Common Myths About Periods and Pregnancy

I’ve heard so many myths about my female body that it’s hard to keep up with them all. Some of them are so ridiculous that it’s pretty obvious that they’re myths, but some of them are a little more tricky. Either way, it’s fun to learn new ones and it’s a good mental exercise to point out and think about the untrue ideas that circulate throughout society, especially if you’re like me and have fallen for some myself. I believe it’s always better to know the truth about my body so that I can spend more time taking care of myself the right way.

Speaking of the myths I’ve fallen for, here is a list of menstruation myths that have once fooled me.

Myth: You shouldn’t go swimming while you are on your period because you will make the water “dirty”.

It was such a relief to find out this was a myth! I LOVE swimming, and wearing my favorite protection makes sure I don’t have any embarrassing leaks.

Myth: Women can tell when other women are on their period.

My mom can always tell when I’m on my period, but that’s because she knows how I behave when experiencing PMS and she is typically in-the-know about my cycle, anyway. Thank goodness there’s no way for random women to “sense” when aunt flow is in town… that’s information I’d rather keep to myself.

Myth: If your period is late it definitely means that you’re pregnant.

Well, it can mean that you’re pregnant, but pregnancy is only one of the many things that can cause a late or missed period.

Myth: If you’re on your period you can’t get pregnant.

Every woman’s cycle is different, so every woman has different days they are fertile and different days they are not. It is unlikely but possible for a woman to get pregnant while on her period, especially because sperm can live in the female body for 3-5 days after intercourse.

Myth: You should avoid outdoor activities such as going to the beach or hiking while on your period because the blood attracts bloody thirsty animals that will try to eat you.

Thankfully, despite what movies would have you think, this is not true! Go ahead and jump into the ocean or go hiking without worrying that you’re Aunt Flow is putting you in danger of being eaten.

Here is a list of the more obviously untrue (and hilarious) myths surrounding menstruation:

Myth: Any plant that a woman handles while on her period will shrivel up and die.

Well, everything dies eventually…but you will, no doubt, be relieved to know that no plant or animal on Earth will die more quickly because a menstruating woman comes into contact with it. There certainly will be no instant shriveling of the plant upon being touched by the menstruating woman, either. Whew!

Myth: If a woman washes her hair during her period her hair will not behave correctly.

What? This is definitely not true. Besides, my hair never behaves correctly even when I’m not on my period!

Myth: If a woman who is on her period has a hand in making mayonnaise, jelly, jam, or butter, it will not work correctly and the resulting product will be ruined.

Now, that’s just silly. How would the mayonnaise/jelly/jam/butter know whether or not I’m on my period? On top of that, why would it even care?

Myth: Any dental fillings received by a woman while on her period will promptly fall right out.

By that logic, if a woman has any teeth extracted while on her period they should promptly jump back in, right?

Myth: If you wear a tampon while you’re swimming it will become saturated with water and cause you to sink.

Even if this were true it wouldn’t cause you to sink, but the tampon won’t even absorb pool water as long as it is used correctly.

Here are some pregnancy myths that might easily fool me if I ever decide to become pregnant:

Myth: Eating spicy foods, castor oil, cod liver oil, walking or having sex will induce labor in a woman who is past her due date.

Literally every one I know who has been pregnant and went past their due date has gotten desperate enough to try almost anything to get the birthing process started. I don’t blame them, but it’s not actually doing anything.

Myth: It will harm the mother or the baby if the mother doesn’t sleep on her side.

Unless instructed by a physician, it is usually safe for a pregnant woman to sleep any way that is comfortable to her.

Myth: A woman who is pregnant shouldn’t fly, especially approaching the due date, because it is dangerous to the baby or the mother.

It is usually safe for an expecting mother to fly during her pregnancy, but it may not be very comfortable. The reason some airlines don’t allow some pregnant women on the plane has more to do with reducing the chances of a woman going into labor during the flight, or having any other complications while so far away from medical help.

Myth: My pregnancy will be exactly like my mother’s pregnancy was.

Not necessarily, everyone’s body is different and there are many things that cause different symptoms. In fact, many women who have had multiple children will tell you that their own pregnancies were wildly different from one another. When my mom was pregnant with my brother (the middle child) she had gestational diabetes, but never experienced it with the other 2 pregnancies. My best friend experienced extreme nausea lasting all day during the first trimester of one of her children but not the other. That said, I’m sure there are also many women reading this who did actually have very similar pregnancies as their mothers, but it wasn’t pre-determined by DNA.

The following pregnancy myths are more obviously untrue and are definitely hilarious:

Myth: A pregnant woman can cause the umbilical cord to wrap around the baby’s neck and strangle it by lifting her arms above her head, or changing position in any way with her body.

