5 Period Myths You Probably Believe

The thing about periods is that you never hear anyone say how much she adores her flow or how she looks forward to her cycle. Some of girls’ most common fears about menstruation are rooted in, well, stuff that just isn’t quite true about odor, activity levels, harsh PMS and more. Don’t know what to believe? We break it down for you right here:

Period Myth No. 1: Just before and during your period, you’ll always be bloated, cramping, sleepless and a serious B to everyone.

Symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) are not guaranteed. “Periods are so individual, and some girls hardly have any symptoms at all,” says Hannah Wright, a physician assistant in San Francisco. “Girls expect their periods are going to be extremely painful at some point, and that may never be your experience. If you do have super-heavy bleeding, big mood swings or painful cramping, see your medical provider. You do not have to live with PMS symptoms.”

Period Myth No. 2: Period blood is stinky and dirty, and if you don’t shower during your period people can smell you.

Menstrual blood has an odor, true -- but it’s not extreme and it’s not wafting from your nether regions to the guy standing next to you at the coffee shop. “Odor is part of being human,” Hannah assures us. “Your body has different smells, and some girls believe they have to clean out the vagina with feminine washes, especially after a period. This isn’t true. The vagina is a very clean environment that maintains itself with a delicate Ph balance that prevents yeast or bacteria from overgrowing.” Change your tampon or pad regularly, and shower daily as usual. There is one exception: If the odor becomes extreme, you may have an infection. Time to see your doctor.

Period Myth No. 3: If you go swimming you’ll bleed in the pool, and when school starts back up you should be able to sit out during gym since physical activity is bad.

Your period blood is mostly uterine lining gently shedding itself, so it’s not like you’ve got some massive amount of blood swishing around. Unless your tampon is full and your flow is extra heavy, you’re not going to bleed in the pool. You can swim on your period! “You don’t have to treat your period like you’re sick,” insists Hannah. “Exercise is often a great way to alleviate PMS symptoms. You should be able to have a normal, healthy lifestyle, and your period shouldn’t interrupt those activities.” Simply keep a stash of tampons in your tote bag or gym locker, and go do what you do!

Period Myth No. 4: You shouldn’t use tampons if you’re a virgin.

Some girls believe they need to be sexually active before they can insert a tampon. So not true! Virgins, you are tampon-approved, promise. “There are cultures or religions where they don’t use tampons until marriage because they believe nothing should be in the vagina before intercourse,” explains Hannah. “But using tampons has nothing to do with sexuality, and there is no medical reason why a girl shouldn’t use a tampon at any age or stage in her reproductive health. Tampons are especially important if you’re involved in sports or have a super-heavy flow and need the protection.”

Period Myth No. 5: If you use the wrong-size tampon, it will get stuck and you’ll get toxic shock syndrome.

Vaginas are all different, but they are not measured in slender, regular or super plus. “The size of the tampon is not about your vagina size,” says Hannah. “Tampon size should be selected depending on the heaviness of the blood flow. If a tampon is painful, you’re probably not inserting it correctly.” As for toxic shock? “I don’t know the statistics, but I’ve never seen a case -- very low. It is not possible for a tampon to get ‘lost’ in the body. We remove a lot of retained tampons -- some in a patient’s vagina for weeks -- and it’s the odor that brings the patient in. If you think you forgot [to remove] a tampon, don’t worry, but definitely see your medical provider.”