exception of polar bears).
- On average, a woman will spend 3,500 days menstruating during her lifetime.
- Menstrual cramps can be excruciatingly painful. We aren’t being dramatic. Imagine a clawed demon trying to scratch it’s way out of your lower abdomen. Sometimes the demon gets tired and takes a break for a couple minutes only to resume full force, or worse, it recruits a friend.
- Not all women get cramps, but many do. “Period pain… interferes with the daily life of around one in five women”, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
- It’s true that women crave chocolate when they have PMS and/or are menstruating. The shift in hormones causes us to have cravings (these cravings could also include salty, fatty, or other sugary foods).
- PMS is real “and so is our tendency to ignore women’s pain”.
- Pads and tampons come in all different sizes, and the size depends on the heaviness of flow.
- A woman cannot lose her virginity to a tampon. Tampons are much shorter and thinner than a penis, and are not likely to break the hymen. Anyway, virginity is lost by having sex, not by rupturing the hymen.
- Women can absolutely get pregnant if they have sex when they are on their period. Some women have a shorter amount of time between the last day of their period and the first day of ovulation. If that number is five days or less, pregnancy is possible.
- We should all thank periods for enabling the human race to continue! Without them, children would not be possible.