Menstrual Taboos in Different Cultures

Tlingit People – When a girl first menstruates she is immediately isolated in a menstruationmenstruation hindu nepal hut and she has to follow very rigid rules. She is not permitted to lie down during the whole period of her seclusion, instead she has to sleep propped up with logs. Her face is smeared with charcoal, her head wrapped in a mat, and she has to be careful to keep out of the sunlight. She is not even permitted to chew her own food (her food is chewed for her by her relatives). Continue reading

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What Function does Menstrual Fluid have in Pregnancy?

After ovulation the uterus lining (endometrium) becomes transformed into a secretoembryo placenta endometrium 1ry lining in preparation of accepting the embryo.

If implantation does not occur, humans shed this lining each menstrual cycle. Two-thirds of it is simply reabsorbed back into the body, and the remaining one-third is shed via menstruation.

However if implantation occurs, the uterus lining (now termed decidua) evolves further during the pregnancy, and is only shed at the birth. Continue reading

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Can Menstrual Cycles Synchronize with the Lunar Cycle?

Some researchers have hypothesized that, historically, women tended to menstruate ImageJ=1.43uwhenever there was a new moon – and that it’s only our modern way of living (in houses with artificial light) that stopped our periods synchronizing with the full moon. Of course, in the world as we know it today a woman’s menstrual cycle does not synchronize with the lunar cycle (or even with other women’s cycles when they live in close proximity). However the lack of a menstrual-lunar cycle correlation could be simply due to our modern lifestyles (e.g. living in walled houses with roofs over our head and using artificial lighting). Is there any truth to the idea that historically women’s menstrual cycles tended to synchronize with certain phases of the moon?

Cultural connections between menstruation and the moon:

The moon was regarded as a powerful force by many cultures and religions historically (some even identified it as a god). Today science has proven that the moon has a strong influence over aspects of our world – we now know that the moon is a powerful magnetic force that controls our coastal tides (tides are highest at new moon or full moon).

Menstrual cycles and the lunar cycle are similar in length, therefore menstruation and fertility have long been associated with the moon. Many women today refer to their period as their “moon time”, or to their menstrual cup as their “moon cup”. The new moon is called “the day of the blood” by the Ashanti people, and the Yoruba believe that if they were to work in the fields that day the corn and rice would turn blood red.

How would society be different if menstrual cycles correlated with the lunar cycle?

If women could menstruate together at each new moon we would have solidarity in our experiences and we wouldn’t feel so secretive about menstruation and isolated in our own individual experiences. Menstruation would become something women talked about more because we would all be experiencing it together. And wouldn’t it be great if women could predict their own menstrual cycles? I would love to be able to predict my menstrual cycle. If women menstruated, as a group, with the new moon we would probably feel like we had a greater connection with nature.  It would also make me feel a little bit like a werewolf if I was able to synchronize my cycle with the moon!

If there is a natural connection between women’s menstrual cycles and the moon, we could figure out what was obstructing this connection (e.g. using artifical lighting after the sun sets), and what could be done to reduce the impact of these obstructions and ‘re-synch’ our cycles with the moon (e.g. stare at the moon for a few minutes before going to bed…?)

What the research has found:

I like the idea that women with no access to artificial lighting, who slept under the stars every night (or in tents outside), had menstrual cycles that tended to synchronize with certain phases of the moon. However no evidence has been found that menstrual cycles can synchronize with the lunar cycle. A meta-analysis of studies from 1996 showed no correlation between the human menstrual cycle and the lunar cycle. For example, no correlation was found between the menstrual and lunar cycles for Dogon villagers even though they had no electric lighting and spent most nights outdoors.

So women don’t have a special connection to nature after all! We just menstruate whenever our bodies decide to, and our bodies don’t pay any special attention to the moon. I suppose that is clever of our bodies – we’d probably end up with messed up menstrual cycles & a whole host of fertility issues if women’s menstrual cycles had to correlate with the moon no matter what. I mean, really, what does the moon have to do with women’s menstrual cycles? Pretty much absolutely nothing. A lot of the time the only visible sign of a women’s menstrual cycle is her period – however the 28-odd day menstrual cycle is a complex process with lots of little changes along the way that are necessary for a woman to achieve a healthy and fertile menstrual cycle. As long as all the little stages/processes within the menstrual cycle happen within the right time frame for our individual cycles (e.g. our period starts 11-15ish days after we ovulate, and no fewer than 9 days after ovulation) then that’s all that matters.

