It’s no secret that periods can be a real pain in the butt or more specifically, the uterus. But what certainly doesn’t help when trying to navigate the mood swings, cramps and stained pyjamas, are the menstrual myths out there.
The misinformation around periods seems to be more ‘common knowledge’ than the truth. So, I’m here to burst some bubbles of things you’ve probably heard that are actually false. And I apologise in advance for number 5!
1. Tampons can get lost inside you
Tampons can be daunting to people who haven’t used them before. One thing that tends to contribute to that, is the fear of getting a tampon lost in the deep dark depths of your internal organs. You should be relieved to hear that it’s not gonna happen.
Tampons sit in the vagina, and the vagina is a closed space. The only entrance or exit from the vagina is the vulva - the opening to the outside world between your legs - and the cervix. The cervix sits at the top of the vagina and is the hallway to the womb. There is a hole in the cervix that expands during labour, but ordinarily, it’s certainly not big enough for a tampon to fit through.
While tampons can’t go floating around on a tour of your insides, they can sometimes get temporarily stuck or lodged slightly out of reach. This sounds scary but you don’t need to panic. If you feel comfortable doing so, squat on the bathroom floor and with clean hands, see if you can reach it inside. Failing that, head to the nearest sexual health clinic and they will be able to remove it for you. No need to be embarrassed; you won’t be the first person they’ve removed a tampon for, and you certainly won’t be their last!
2. Tampons take your virginity.
It seems like as long as tampons have been around there’s been a belief that 1. You should only use them if you’re married or sexually active, and 2. That using a tampon means you’re no longer a ‘virgin’. Both of these things are in fact completely untrue.
This idea that tampons can take your virginity is BS for many reasons. The main one is that it stems from the notion that using a tampon breaks the hymen. The hymen, if you didn’t know, is a thin layer of tissue that partially covers the entrance to the vagina. Many people are led to believe that it ‘breaks’ upon having penetrative sex and that’s what indicates if you’ve had penetrative sex or not - thereby indicating whether you are a ‘virgin’. This simply isn’t true.
The hymen usually breaks down and stretches naturally before someone has sex for the first time. It can also be stretched by activities such as horseback riding, cycling, gymnastics and even climbing trees - none of which are remotely sexual. So the presence or lack of hymen has absolutely nothing to do with whether someone has had sex or not. So no, tampons don’t take your virginity… whatever ‘virginity’ means anyway. *eye roll*
3. You can’t get pregnant from having sex during your period
Having sex on your period doesn’t give you a free pass to forego contraception. You can get pregnant from having penis-in-vagina sex during your period. It’s unlikely - a lot of things have to align - but it can definitely happen. Let me walk you through it…
Sperm can live inside the female reproductive system for around 5 days. If you have sex towards the end of your period (let’s say, day 5) and have a short menstrual cycle of around 20 days, it’s not unlikely that ovulation will occur within a week or so of the menstrual phase. This means you may release an egg while the sperm is still swimming around in there.
As I said, the chances are pretty slim, but they aren’t zero. If you’re having penis-in-vagina sex and you aren’t hoping to conceive, you still need to use contraception - whenever in your cycle you’re getting down.
4. Only people who use tampons can get Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) - or as I call it, the Boogieman of periods - is a very rare but serious condition caused by bacteria. This bacteria usually live harmlessly on the skin, but if it gets deeper into the body, it can cause TSS.
While it’s true that the risks of getting TSS are higher for menstruators who use internal period products, the reality is that absolutely anyone can get it. Including cis men/non-menstruators.
This unfortunately means there’s no way to completely eradicate the risk of TSS. However, when I say it’s rare, I mean it’s REALLY rare. Most doctors in the UK won’t see a single case of it in their entire careers. But it can be fatal so it’s important to know the symptoms and how to reduce your risk as much as possible.
5. Menstrual cycles sync
I’m bracing for people’s outrage on this one. Listen, I get it, and I’m sorry! I know it’s a hard pill to swallow. But there have been studies showing there’s no link between people spending time together and their menstrual cycles syncing up. In fact, a study by Clue even found that people were more likely to become out of sync over time.
So why do we all have stories of one time or another when we’ve been on at the exact same time as our mum, sister, friends, housemates? Statistically, we’re bound to be menstruating at the same time as someone we know at some point - possibly for a while. But it’s just, well... Coincidence.
That concludes my top menstrual myths - how many surprised you? I hope you now feel confident to go forth and spread some hard-hitting period truths. We could certainly use it!
By Kathryn King, Founder of @BloodyHonest