Ten myths about periods

Myths about menstruation are common and we need to work as a society to debunk them to promote an informed culture.

November 7, 2023
Ten myths about periods

For the longest time, menstruation has been surrounded by myths and misconceptions. It is a natural biological process, but many misconceptions about menstruation have existed for centuries. Many of these myths have been perpetuated through generations, leading to confusion, shame, and discrimination against people who menstruate.

In this article, we will explore and debunk ten commonly held myths about periods. By shedding light on these misconceptions, we hope to empower individuals with accurate information and help break the stigma surrounding menstruation.

Myth 1: Menstrual Pain-Debunking the myth that it is just like any other pain.

The pain experienced during menstruation is no trivial matter. It surpasses the ache of a bump against sharp edges or a mere headache. For some, it is so excruciating that workdays are lost, and bed rest is the only solace sought in hopes that the pinching cramps will subside. This tormenting condition is called dysmenorrhea.

Approximately 20% of menstruators experience severe menstrual pain that can disrupt their daily routines. This pain can cause difficulties with concentration, increased anxiety, and irritability, making it a challenging experience that can not be compared to any other type of pain.

Cartoon of three individuals depicted with a headache, nausea, and holding a heat pad, on a background of pink and red with “More than just Period Pain” written on it. 

Image: Period pain

Myth 2: Period blood is dirty blood

The myth that "period blood is dirty blood" has been around for a long time and is deeply ingrained in many cultures around the world. This suggests that menstruation is something shameful and unclean, which can lead to stigmatization and discrimination against people who menstruate.

However, there is no scientific evidence that supports this. Menstrual blood is not dirty or impure; it is simply a natural bodily function that occurs in menstruators as part of their reproductive cycle. Menstrual blood is made up of the same components as regular blood, including red and white blood cells, plasma, and platelets.

Furthermore, for most, menstruation is a normal and healthy process. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding menstrual can negatively affect those who experience it. Some people may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their period, which can lead to social isolation and mental health issues. 

Additionally, cultural beliefs about menstruation can lead to harmful practices, such as banning menstruating people from participating in certain religious or cultural activities or using unsanitary materials to manage menstrual bleeding.

This harmful myth that perpetuates stigma and shame around menstruation. It is important to educate ourselves and others about the true nature of menstruation so we can promote acceptance and understanding of this natural bodily function.

Cartoon hand being extended with two pads, two tampons, and two menstrual cups floating in the vicinity on a beige and pink background


Myth 3: Exercising during your period can damage the uterus

Scientific evidence does not support the myth that exercising during your period can damage the uterus. Regular exercise has been shown to have several benefits for the menstruator during menstruation, including reducing cramps and improving mood.

It is important to note that there may be individual differences in how one feels during their periods, and some may experience discomfort or pain during exercise. However, this is not an indication that exercise is harmful to the uterus.

In general, it is safe to continue with their regular exercise routine during menstruation, as long as one listens to their body and adjusts their intensity level and activity type as needed.

Myth 4: Every menstruator gets premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and it always manifests as irritability and crankiness

The myth that "every menstruator gets PMS, and it always manifests as irritability and crankiness" is a common misconception about PMS. While PMS affects many menstruators, not all menstruators experience it, and those who do may not necessarily experience the same symptoms.

PMS is a collection of physical and emotional symptoms that can occur in the days or weeks leading up to one's menstrual period. These symptoms can vary widely from menstruator to menstruator, and even from cycle to cycle. Some common physical symptoms of PMS include bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and fatigue. Emotional symptoms can include mood swings, anxiety, depression, and difficulty concentrating.

While irritability and crankiness are certainly possible symptoms of PMS, they are by no means universal or inevitable. Many menstruators with PMS experience other emotional symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, or irritability. Additionally, some experience primarily physical symptoms without any significant dynamic changes.

It's also worth noting that not all menstruators experience PMS. Estimates suggest that between 20-40% of menstruators don't experience any noticeable PMS symptoms, while others may have mild symptoms that don't significantly impact their daily lives.

In short, the myth that every menstruator gets PMS and experiences only irritability and crankiness is simply not true. PMS is a complex condition with a wide range of possible symptoms, and its impact can vary greatly.

Myth 5: Foods like curd, tamarind, and pickles disturb the menstrual flow

The myth that foods like curd, tamarind, and pickles disturb the menstrual flow is a common belief in some cultures. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

Menstrual flow is regulated by hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are not affected by the consumption of curd, tamarind, or pickles. While some folks may experience changes in their menstrual flow due to factors such as stress, illness, or hormonal imbalances, these changes are not caused by food.

Curd, tamarind, and pickles are all nutritious foods that can provide important vitamins and minerals for menstruators during menstruation. Curd contains calcium, which is important for bone health, while tamarind is rich in iron, which can help prevent anemia. Pickles also contain important nutrients such as vitamin C and potassium.

