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Period Myths, Busted

We break down several common period myths.

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Photo: Shutterstock

There’s a lot to know when it comes to periods, and yet, there are still some common menstruation myths.

Myth #1: You cannot get pregnant during your period.

You can get pregnant during your period. Sperm can live inside you for three to five days. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long but can be shorter or longer (i.e. fewer or more days between periods) with the range being from 21 days to 40 days. Ovulation, which is typically mid-way through one’s period cycle, can occur during, or soon after, the bleeding phase. For some, ovulation can occur past the midway mark and lie closer to the bleeding phase of one’s cycle. I always recommend looking out for ovulation symptoms like mild pelvic cramping, spotting, thicker discharge, and mild breast tenderness.

Myth #2: You shouldn’t use a tampon until you’re old enough.

First, you should know that many women start out using pads and then switch to tampons, some go directly to tampons, some never use a tampon, and some use a combination! It’s really a matter of personal preference…and you can use these products interchangeably.

There’s no right age to use a tampon. It’s good to know that tampons come in different types, or formats (i.e. compact plastic applicator or cardboard applicator) and that the format doesn’t make the product any more or less effective. They also come in different sizes, called absorbency levels. It’s recommended that you use the lowest absorbency level possible, especially when you are just starting out. We recommend starting with a light tampon. Read the instructions to be sure to use it correctly. It helps to ask someone for guidance. (Check out the period offerings from Lola, a female-founded company that makes period and sexual wellness products.)

And remember, tampons shouldn’t cause pain or discomfort. Always remember to change your tampon after four to six hours, and never leave a tampon in for more than eight hours. After eight hours, your risk of developing infections increases along with developing toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body from a bacterial source. The most important thing to remember is that no one knows your body as well as you do, and all periods are unique, so always pick what feels right for your individual needs.

Myth #3: Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is all in your head

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which typically occurs one week before your period, is a combination of symptoms associated with your period, and it causes symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, anxiety, or feelings of sadness before or during your period. Over 90 percent of women in the U.S. experience at least one of these symptoms right before or during their period.

Myth #4: Menstrual cycles are 28 days and last seven days.

Menstrual cycles vary from woman to woman and will change in length and frequency over time. Most menstrual cycles might occur every 21 to 35 days and last two to seven days with the average being 28 days and lasting seven days. Tracking your cycle is the best way to figure out what your cycle length is—this could be using pen and paper or with one of the many apps that help track your cycle.

Myth #5: Menstrual blood is different from regular blood.

Menstrual blood is regular blood. Vaginas are part of the body so there is nothing different about menstrual blood. Menstrual blood comes from the shedding of our endometrium, which is the lining that can be found inside the uterus. The average volume of menstrual fluid is between three and eight tablespoons per period, and every day is different. You may experience days of heavy flow and notice dark clumps or clots (smaller than a quarter) during your period. Or you may experience days of light flow where the color is more red than brown. At the beginning of your period, the blood flow is typically thinner with more volume versus later in your period when it is typically a thicker consistency and lower volume.

Myth #6: You get a period when on the birth control pill that has estrogen and progesterone.

You actually are not having your period when you are on a combined birth control that has estrogen and progesterone. You are having a “bleed” from withdrawal of those hormones during your placebo week (i.e. when taking the sugar pills).

About The Author
Nayva Mysore

Navya is a primary care provider who works collaboratively with her patients, providing guidance and resources to help them achieve their health goals. She believes in maintaining strong relationships with her patients and aims to go beyond spot-treating current medical issues and instead focuses on overall long-term health. Along with being a general family physician, Navya also has a special interest in women’s health issues. In her spare time, she loves to travel, bake, and practice yoga.

Navya was born and raised in Montreal and is fluent in French. She completed her family medicine residency and maternal child health fellowship at McGill University and is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.