You might have heard that you shouldn’t wear white pants while on your period, but did you know that according to one of the many superstitious beliefs about menstruation, you shouldn’t paint your nails or dye your hair either?
For thousands of years, superstitious beliefs about menstruation have been passed down amongst the generations and still often act as a source of guidance for how a woman should act — and shouldn’t act — when she’s on her period in present day. Praise be.
If you’re rolling your eyes at the thought of irrational period-related myths, you’d be surprised to know that millions of people across the world not only believe these superstitions but use them to impose behavioral restrictions and boundaries on women, too.
You know that having a period is simply a part of being a woman. Yet that doesn’t mean this natural act is exempt from cultural taboos, since even being a woman is taboo in some areas of the world. Here’s a look at some of the most common superstitious beliefs about menstruation in different cultures scattered throughout the world.
Belief #1: You’ll Contaminate Things
You might use your period cramps as an excuse not to go to the gym from time to time, but can you imagine staying away from your church on the grounds that your period will negatively impact your spirituality?
Unfortunately, many women in India are shunned from entering religious temples for this very reason. Superstitious Hindu beliefs lead some to believe that menstruation is a form of impurity that has no place in a clean place where God(s) are worshiped.
Unfortunately, this means that many adolescents entering puberty are lead to view their period as a shameful event rather than the natural, life-giving process that it is.
Belief #2: You Can’t Have Sex on Your Period
Imagine that your partner sets up a romantic evening for the both of you. You thought the stove was hot, but your eyes feast on each other — steam’s not the only thing rising. Time for some Moscato and sexy-time, but first you need to see if Aunt Flo made an impromptu visit.
You quickly head to the bathroom only to realize Flo’s checked you into the Red Roof Inn, putting a damper on your plans. Fortunately, the faux pas of not having period sex is just a superstitious way society seeks to make you feel the wrong kind of dirty.
In fact, if you’re wondering how to regulate your period naturally, a bit of action under the sheets may just do the trick — and calm the demon cramps in your gut.
A research study examining the impact of sex on a woman’s cycle found that women experienced stabilized luteinizing hormones — or the hormones responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle — after getting busy. SCIENCE!
While things may be a bit messier, that shouldn’t stop you from having sex on your period if you and your partner are both comfortable with it.
Belief #3: Everything You Touch Dies!
Yup, you’re Typhoid from “Elektra,” decaying everything around you. But at least you look good.
Sometimes when women get their period, they see it as a sign of good luck if they’re not trying to get pregnant. But for others, superstitious beliefs about menstruation say they can’t even touch a blooming flower for fear that they’ll destroy it.
In countries such as Nepal, menstruating women are not supposed to consume vegetables or fruit because social stigmas promote the idea that menstruation will ruin the food. For other women, the fear of the contamination caused by periods means they sometimes go days without seeing their family, too.
In fact, what your period says about your fertility means you give life — not stop it. After you complete a healthy menstrual cycle, your body prepares itself for potential childbearing within the next two weeks. Behold your fertility! That sounds like a woman’s capacity to menstruate means she’s full of life rather than sterility, wouldn’t you say?
Belief #4: Periods Should Never be Discussed
For millions of girls across the globe, any topic surrounding periods seems to ignite flushed cheeks and a sense of despair, especially for those entering puberty. I’m sure you know that feeling all too well of flushing the toilet or letting out a loud cough as you tried to open the pad wrapper as silently as possible in the bathroom stall.
Yeah, yeah. Men have the whole, “pee one stall over and never look” bro code — women have… this. Never let it crinkle!
But a period is about the most natural act there is. After all, you wouldn’t be here to read this article if your mother didn’t have a healthy reproductive system where periods allowed her to ovulate — leading her ultimately into having you.
Unfortunately, social stigmas and misogynistic mindsets have led women to believe that so much of their body — whether it be breastmilk, hair on various body parts or menstrual blood, is impure and something to shame.
Even though women in different cultures throughout the world go through many obstacles to hide who they are, it only serves to further feed the social stigma surrounding women’s bodies and menstruation.
Belief #5: Periods Must Cause Agony
Yes, some women do suffer dysmenorrhea, or painful periods. However, many other females experience few, if any symptoms. I’m one of them, and have the pants drawer to prove it. Most women find that, if anything, over-the-counter painkillers dull the worst of the bite of this menstrual superstition.
A few mild cramps need raise no worry, but severe lower abdominal pain during menstruation can indicate a more serious medical condition. Those suffering pain enough to miss work once a month benefit from a visit to the gynecologist. While many causes of extreme pain with menstruation clear up with treatment, letting them continue un-examined may result in fertility issues.
It’s also not true that all women suffer PMS before they bleed. Many do, and those with premenstrual dysphoric disorder may experience hallucinations, severe depression and anxiety one or two weeks out of each month. Young women reaching menarche and those in perimenopause may suffer more emotional disturbances before their period than those in their 20s and 30s.
Belief #6: Stay Outta the Water!
Women on their periods need to keep away from the pool or the beach, right? Not necessarily. While taking a swim in the ocean while bleeding can increase the risk of shark attack in certain waters, there’s no reason for women to avoid boating on the lake or swimming laps at the Y.
Unlike some kookier menstrual superstitions, this one made a certain degree of sense back in the day before tampons become widely available. No one wants a red trail following them around while they backstroke. Thanks to the miracle of Tampax, women who swim for exercise or recreation can safely make some waves.
Belief #7: You’ll Boil the Holy Water
Do you fear heading to church while bleeding will make the holy water sizzle the way it did when Robert De Niro stepped into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in “The Devil’s Advocate?” While many religious belief systems require women to follow specific traditions when menstruating, the chances of getting struck by lightning from approaching the altar are slim indeed. After all, if traditions proved truth, even adults would expect a visit from Santa once a year.
Most Christian denominations find nothing inherently evil or sacred about menstruation, although some, like Eastern Orthodox followers, suggest women refrain from communion while bleeding. In the Islamic faith, women may attend religious services and participate in pilgrimages, although they may not circle the Kaaba during their period.
Some Eastern religious traditions, such as Hinduism, likewise have established rules for menstruating women. Others, such as most forms of Buddhism, attach no special significance to the occasion. Still, devout women who do not wish to violate the tenets of their faith while bleeding won’t suffer from temporary restraints on their worship.
Belief #8: You Can’t Get Preggers
Although less likely, women can and do become pregnant while menstruating. Women who follow the rhythm method of contraception benefit from this awareness and may wish to use devices such as ovulation predictors to decrease chances of getting in the family way before they’re ready.
Women not wishing to risk pregnancy should continue their present method throughout menstruation. Pill takers know they have a special week of tablets to swallow, but those using diaphragms, contraceptive sponges or condoms best keep on inserting their method or continuing to wrap that soldier. If your method of choice becomes tubal ligation, you’re off the hook. Once you finish childbearing, the freedom the procedure can give you to have sex without fear makes the experience much, much better.
Superstitious Beliefs About Menstruation Hold No Truth
If you think any of superstitious beliefs about menstruation are silly, that’s because they often hold no truth in reality. But even in a place that boasts as diverse of a population as the US, women still often tend to feel voiceless about much of what goes on with their bodies.
Although some of these myths can seem entertaining, it’s vital to take them seriously because of their effect on women who are living among them every day. We need better sexual health education worldwide so that women throughout the world do not have to feel shame for simply being female.
When people educate themselves on the reality of this life-producing cycle, they’re much more likely to replace superstitious beliefs with thoughtful insight that allows women to feel power, not shame. In Aunt Flo, we trust — Under Her flow. Praise be the period.