Menstruation myths your child needs debunked

Puberty – especially menstruation – can be particularly confronting for kids reaching adolescence. Our question box is always full of queries and concerns related to periods, mood swings, erections and the like. We actually receive so many questions related to periods that we decided they needed their own post. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and kids can come up with pretty wild ideas. So as parents, it’s important that we help unpack with our young people what is and isn’t true about menstruation. We recommend talking about this with children of all genders – not just those who will get periods. Here’s some common myths we often get asked about.

Myth: When you first get your period, you can bleed for a month, a year or sometimes forever

Fact: While there are a few conditions or medications that may cause a period to last longer than 10 days, it’s still rare. Sometimes hormonal contraception can cause abnormal bleeding that can last for months, but again it’s a very small number of cases. And no one starts their period and never stops.

Myth: You’ll just get your period once and then that’s it

Fact: Unless you’re pregnant, you’ll experience a full menstrual cycle once every 28 days (so, bleeding two-to-seven days out of this cycle). Cycles that last longer or shorter than this, from 21 to 40 days, are also normal. If you find your cycle is longer than this, and you’re not pregnant, you should talk to a trusted adult or a doctor.

Myth: Tampons can get stuck inside of you

Fact: It’s very rare that a tampon string breaks or gets lost inside. But even if it does, because vaginas are a stretchy tube, you can generally just pull tampons out yourself with your finger. And you can always go to a doctor if you’re especially worried – but it’s never something that needs surgery.

Myth: You can feel/see the egg come out

Fact: In theory, the eggs that your ovaries release during your menstrual cycle are visible to the human eye but the thicker clumps that you might notice during your period are not eggs, just blood clots or part of the uterus lining.

Myth: It hurts when blood comes out of the vagina

Fact: No, thankfully, it doesn’t hurt when blood leaves the vagina. You might be able to sometimes feel the sensation of the blood exiting your body, like in the way you can feel a runny nose. But it doesn’t hurt. 

Myth: Your period continues while you’re pregnant

Fact: Your period stops once you become pregnant. (Although there are accounts of people continuing to have a period while pregnant, this is very rare.) That’s because the uterine lining that you usually shed during your period is now helping the baby to grow. It’s normal to have a bit of spotting in the early stages of pregnancy, but that’s not the same as your period.

Myth: You can get pregnant before puberty

Fact: A person cannot become pregnant until they begin ovulating, which doesn’t start happening until puberty.

Myth: You lose a lot of blood on your period

Fact: The average person bleeds six to eight teaspoons of menstrual blood during their period, not enough to cause any sort of blood-loss effects. Certainly not enough to need to go to the hospital or to cause death.

Myth: Menstrual cycles make girls crazy/more emotional than boys

Fact: It’s true that premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can affect your emotions and behaviour generally in the few days leading up to when you begin bleeding. But for those who get PMS (and it’s not everyone with periods), it’s only a few days of the cycle and often isn’t severe enough to noticeably change someone’s behaviour. Plus, boys actually have hormonal cycles as well – like with testosterone, which fluctuates throughout the day. That being said, If PMS is really affecting your life in a negative way and stops you doing the things you like, then you should talk to a trusted adult or a doctor.

Myth: Getting your period always hurts

Fact: Many people find the headaches and cramps that can come with periods are minimal. More like a mild annoyance. And for those who get more severe cramps, there are many over-the-counter medications that can help take away or reduce the pain. Horror stories about periods get spread around because they are just that, horror stories, not because many people experience them. That being said, if you are finding your period is stopping you going to school or doing activities you enjoy you should talk to a trusted adult or doctor.

Myth: Periods are shameful

Fact: Periods are natural! And there’s nothing shameful about a natural body function. Plus, without them, we couldn’t make babies. There’s been a societal stigma around periods for a long time, and we would all benefit from getting rid of it.

Myth: If a person has their period, they can’t exercise or swim

Fact: Periods really aren’t as bad as many people fear before they get them. First of all, the average person only bleeds around six to eight teaspoons of blood over the course of the three to seven days. Secondly, using tampons (or pads for some sports and activities) will allow you to do any exercise as normal. Now there are ‘period bathers’ that can be worn, so you don’t need a tampon and can just swim in the bathers.

Myth: Using a tampon makes you lose your virginity

Fact: This is a ‘no’ on so many levels. For one thing, ‘virginity’ is not this tangible thing that you ‘lose’ from one action or sexual activity. We think this myth comes from the idea that virginity is tied to the hymen which is the thin piece of tissue that can surround or partially cover the opening to the vagina. There’s an idea that the hymen breaks when a person first has penis-in-vagina intercourse, but the reality is that it doesn’t ‘break’ but stretches – and this often happens earlier from sport or anything else.

Myth: Period blood is dirty

Fact: Period blood doesn’t contain toxins or rejected fluids the body is flushing out. With fewer blood cells, period blood is also less concentrated than the blood moving around inside your body. It’s just endometrial cells that the body ejects if there isn’t a pregnancy, as well as actual blood from arteries in the uterus and sometimes clots.

Myth: You can’t get pregnant on your period

Fact: While this is technically true, sperm can live inside the body for up to five days. So, there is a small chance of becoming pregnant after having unprotected sex during your period, because the surviving sperm can impregnate you once you start ovulating again. 

Myth: Your periods will sync with your friends

Fact: This one is a tricky one. There are some studies that show that when women live or spend a lot of time together, they can release hormones and pheromones that cause periods to ‘sync’. But most researchers believe there are too many modifying and uncountable factors for us to take these studies as the truth. 

Myth: If you get your period without wearing a pad, you’ll bleed through your clothes

Fact: The average person bleeds six to eight teaspoons of menstrual blood on their period – which already isn’t much. But it also doesn’t all come out in one big wave. The amount you bleed at the start of your period is rarely enough to seep through all your clothes and leave a big mark. Imagine an ice block melting and the drips are the blood. That’s what it’s like. If you’re worried, you might want to carry around a pad and a spare pair of undies, or wear some period underpants. If you are finding your periods are particularly heavy, unmanageable and stressful, you should talk to a trusted adult or a doctor.

Myth: Only women get periods, and all women get periods

Fact: Transgender men and some nonbinary people can also experience periods. Plus, not all women will have periods, including transgender women, those who have been through menopause, and people who have had their uteruses removed (this is called hysterectomy).