This is so utterly untrue (and very easy to demonstrate) that I am surprised to hear that people still believe this myth. I do not mean to insult the mother, though, I know that it isn’t easy sifting through the vast amount of information available about pregnancies. I realize that it’s much easier to err on the side of caution when it comes to the life of a child, but geesh… It’s so obvious that there’s absolutely no movement that a woman could make that would directly cause the umbilical cord to wrap around her baby’s neck. If that were the case, pregnant women would be accidentally strangling their unborn babies left and right, which would leave women no other option than to commit to total bed rest (with their arms tied to their sides) for the entirety of the pregnancy. Thankfully, this isn’t something that we need to waste our worries on.

Myth: If a pregnant woman is startled by something ugly (a snake or a spider) while she is pregnant her baby will come out looking like whatever startled her.

By this logic, my brothers and I should all look like serial killers and monsters from nearly every cheesy horror flicks made before the late 80’s. My mom has always loved horror movies even though they scare the living daylights out of her. For the record, none of my siblings resemble something otherworldly. Isn’t it funny, though, that her grandson (my brother’s child) was born on the fictional birth date of Michael Myers from the Halloween movies which just happens to by my mother’s (and the whole family’s) most favorite horror movie villain of all time (which is only significant because we have imagined it to be)!?

Myth: If an expecting mother experiences excessive heartburn during her pregnancy the baby will be born with lots of hair.

I have heard this being justified by claiming that the baby already has lots of hair and the hair is what causes the heartburn. I don’t see how any of this could be true, though, because the baby is covered in a protective sac (the placenta) and the hair never touches anything inside the mother’s body. Even if that were the case, though, it definitely wouldn’t cause heartburn, which is caused by stomach acid being “burped” back into the esophagus, not by hairy babies.

Myth: A pregnant woman who goes outside during a lunar eclipse will deliver a child with a cleft lip/palate.

What? What is the difference between being outside and inside and how does the shadow of the Earth passing over the Moon because the Sun is behind it in relative position cause a child to have a cleft lip/palate?? There are many things that can cause a baby to be born with a cleft lip/palate, such as genes, viruses, toxins or drugs, but definitely not lunar eclipses.

Myth: The position of the baby in the mother’s womb can determine the sex of the child.

I’ve heard that if an expecting mother carries her baby high in the uterus that she will be having a girl. Likewise, if the baby is carried low in the stomach it is a boy. I’ve also heard that the presence of a stripe down the middle of the pregnant lady’s stomach means she’s having a boy and the absence of the stripe means she’s having a girl. None of these are true.

There are also games that expecting mothers can play that claim to predict the sex of the child. I’ve heard of women dangling their wedding ring by either a strand of hair or a piece of string over the stomach. If the ring rotates clockwise it is a girl. If it rotates counter-clockwise it is a boy. I’ve also heard of women putting a piece of thread through a needle and dangling it over the pregnant woman’s wrist. If the pin swings back and forth, it is a boy. If it swings in circles, it is a girl.

I hope you’ve enjoyed going through the myths surrounding periods and pregnancy. For more information on sex education, Sex, etc. is a website made for teens by teens that is dedicated to improving sexual health across the country by offering honest and accurate sexual health information. You can visit the Pregnancy Center at WebMD for more information about being or trying to become pregnant. The National Institutes of Health has a great website to learn information about the female menstrual cycle. I think it’s a great idea to track your period, I’ve used this website and this app!

About Dani Johnson

I am 26 years old and I live in a college town with my boyfriend, our 2 dogs and chinchilla, 4 additional room mates and the house cat. Since I share financial responsibilities with my boyfriend I am waiting on him to finish college before I go back (he's almost done!). I will then focus my studies on Science Writing. I want to write particularly about Astrophysics, Cosmology and Planetary Science. Until then, I spend my free time listening to various podcasts about science and skepticism to inspire deeper research on potential writing topics. I also enjoy sewing, drawing, writing fiction, spending time with the boyfriend and pets, amateur astronomy and some girly things like nails, hair and makeup.
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17 Responses to Common Myths About Periods and Pregnancy

  1. Scott says:

    What about woman who work/live together having all their periods get into sync?

    • Julia says:

      Ha Ha. When I did my second practicum in Teacher’s College, the teacher who’s class I took over insisted this would happen to us over the two months I was there. And I said, “”Oh come on, next you’ll be telling me that the kids are more rowdy at the full moon.”

      She said that they were. Sigh.

      She still gave me a great evaluation though.

    • Swamowitch says:

      The hormones of a womans cycle will affect other women in close proximity over time. Just imagine what fun it was for my father in a household of 3 daughters and a wife, all of whom suffered from some of the less entertaining PMS issues. I remember it clearly.

      He should have been sainted.