It is important to remember that everyone's body is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. If you have concerns about your menstrual flow, it is always best to speak with a healthcare provider who can provide personalized advice and guidance.

Person with blue shirt and gray cardigan at a kitchen table placing fruits in a bowl with milk and cereal. 


Myth 6: Folks having their periods should sleep in a separate shed or a different room

There is a myth in some cultures that folks who are menstruating should be isolated from the rest of society and made to sleep in a separate shed or room away from others. This practice is often linked with beliefs about menstruation being unclean or impure.

But the fact is menstruation is not contagious and causes no harm to anyone else in the same room. This myth has been developed to protect other members of the community from potential health risks associated with menstruation. However, there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that menstruation poses any significant health risk to others.

In reality, forcing menstruators to sleep in isolation during their periods can have negative physical and psychological effects. It can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment, as well as social isolation and stigma. Besides, sleeping in poorly ventilated rooms or sheds can increase the risk of respiratory illnesses and other health problems.

Myth 7: The misunderstanding that only cis-gender women experience periods

The myth that "periods only affect cis-gender women" is a common misunderstanding that has been propagated for years. This myth assumes that only cis-gender women can experience menstrual cycles and the associated physical and emotional effects.

However, this belief is inaccurate and exclusionary. In reality, transgender men, non-binary individuals, and intersex people can also experience menstruation. By perpetuating the misconception that only cis-gender women have periods, we erase the experiences of many individuals and contribute to harmful stereotypes about gender and biology. It is important to acknowledge and respect the diversity of human bodies and experiences, including those related to menstruation.

Myth 8: The period should last precisely one week each month

The myth that "the period should last precisely one week each month" is a common misconception about menstruation. While the average menstrual cycle lasts between 28 and 35 days, individual processes can vary significantly in length and duration.

In reality, a menstrual period can last anywhere from two to seven days, with some individuals experiencing periods that are shorter or longer than this range. Factors such as age, hormonal imbalances, stress, illness, and certain medications can all affect the duration and intensity of menstrual bleeding.

It is important to recognize that there is no "normal" or "correct" menstrual cycle, as everyone's body is different. It is also important to note that irregular periods can occasionally be a sign of an underlying health condition, so anyone experiencing significant changes in their menstrual cycle should seek medical advice.

Hand coloring in red flowers on five days on a calendar.


Myth 9: We should not be discussing periods openly and honestly

The stigma around discussing periods openly and honestly is a common myth that has been perpetuated by cultural and social norms for centuries. Many societies consider menstruation to be a taboo subject, leading to shame, silence, and a lack of education about this natural bodily function.

This stigma can have several negative consequences for individuals who menstruate. It can lead to feelings of embarrassment or shame, which can contribute to poor self-esteem. It can also discourage people from seeking medical care or talking to their friends and family members about their menstrual health.

Additionally, the stigma surrounding periods can fuel discrimination against people who menstruate, particularly in workplaces and schools. This can lead to missed opportunities, limited access to resources, and unequal treatment.

To combat this stigma, it's important to promote open and honest discussions about menstruation. Educating folks of all genders about periods can help break down the taboos surrounding them and increase awareness and understanding. It's also essential to create safe spaces where individuals feel comfortable talking about their menstrual health without fear of judgment or shame. By doing so, we can work towards eliminating the stigma around periods and promoting menstrual equity for all.

Three laughing school children working at a table and injecting fake menstrual blood on pads and tampons. 


Myth 10: It is not safe to swim during your period

This myth may be created before menstrual supplies were invented or became popular to use. This myth is simply not true. There is no medical reason why one can not swim while on period. No evidence suggests swimming would increase the risk of infection or any other health problems. 

Some people may feel uncomfortable swimming during their period, using tampons or menstrual cups can help to avoid any potential mess. So if one wants to go for a swim during menstruation, there is no need to worry.

Cartoon of a person in a swimsuit on a floating bed in the ocean with two sharks circling around them.


There are several myths surrounding periods that have persisted over time. It is important to dispel these misconceptions and educate people about the true nature of menstruation. Believing in the myth that periods are supposed to be painful, for example, can cause menstruators to avoid seeking medical help when they experience severe menstrual cramps or other symptoms of underlying health conditions. Similarly, considering menstruation as something shameful or unclean can lead to feelings of embarrassment, low self-esteem, and social stigma. This can cause one to feel isolated and prevent them from accessing the support they need.

By debunking common myths we can promote a culture of informed and empowered individuals who can make informed decisions about their menstrual health. Ultimately, breaking down these myths will lead to a more open and accepting society, where reproductive health is valued and respected.


Original article written by: Mushfika Anjum on March 30th, 2023.

Revised and updated by: Niki Oveisi on October 27th, 2023.

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