Is there any correlation between the lunar cycle and human or animal behaviour?

There have been many studies examining whether there is any connection between the lunar cycle and human or animal behaviour (not just menstruation) and no connection has been found. According to Wikipedia: “The term lunar effect refers to the belief that there is correlation between specific stages of the Earth’s lunar cycle and behavior in animals, including humans, that cannot simply be explained by variation in light levels. A considerable number of studies have examined the belief: by the late 1980s, there were at least 40 published studies on the purported lunar-lunacy connection, and at least 20 published studies on the purported lunar-birthrate connection. Several extensive literature reviews and meta-analyses have found no correlation between the lunar cycle and human biology or behavior.”

  1. “ovulation tends to occur at the full moon; and menstruation at the new moon” – no evidence for this has been found.
  2. “The birth rate increases at a full moon” – no evidence for this has been found.
  3. “surgeons shouldn’t operate on the full moon because of the increased risk of death of the patient through blood loss:
  4. “People with mental disorders generally exhibit increased violent or aggressive behaviour during the full moon”
  5. “There are more incidents of crime and aggressive/disorderly behaviour during a full moon”
  6. “The lunar cycle is correlated with sleep quality” – there is some evidence that this might be true (even if a person cannot see the moon and doesn’t know what phase the moon is in). A 2013 study by University of Basel in Switzerland found that participants took 5 minutes longer to get to sleep during a full moon, had about 20 minutes less sleep during the night, and had less deep sleep. The participants were in stringently controlled conditions. Stringently controlled laboratory conditions, in a cross-sectional setting, were employed to exclude confounding effects such as increased light at night or the potential bias in perception.

REFERENCES:

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Book Review of “The Red Tent” (by Anita Diamant)

Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent” is a fictional autobiography of the life of Dinah (the Posterdaughter of Jacob in the Bible). The book was turned into a TV mini-series in 2014.

In her book, Diamant brings the day-to-day lives of Dinah and the women around her to life, depicting events that are integral to women’s lives such as menstruation and childbirth. The book’s title refers to a menstrual tent in which the women of Jacob’s tribe must (according to Diamant’s fictional tale) take refuge together while menstruating or giving birth, and in which they find mutual support and encouragement from each other.

To create this novel, Diamant drew from the historical records that she could find – however she found historical records to be sparse in their accounts of women’s lives. In the Author Interview at the back of the book Diamant explains that, “Women’s accomplishments, until the very past, have been “written” on the bread they baked, the clothing they fashioned, the children they bore and reared. These are monuments that crumble into dust.”

Menstruation in “The Red Tent”:

In “The Red Tent” Diamant has imagined a world in which the women menstruate together every month at the time of the new moon. This seems like a lovely world to me – I would like it if all women menstruated at the same time. If we did, we would have solidarity in our experiences and wouldn’t feel so secretive and isolated – menstruation would be something women talked about more because we would all be experiencing it together.

I like the concept of the “red tent” – a place where women can go to congregate in the absence of men, where things like menstruation and childbirth can be discussed with ease and normality. Women talk about different things when there are no men around, and the frequent separation of women from men in Diamant’s story enabled these woman’s stories and the ‘woman’ part of their lives to be discussed more frequently and more freely than would otherwise be the case.

The “red tent” differs from many of the menstrual huts I’ve heard about in poor isolated villages around the world. When a village is poor and has few resources it is often the women and girls who are deprived first. Men don’t have to use menstrual huts (or even go near them), therefore often the menstrual hut is a tiny dingy cold, exposed, miserable and unsanitary place – not a place that women and girls enjoy going to.

