Menstruation. Period. Tampons. Sanitary pads. Vagina bleeding – just a list of words that when mentioned are guaranteed to make men shift uncomfortably in their seats.
Despite the increasing societal pressure to eliminate the stigma associated with the concept of menstruation, many men are still uncomfortable discussing the subject in homes and relationships. Here is the reality – that lady you know will probably spend about 40 reproductive years menstruating whether you acknowledge the concept or not so avoiding the topic will not make it go away.
A poll commissioned by Thinx of 500 men in the United States revealed that 51% of men believe it is inappropriate for women to openly discuss their periods in the workplace with 44% of the men admitting to having made a joke or comment about a partner’s mood when she’s on her period.
In another study carried out by Kindara, on how men perceive menstruation, a large number of men admitted that a woman on her period is less clean and less attractive. So let’s get something clear. Menstruation is a normal bodily function just like pooping or sneezing and affects half of the world’s population. Look at it from this angle, men and women poop (more often than menstruation occurs) and yet, we do not see each other as less clean than the next person so why should we see menstruation differently?
Understanding how periods work and learning to separate the facts about periods from the myths can go a long way in demystifying the concept. Here is what you need to know.
Starting point – Every woman experiences menstruation in a different way so do not rely on this explanation as a binding guide to how the women in your life menstruate.
What is menstruation?
A woman’s uterus develops a lining intended to nourish and protect a fertilized egg (fetus) every month on average. The fertilized egg is to attach itself to the lining in order to grow. Where no pregnancy occurs during the cycle, the lining is shed along with nutrients, dissolved remnants of eggs and tissue as blood which is what is known as menstruation.
Basically: No pregnancy = no need for uterine lining = Periods
If you are wondering how often menstruation is supposed to occur, every woman’s cycle is different but the normal cycle is between 23-35 days long. A menstrual period starts from the female body preparing to get pregnant (releasing eggs from the ovary, eggs traveling to be fertilized) to the body expelling the old uterine lining as blood where the egg does not get fertilized. Menstruation days can vary by as much as 8 days with the heaviest bleeding occurring on the first few days. When menstrual cycle occur for longer periods or are extremely long, heavy or painful, this could be a sign of a medical condition like endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Premenstrual Symptoms (PMS)?
Every month, women experience different symptoms just before the actual period starts. These symptoms are known as premenstrual symptoms. While the media has been consistent in portraying food cravings and mood swings as the vital symptoms of an upcoming period, there is a whole bunch of symptoms women experience. Symptoms such as cramps (this can range from mild to painful), acne breakouts, sore breasts, bloating, and diarrhea are all fairly common.
Cramps can easily become the most dramatic part of having a period and most painful. Cramps can happen at any time of your cycle with different intensity, signaling ovulation or pre-menstrual cramps. But severe cramps or pelvic pain could be a sign of a more serious condition like endometriosis.
Emotional symptoms can also be expected by someone dealing with physical discomfort triggering emotional responses with different women experiencing unique intensities. Please note that this is not the appropriate time to make crude, humorless jokes about these emotions. They are very real, so please be empathetic.
Just in case you are wondering, your sperm can live for up to 6 days in a woman’s body compared to the female egg which only lives for 24 hours. This concept established what is known as the fertile window (a period of 7 days when intercourse is believed to possibly lead to pregnancy). Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for a woman to get pregnant if she has intercourse during her period – it is just very unlikely. Predicting when ovulation occurs (as a method of preventing pregnancy) is a lot more complex than just counting days. A woman with a short cycle can start ovulating a few days after her period and sperm from intercourse up to six days earlier can still fertilize the egg. Contraceptives are still the advisable option to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
If you have ever walked down the toiletries aisle in a grocery store, you would have noticed many different sanitary products available to help with menstruation. From pads to tampons to menstrual cups or even period-proof underwear, these sanitary products serve different women with different preferences. There are so many factors that influence a woman’s decision on sanitary products like comfort or the heaviness of flow (how much blood and how often the bleeding occurs during the day).
Having a period is a big deal. Periods are much more than that time of the month that a woman bleeds non-stop and menstruation is not one big dirty secret that women in the world share. It is the body self-cleaning in preparation for another ovulation phase in a female body. The secrecy and shame associated with menstruation only makes it worse for women. Men have a major role to play in normalizing periods and understanding the basics is definitely a step in the right direction.
Interested in how much periods cost the average woman? Here is a quick guide through the $$$.
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