Menstruation and Mental Health: Unlearning Stereotypes
Menstruation occurs for all females and will usually begin sometime in adolescence. Menstruation indicates the body’s reproductive organ’s development, meaning that young women are physically mature enough to bear a child. There are many myths and misconceptions about menstruation that lead to negative connotations, confusion, and undue concern about the process. Read on to explore some of these myths and unlearn harmful stereotypes.
What Is Menstruation?
Menstruation, more commonly referred to as a period, is the shedding of the uterine lining through the vaginal canal from a woman’s uterus. This process takes 3-7 days on average and happens because an egg released by the ovaries is not fertilized—in other words, because the woman is not pregnant. Periods will occur roughly once per month from the time a woman has her first period until menopause—the point in life when the menstrual cycle will end.
Most young women wear pads that fasten to their underwear, or tampons that are placed inside the vaginal canal to capture and cleanly dispose of period blood. Others may use a menstrual cup, or even period underwear meant to collect period blood. Different women are more comfortable with different methods, and some methods may be better for certain lifestyles.
The Menstrual Cycle Is Exactly 28 Days–MYTH
Though the 28-day cycle is considered “average,” not all women’s periods will be on a perfect 28-day cycle. There is much variation among all women in the length of period, length of cycle, when one’s first period comes, and the regularity of one’s cycle. Some people even skip periods with no chance of being pregnant. If any woman becomes worried about her period’s irregularity, feels she’s having an abnormal amount of periods (twice a month or more) or experiences sudden changes in her cycle, she should talk to her doctor to rule out any conditions or health risks.
Menstruation-Related Hormones Make Women “Crazy” –MYTH
Although there are hormones present that can affect a woman’s mood and energy through menstruation, this does not mean women are less capable of thought or expressing perfectly valid emotions. It is a harmful stereotype that women are any less capable or trustworthy while they are experiencing menstruation. No woman is less of a person when she is on her period. Hormones do not make a woman “crazy”, and there is no need to perpetuate or feel worried about this myth. However, menstruation-related hormones are not an excuse for poor behavior, and if a woman finds she has significant negative feelings surrounding her period, it may be best to see a doctor or therapist.
Periods Are Dirty–MYTH (sort of)
Period blood is just blood mixed with mucus, vaginal secretion, and uterine lining. Period blood is natural, it should be disposed of and cleaned thoroughly the same way urine or fecal matter is, but it’s not something to be ashamed of. It can, however, stain clothes and surfaces just like any other blood. Disposing of period-related items is important, but no dirtier than throwing away a used band-aid. If period blood was left unattended or allowed to flow freely, things might get dirty, but that doesn’t mean that periods—or the woman experiencing one—are dirty.
You Can’t Get Pregnant While Menstruating–MYTH
Though the chances of pregnancy are lower during one’s period, it is not impossible to become pregnant while menstruating. If a woman does not want to be pregnant, it is still important to use contraception, like condoms or birth control, during her period.
You Can’t Get STIs While Menstruating–MYTH
Sexually transmitted infections are still transmittable when a person is menstruating. Using the appropriate protection from STIs is important and should be done during all sexual encounters, even when the woman is on her period.
Skipping Your Period Using Birth Control Methods Is Unsafe–MYTH
Some women like to get their period every month to confirm they’re not pregnant. Others are used to it and don’t mind their period, while some don’t like menstruating and prefer to skip it when possible. Studies show there are no lasting side effects to menstrual suppression, and many doctors prescribe continuous birth control methods that allow women to skip their period for months at a time.
Period Pain Should Be Ignored Because It Will Pass—MYTH
Period pain can include cramps, lower back pain, digestion issues, and more. If the pain gets severe, it is important to talk to a doctor about it. Though period pain can be inevitable for some people, it should not be ignored if it’s debilitating or makes day-to-day activity impossible. Doctors can help women safely mitigate period pain and rule out any serious conditions like ovarian cysts or cancers.
Menstruation is absolutely normal. Half the world’s population experiences menstruation. Unlearning harmful stereotypes about menstruation can help young women with their period experiences. Many adolescents find their first period to be a little scary, some may even find it traumatic if they don’t have enough prior knowledge of periods, or if they’ve heard myths that concern them. Though each woman’s period experience is a little different, it’s important to remember that a young woman is still a full, vibrant, trustworthy person during their period. Period pain should not be ignored, and period myths should be put to bed. If your child has experienced severe trauma or has deep-seated attachment issues, whether around periods or something else, call Havenwood Academy. Our long-term residential treatment facility in Utah is staffed with professionals who can help your daughter work through traumas using research-based therapies. For more information about your daughter’s options with Havenwood Academy, call us at (435) 586-2500 today.
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