 Extract from “The Red Tent”:

“I was squatting to relieve myself when I noticed the smear on my thigh. It took me several moments before I understood what I saw. It was brown rather than red. Wasn’t it supposed to be red? Shouldn’t I feel some ache in my belly? Perhaps I was mistaken and bled from my leg, yet I could find no scrape or scratch. It seemed I had been waiting forever for womanhood, and yet I did not jump up to tell my mothers. I stayed where I was, on my haunches, hidden by branches, thinking: My childhood is over. I will wear an apron and cover my head. I will not have to carry and fetch during the new moon anymore, but will sit with the rest of the women until I am pregnant. I will idle with my mother and my sisters in the ruddy shade of the red tent for three days and three nights, until first sigh of the crescent goddess. My blood will flow into the fresh straw, filling the air with the salt smell of women… I raised myself up, my fingers stained with the first signs of my maturity, and realized that there was indeed a dull ache in my bowels. With new pride, I carried myself to the tent.” (page 170).

REFERENCES:

http://explainthebible.blogspot.co.nz/2011/01/how-many-children-did-jacob-have.html

http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/eng/vayeshev/klei.html

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Everything I Need for My Period Each Month!

PREPARING FOR MY PERIOD:

1. Calender: When that my period starts I mark the five days of bleeding on my calender with an “X”, and then count 28 days from the day that my period started and write “P28” to mark the due date for my next period. My menstrual cycles are about 28 days long on average, however they vary anywhere from 25 days to 31 days long.

2. Red paper-clip reminder: Sometimes I attach a red paper-clip to my handbag a red paper clip handbag reminder periodfew days before my period is due to remind myself to put one of my menstrual cups in my handbag to take to work (in case my period starts when I am at work & not at home). The red paper-clip also reminds me to take the herbal supplements in the days leading up to the start of my period (see below), and to put ibuprofen and pantiliners in my handbag to take with me to work the next day (if I have run out of them at work).

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Which is Worse: Period Cramps or “Man Flu”?

One of my brothers (who is in his early twenties) wakes up looking like he is dying eman fluvery morning. His “man flu” symptoms are all either self-caused or in his head: he has late nights and he eats junk food all the time – of course he feels sick when he wakes up in the morning. Every morning. I feel a bit resentful that my brother will never have to experience menstrual cramps, but I also feel superior: “My brother thinks he knows what it’s like to be sick?” I think smugly to myself, “He has no idea!” I wear my self-pinned “Menstrual Cramp Sufferer” badge proudly, and enjoy teasing my hypochondriac brother about his “man flu”. He takes my teasing well, and on one occasion even acknowledged his gratitude for the fact that he will never have to deal with menstrual cramps.

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Are Feminine Hygiene Products Really that Bad for the Environment?

How much disposable sanitary product waste ends up in landfills?Landfill feminine hygiene product waste

The average woman throws away approximately 100-150kg of “feminine hygiene products” during her lifetime. This includes tampons, disposable pads, pantiliners, disposable menstrual cups, tampon applicators, and all the packaging that those products come in.  Continue reading

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Can I Flush Tampons Down the Toilet?

I love reading instructions, so when I tried out my first tampon (shortly after getting my Girl putting tampon in toilet - menstrual pride - menstrual art - menstrual photographyperiod at age 13) I read the instruction pamphlet thoroughly. I clearly remember that the instructions told me to not flush my tampons down the toilet. The bin in my family’s bathroom was just a basket without a lid – I did not relish the thought of wrapping my used tampon in lots of toilet paper and trying to dispose of it discretely in that open bin. What if someone saw it? What if the ants got to it? What if the dog or cat got to it and decided to drag it all around the house?  Continue reading

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There should be more Menstruation Scenes in Game of Thrones

Arya Stark Game of Thrones

On the face of it the Game of Thrones TV series appears to be a perfect vehicle for depicting menstruation on screen because (a) there are many interesting and complex female characters in the show, and (b) the show is happy to display other types of blood (and lots of it!) However, disappointingly, Game of Thrones has only had one menstruation scene so farContinue reading

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“Girls see more blood than boys!” (Game of Thrones)

In the Game of Thrones TV series there is a funny conversation between the feisty Ygritte and her boyfriend Jon Snow in which he tries to explain to her what “swooning” is. He tells her that swooning is, “when a girl sees blood and collapses.” Ygritte thinks that is ridiculous, “Why would a girl see blood and collapse? Girls see more blood than boys!”

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