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A picture of a woman in painAunt Flo, That Time of the Month, On the Rag, Mother Nature, Surfing the Crimson Wave and simply Period. Call it what you want, but most people don’t know much more about menstruation other than its many names. Hundreds of years ago, menstruation was seen as an illness and women were kept inside to rest and stay away from others. The myths surrounding today’s menstrual cycles aren’t quite as demeaning, but they are just as confusing and misleading. Menstruation really isn’t all that mysterious or weird; in fact, it’s one of the most fascinating and natural bodily functions of humankind. Period. Here are 10 common myths about menstruation:

  1. You can’t get pregnant from having sex during menstruation: Although the chances of getting pregnant during your period are unlikely, it can and does happen. According to Planned Parenthood, women with very short or irregular cycles that last 21 days or less are at greater risk for becoming pregnant during their periods because they may still be ovulating during menstruation. A woman can become pregnant from unprotected sex during the six days that end in ovulation, because sperm can live up to seven days in a woman’s reproductive tract. Therefore, if a woman ovulates right after her period, then conception could take place from sexual intercourse that happened during her period. Women are less likely to get pregnant one or two days after ovulation, but it’s still possible. The best way to prevent pregnancy and STDs during your period (and at all times) is to use contraceptives.
  2. You can’t exercise during your period: Menstruation is a normal bodily function that shouldn’t keep you from doing everyday activities, like working out or being active. You may feel more fatigued, sore or bloated during menstruation, but exercising can be very beneficial for controlling PMS symptoms and easing cramps because it increases the amount of oxygen to the muscles. Exercising can make you feel less bloated and boost endorphins during a time when hormones can be a little out of whack.
  3. You shouldn’t bathe or wash your hair during menstruation: Unless you enjoy being smelly for days on end, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t bathe and wash your hair like normal during menstruation. There is also no evidence to support the silly myth that bathing will increase or slow down your menstrual flow. If anything, you’ll want to bathe more often and stay as fresh as possible to avoid unpleasant odors during your period. Some women tend to perspire more and feel like their skin and hair are greasier during their periods because of changing hormone levels. A warm bath is also beneficial for relieving menstrual cramps. All in all, regular bathing and proper hygiene should not be altered during your period for any reason.
  4. You lose a lot of blood during your period: It may look like you’ve lost a great deal of blood during your period, but in all actuality, most women only lose about 4 to 12 tablespoons of blood every month. If you find yourself soaking through a pad or tampon every hour, or using more than 10 feminine products each day, you’ll want to contact your doctor. Excessive bleeding or long periods may or may not be a cause for concern, but it’s very important to discuss these side effects with your doctor.
  5. You can’t have sex during your period: Although it may not be every couple’s cup of tea, it is absolutely possible to have sex during your period. There is also no evidence that having sex during menstruation is unhealthy or dangerous. In fact, having sex during your period can be a rather positive endeavor, by easing menstrual cramps and possibly decreasing endometriosis. Certain individuals are opposed to having sex during menstruation because of religious reasons. So, as long as both partners are OK with the idea, there is no reason why you can’t explore this avenue. As stated before, women can get pregnant from unprotected sex during their period, so it is very important to use contraceptives then and at all times.
  6. You shouldn’t go swimming during your period: This myth may have originated when tampons were not around, and women worried that menstrual blood would contaminate the water. But, this is just not the case anymore. Swimming during your period is completely safe and actually encouraged to help ease menstrual cramps. However, it’s important to use the proper feminine products while swimming to protect you and your swimsuit. Pads do not work in the water. So, if you plan on wearing one, stick to laying out or lounging by the water. Tampons should be changed before and after swimming.
  7. Your period should last exactly one week: Menstruation is different for everyone. On average, menstrual flows usually last about 3 to 7 days, but they can be longer or shorter depending on multiple factors. According to Planned Parenthood, the menstrual cycle occurs the first day of one period to the first day of the next. Normal menstrual cycles fall anywhere between 21 to 35 days, with most women’s cycles lasting 25 to 30 days. Also, it’s completely normal for the number of days in each cycle to vary monthly.
  8. Virgins shouldn’t wear tampons: Virgins will still be virgins after using tampons. Virginity is based on whether or not a person has had sexual intercourse. Many women, young and old, prefer to use tampons because they are physically active and enjoy the comfort of tampons. Some believers of this myth think that because a tampon can tear a woman’s hymen, a thin mucous membrane that partially covers and protects the opening of the vagina, they are no longer a virgin when it tears. However, the hymen can tear or stretch from several activities, like horseback riding, riding a bicycle or doing the splits. So, until a woman or man has had sexual intercourse, they are still technically considered virgins.
  9. PMS is all in your head: Unfortunately, this one couldn’t be more untrue. Premenstrual syndrome, commonly called PMS, is a group of emotional and physical symptoms that occur one to two weeks before menstruation. Although PMS symptoms vary from woman to woman, some common symptoms include acne, fatigue, swollen or tender breasts, upset stomach, bloating, headache or backache, irritability, anxiety, mood swings and much more. These unpleasant feelings typically go away after your period begins, but some symptoms may linger during menstruation, as well. According to womenshealth.gov, the causes of PMS are not completely understood, but experts believe that changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, as well as chemical changes in the brain may cause PMS. Also, low levels of vitamins and minerals, a diet high in salt, and drinking alcohol and caffeine may alter mood and energy level, therefore causing or worsening PMS symptoms. Although PMS is not all in your head and often out of your control, there are certain measures that can be taken to prevent and ease symptoms, such as lifestyle changes, medications and alternative therapies.
  10. You always crave unhealthy foods when menstruating: For some women this may be true. You may crave sweets and greasy, salty foods during your period because your hormone levels are changing and delicious foods are comforting. Women who experience PMS syndromes such as appetite changes and food cravings may be more likely to give in to unhealthy food choices. However, this myth is untrue because every woman menstruates differently and cannot be generalized across the board.