      • Reg. says:

        You mean of course, Canonized.

        So should all men who successfully hold themselves aloft from the bickering women competing for their attention, by one means or the other.

        Which reminds me, one of our lovely helper ladies used to refer to her periods as “the others.”

  2. Reg. says:

    Quite obviously all PMT related delusions. One thing for sure their saliva can make a beer go flat at first sip and that’s serious stuff. Then there was my wife’s conviction that good vigorous sex was the solution to an overdue delivery. I just smiled and let her have her way.

    She was right.

  3. Moral Dolphin says:

    Great article Dani and its a profound statement that subject matter in articles written 40 years ago still have to be written today for people to take note.

    Maybe its just popularity that keeps myth going. People really don’t like finding things out for themselves but will argue the point from ignorance.

    I’d like to stress that a lot of myth about women comes from patronisation within older societies that persist to date. One need only look to these current societies that eliminate the opportunity to and for women.

    The upshot being; if that is any ones sort of common sense, then common sense has a lot of problems.

    We have entire philosophies that are political and active that have these common sense bases.

    Its even just a little bit demeaning that we live in a society that still encourages these myths let alone a whole human race where not that many of us have the educational wherewithal to overcome these “common senses”.

    Ps You missed the myth about dowsing for the sex of a child whilst a woman is pregnant (still no better than any dowsing to date). Its all technologically dependent. A wedding ring and necklace is a bad tool only resulting in a guess but a sonogram is a great dowsing tool.

  4. Andrew Trapp says:

    The myths surrounding periods & menstruation are reminiscent of the attitude many religions take toward menstruating women: that they are unclean, impure, and tainted, and that they should be restricted so as to limit the spread of this taint. I wonder if these myths have their origins in religious attitudes, or if religious writings were merely a reflection of general cultural misogyny. In any event it’s a scary thing when the yuck-factor becomes culturally embedded.

  5. Another old one is that you shouldn’t bathe or take a shower while on your period because you will catch cold. Apparently my mom knew people who believed this like, in the 50’s/60’s and there were people who would literally not shower over their entire period. Unpleasantness ensued for all.

  6. These myths were amusing, but I would have liked to see a deeper treatment of the more serious ones. Maybe in the future?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Is it true if you are next to a girl that is on her period that your hormones will start to act up and you’ll get you period to.

  8. marii says:

    Heartburn during pregnancy is true, I have 2 kids, my 1st no heartburn barely hair, the 2nd alot of heArt burn head full of hair. ..and other people I know experience as well.

  9. Pingback: periods myth(busters) Kari!!!! | Uncensored Stuff

  10. Jordan says:

    If you live with a pregnant woman close to her due date like 2 weeks close can that affect your period

  11. latika karning says:

    do a girl or (pregnant)women really die because of taking head bath on first three days of her periods?

    • No it is mythic legend probably mysogynistic that was to scare women away from baths during their periods because communal bathing was common at the time. developing into a tradition like the female restriction of the mitzvah. Bathe without fear.

  12. Dave says:

    I’ve done some Google-fu and it seems to me that a menstruating woman will *attract* sharks but will not necessarily provoke them to attack. I’ve read about “old blood” versus “fresh blood” but I’m gonna go out on a limb here….

    …a menstruating woman (whether she’s using a pad or a tampon) is more likely to attract a shark than a non-menstruating woman. Why? Because sharks are honed by millions of years of evolution to detect tiny drops of blood in vast quantities of water.

    My Google-fu has turned-up that a shark can detect a single molecule of blood in 25 gallons of water. That’s a pretty small amount. From the sources I’ve read, there is this dispute about “old blood” (what is in a menstrual bleed) versus “fresh blood” (what is in a new cut). Also from what I’ve read, sharks are attracted to this blood (either kind), but not necessarily induced to attack a menstruating woman, specifically.

    That’s well and good, but…if you’re in a shark-infested area…do you really want to tell women that it’s a myth that “the blood attracts bloody thirsty animals that will try to eat you”? It seems to me….as a Google expert as opposed to a real expert…that being a menstruating woman (or near a menstruating woman) will attract the interest of sharks moreso than if you are not a menstruating woman (or near one).

    I’ve also read that all sorts of other things attract sharks…urine and sweat, for example. So playing near the surf where lots of women are menstruating, everyone is sweating, and lots of people are peeing probably wouldn’t attract a shark to a particular place.

    All things being equal, in short, I don’t see how a menstruating woman wouldn’t be more interesting to a shark than a non-menstruating woman.

  13. Although you can extrapolate from a sharks sense for blood that menstrual blood will attract them. Yet in some small scale experiments sharks tend to ignore human blood entirely and only response to normal prey blood such as fish. So there is some evidence that depending on breed and prey any human Blood may be irrelevant.

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