Menstruation has been (and still is in some cultures) a taboo topic. As a result of women being unable to speak about it openly to their families and friends, the truths about periods have remained as convoluted as a piece of information traveling down the line of participants in a game of telephone.

The problem is these myths passed along as truths compromise women’s health in some very serious ways, so we want to set the record straight.

7 Period Myths That Can Get You Into Trouble

Here are seven of the most common period myths we hear in our office almost daily and their truthful, scientifically-supported corrections.

1. You can’t get pregnant on your period.

While it’s rare that a woman can get pregnant having sex on her period, it can happen. Everyone’s menstrual cycles are different, so everyone’s fertile windows vary, too. If you’re timing sex to get pregnant, you want to wait until after your period but before you ovulate. This is because sperm live about five to seven times longer than the female egg after its release.

So, if you have sex during your period, your partner has healthy sperm, and one of them lives long enough to greet the egg when she’s released down the fallopian tube, there’s a chance you can get pregnant.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are sexually active with multiple partners, or your partner is not monogamous, ALWAYS use a condom when having sex. This includes when on your period to protect both of you from sexually transmitted (and blood-borne) diseases.

2. Sex hurts more on your period.

Not necessarily. In fact, many studies show that having sex while on your period can relieve PMS symptoms. That’s especially true if you have orgasms because orgasms release massive amounts of oxytocin and dopamine, both of which are natural pain relievers.

Also, the increased lubrication resulting from menstruation can support a more satisfying sexual experience, with no need for synthetic lubes.

3. You shouldn’t exercise when menstruating.

Like orgasms (although perhaps not as enjoyable), exercise releases endorphins and dopamine. So, one of the best things you can do during your period is get up and move around. Depending on your period symptoms’ severity, you may want to tone down the exercise routine. 

However, something as simple as taking a walk or hike, riding your bike, or doing a gentle yoga class promotes circulation and oxygenation and can reduce inflammation – all of which relieve PMS symptoms. If nothing else, it might get your mind off the discomfort for a while.

4. You aren’t a virgin if you use tampons.

Fortunately, this myth is quickly falling by the wayside. That said, some of our younger patients still ask about this regularly. Using tampons has nothing to do with virginity. Virginity is a term used to describe a woman who hasn’t had sexual intercourse. Using a tampon may potentially disrupt an intact hymen, but you are still considered a virgin.

This is one of the reasons we feel it’s so important for teenage girls to have their first OB/GYN appointments after they menstruate and before they become sexually active. The earlier they have access to accurate information and a trusted reproductive health ally, the better and more informed decisions they’ll make. 

5. You need to stay out of the pool (or bodies of water) while on your period.

It’s hard to know exactly how this particular rumor got started. Granted, the idea of swimming or being in the water while menstruating may have felt risque or caused women to worry they’d swim with a trail of period blood obviously behind them. However, that’s not the case. 

Women have several options to protect their undergarments from the flow of period blood, the most common being pads, tampons, or menstrual cups. If you use a tampon or cup, you can continue doing so in the water. Cups tend to fill up from water that leaks in, so you’ll probably need to change it more frequently when you’re enjoying water fun in the sun. If you use pads, they won’t hold up in the water. 

We recommend discarding the pad when you’re swimming. First, you won’t leak enough blood for anyone to notice. Then, once you dry off, you can replace your pad. Some patients prefer wearing swimsuits with dark-colored bottoms so any potential staining doesn’t show through. You can also opt for period swimwear – that works like period underwear – absorbing any blood that does come out while wearing your swimsuit.

6. Period blood can attract bears or sharks.

A bear may be able to smell you’re on your period, but they have no interest in that. They are species-specific and are only interested in their own kind, so your being on your period is of no interest to them. 

The same is true for sharks. Plus, the very minimal amount of blood that would come out while swimming in the ocean isn’t enough to draw a predator in. Before a shark is interested, there needs to be far more blood present, like the quantity resulting from a traumatic injury.

7. Period blood is dirty or gross.

If you think blood is gross, in general, then we understand why period blood falls into that category. However, there is nothing inherently dirty or tainted about period blood compared to regular blood. It’s made of the same ingredients but includes some of your natural discharge. 

Have Questions About These or Other Period Myths?

Do you have questions about your menstrual cycle? Have you wondered about these and other period myths? Schedule an appointment with Overlake OB/GYN, and we’ll answer any questions or concerns you may have. We’re here to set the record straight.