Menstruation is often perceived to be a somewhat tricky subject and that is partly because it’s still regarded by many as a taboo topic that shouldn’t be openly discussed. For this reason, many patients, including single fathers, are apprehensive about seeking advice related to menstruation and it is important to help dispel some of these common myths.
MYTH: Periods last for exactly one week
The menstrual cycle, which is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next, isn’t the same for all women. Menstrual bleeding can occur every 21-35 days and last anywhere from 2-7 days. Long cycles are common for the first few years after menstruation begins. Depending on a patient, a menstrual cycle may be regular, about the same length every month or somewhat irregular.1 Twenty-eight days is just the average marker given for a monthly cycle, every woman is different. Younger teenagers will often have irregular periods while a regular period for 18-35-year-old patients could be anywhere from 21-35 days long.2
MYTH: Exercise during your period is bad
While it is normal for a woman to feel tired and experience cramps, there is no reason for them not to engage in sport or exercise as they normally would. In fact, exercise may help alleviate a patient’s menstrual cramps and boost mood.3 Cycling, swimming, walking, and stretching will help relax the muscles. However, too much exercise can lead to missed menstrual periods or it can make periods stop entirely. Irregular or missed periods are more common in athletes and women who train hard regularly. If a patient hasn’t exercised for a long period of time and suddenly begins a vigorous fitness routine, her period could stop or become irregular.4
MYTH: Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is all in your head
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) includes a wide selection of symptoms including mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability, and depression. About three out of every four menstruating women have experienced some form of PMS. Although symptoms tend to recur in a predictable pattern, the physical and emotional changes experienced with PMS may vary from slightly noticeable to intense.5 While a patient may not be in control of her hormones, Chester County Hospital recommends the following ways to ease symptoms of PMS:
- Staying healthy throughout the month by getting enough exercise, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, coping with stress, and avoiding smoking
- Taking OTC medicines, such as ibuprofen, to ease physical symptoms
- Taking prescription medicines, such as hormonal birth control, antidepressants, diuretics (to reduce bloating), or anti-anxiety medicines.6
- Mayo Clinic. Menstrual Cycle: What's Normal, What's Not.‘ Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menstrual-cycle/art-20047186#:~:text=The%20menstrual%20cycle%2C%20which%20is,begins%2C%20long%20cycles%20are%20common.
- O’ Connor, R. (2015). ‘9 Of The Most Common Myths About Periods.’ Independent. Available from: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/9-of-the-most-common-myths-about-periods-a6675446.html
- Office on Women’s Health. ‘Physical activity and your menstrual cycle.’ Available from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/getting-active/physical-activity-menstrual-cycle
- Mayo Clinic. ‘Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).’ Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premenstrual-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20376780
- Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital. (2019). ‘The Truth About 5 Common Period Myths.’ Available from: https://www.chestercountyhospital.org/news/health-eliving-blog/2019/july/period-myths#:~:text=MYTH%20%233%3A%20Your%20period%20should,every%204%20to%205%20weeks.