5 Myths About Menstruation — And The Scientific Response
There are so many myths about periods it's hard to know what's fact or fiction. Do besties really sync up if they spend enough time together? Are menstrual blood facials the ultimate answer to your skin woes? And what's the deal with creativity during your period? Whether you call your monthly visitor a blessing or a curse, menstruation still holds a certain level of mystery.
Along with menstrual misinformation, period stigma persists. It's the sad truth that many patriarchal societies have turned the cyclical shedding of uterine lining into something dirty or shameful. However, this isn't true everywhere. In fact, there are cultures and religions which celebrate the crimson wave that young uterus-having folks ride on a regular basis.
In Shaktism, a sect of Hinduism which focuses worship on the divine mother Shakti, there is an actual celebration of menstruation, where goddess of desire Kamakhya and her cycle are feted and appreciated by thousands. And, of course, in feminism, women have reclaimed the power of the period to use it as a time of reflection, blood-art-creation, and staying-under-the-covers-and-watching-TV.
Still, amongst those who celebrate and condemn periods, misconceptions abound. Here are five period myths and what science has to say about them:
1. Your Cycle Will Sync Up With Friends And Family
If you've ever had a period sync up with a BFF, you probably take it for granted that women's cycles shift to align with each other. An oft cited Harvard study from 1971 found that women who lived in dorms together noticed their periods change from starting an average of eight or nine days apart to five days apart. More recent research suggests that period synchronicity is a myth, however, and according to an overview of these studies in The Guardian, "you are the owner of your menstrual cycle and no friend, however close, can control it."
2. The Moon Controls Your Cycle
As a witchy woman, there's nothing I love more than full moon rituals and feeling connected to that mercurial orb in the sky. Although many women accept that the moon controls the tides just as much as it controls menstrual cycles, science says different.
Apparently there is only one major study that cites a connection between menstruation and the full moon. According to Live Science, that study showed 40 percent of participants getting their periods within two weeks after the onset of the full moon, leaving 60 percent who didn't. Since then, little research has been able to prove any further links. The truth is out there, as Scully would say, but for now, there isn't solid evidence that moons and menstruation are intimately connected.
3. Menstrual Blood Makes A Great Facial Mask
Menstrual blood is supposed to be rich with stem cells that can reverse aging, heal injuries and illnesses, and maybe even make for a gore-tastic facial mask. According to a CBS News article, researchers from Medistem discovered that "endometrial regenerative cells" abound in period blood, which is why they are now testing how these cells can be used productively. Aside from the life saving medical advances these cells could bring, could they also make your skin wrinkle-free and hella dewy?
Although plenty of myths suggest that menstrual blood makes a great facial mask, there is no concrete scientific research to prove this to be true. However, injecting your own (non-menstrual) blood can supposedly improve your skin, according to some plastic surgeons.
4. Women "Naturally" Repel Men During Their Period
Supposedly, men pick up on pheromones that women give off during menstruation so they know to stay far, far away. Is this really true? One study by researchers at the University of New Mexico tracked 18 female strippers for 60 days and found that their tips and popularity with male customers increased during the most fertile time in their cycles and plummeted when they were menstruating. However, they did use a pretty tiny sample and the study has since been criticized and disproven.
Other studies have suggested that men are more attracted to the odors of women who are ovulating, and that they can tell where a woman is in her cycle by smell. Although women undoubtedly give off certain signals to men when they're ovulating, it doesn't necessarily mean there's a biological stay-the-hell-away-from-me vibe when they're menstruating. In fact, for those who prefer period sex, it might be the exact opposite.
5. You Are More Creative In Certain Points Of Your Cycle
Many women view their period as the time of the month they get to lie around, feel horrible, and try to forget about life for a while. If you're of that mind, those seven or eight days are not associated with being extra sharp and on top of your game.
However, certain researchers suggest that the beginning of your cycle is the best time to start a new project, because once you hit ovulation, according to a German study, your "figural creativity" is likely to increase. This means your ability to think outside the box in images instead of in words is on fire. Of course, this is very preliminary and subjective research — and if your natural cycle is impacted by birth control, you might have your creative juices flowing evenly throughout the month.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (5)