With tampon shortages and sustainability top of mind, some women are rethinking how they approach their period, according to The New York Times.
Here, OB-GYNs and fertility experts break down commonly-believed misconceptions about periods and share what you really need to know about them.
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Myth #1: Bad cramps are just part of having a period
No one should have to put up with period pain that makes it hard to go about your everyday life. “Period pain can be a sign of a serious condition that may be fertility-threatening called endometriosis,” says Aimee Eyvazzadeh, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and advisor to Proov. If your period cramps are closer to a 10 on a scale from 1 to 10, talk to your doctor (ideally an endometriosis specialist, Eyvazzadeh says) about your symptoms.
Myth #2: Tampons and pads are the best options
Besides being potentially more readily available, menstrual cups can be left in for up to 12 hours and they can be very comfortable once you get used to them, according to Ashley Ulker, MD, an OB-GYN, reproductive endocrinologist, and Tampon Tribe advisor. There’s a very small learning curve but Ulker assures you’ll be a pro after a couple of tries. Period undies are another great option—and it’s also a myth that they’re uncomfortable. Tampon Tribe’s undies, for example, are made of a buttery soft material and are ideal for wearing on your heaviest period days.
Myth #3: You should stop some activities during your period, like swimming and exercise
It’s safe to do pretty much anything on your period, including swimming and exercise. That’s what Alexander Kucherov, MD, an OB-GYN and fertility specialist at Illume Fertility, tells his patients. “I’ve been told by many patients that they were advised not to go swimming or exercise while having their period, as that would increase their risk of vaginal infection,” Kucherov explains. “But this isn’t true.” And for those more concerned about not feeling comfortable or protected, know that you have options, like those aforementioned menstrual cups and period undies.
Myth #4: Everyone can afford their period
Period poverty is very real. “Lots of women and young girls are negatively impacted by the lack of availability of menstrual products,” says Angela Jones, MD, an OB-GYN. “Whether it be flat out not being able to afford them, or having to miss school, work, [or] activities as a result of not having these essential products, period products are not items that are equally available to all.” In fact, Medical News Today reports that almost two-thirds of low income U.S. women couldn’t afford menstrual products the year prior, according to research. Look out for impact-driven brands that are helping under-served women and girls get the products they need. (Tampon Tribe, for example, gives back to Project Code Red.)
Myth #5: Your periods and cycles should always be the same length
If you randomly have a short or long cycle, or your period is longer or shorter than usual, it’s not necessarily a red flag, notes Leah Millheiser, MD, NCMP, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford and Chief Medical Officer at Evernow. “Period cycles can be affected by environmental factors including psychological stress and diet changes. It’s normal to have some variation in cycle length each month.”
Myth #6: One day, your periods just suddenly stop
Menopause comes on gradually, rather than suddenly, Kucherov says. “In reality, one of the more common signs of impending menopause is a shortened menstrual cycle.” Many people don’t even notice this since it tends to happen gradually over a number of years.