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Menstruation Stigma
Menstruation Stigma
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Menstruation Stigma

This video discusses menstruation stigma, which is the discrimination that some people who menstruate (get a period) experience. The video includes the truth about periods and why common myths are incorrect.

Youth

If you’re between the ages of 9 and 14, you’ve probably started to experience puberty, or the changes that happen when your body grows from a child to a young adult. Then again, you may not have. Either way, don’t worry. Puberty in girls, and people with uteruses, can start as early as age 8 and as late as 13 or 14, but eventually everyone goes through it!

 

Beginning menstruation, often called getting your period, is a normal part of going through puberty for girls and people with uteruses. Your period happens around once a month because changes from puberty signal your brain to release new chemicals, called hormones, into your body. During this time, your uterus starts creating a thick, lush layer of blood and nutrients inside in case you have sex and a fetus (or baby-to-be) starts to grow. If there is no pregnancy, the uterus pushes out the layer of blood and nutrients, called the endometrium, which comes out of the vagina as your period. Your body then begins to create a new layer with a fresh lining and it starts over again.

 

Around the world, people talk about menstruation differently, some people call it ‘getting your period’ or ‘your cycle’ or ‘that time of the month’. Whatever it is called in your community, menstruation is a natural and healthy part of having a uterus!  It’s also normal to feel nervous or anxious about getting your period. It can help to talk with an adult that you trust about what to expect and to carry some feminine hygiene supplies (like a pad or tampon) with you just in case.

 

Sometimes girls and people with uteruses face menstruation stigma.  Stigma is when a person who is menstruating is judged or shamed by others, even though the judgment usually comes from false information.  This is because there are still a lot of myths about menstruation, and lots of people are still learning about what it means to menstruate.  

In some places, people on their periods aren’t allowed to participate in activities like going to school or attending social events, and sometimes they aren’t allowed to leave the house at all. While many communities have stigma about menstruation, together we can break down these myths. The bottom line is that menstruation stigma is a big factor that holds girls and people with uteruses back in many ways. But menstruation is not only a women’s issue, all genders must be involved in the conversations and spread positive information to break down stigma, myths, and prevent discrimination. 

FAQs

Is period blood dirty?

TRUTH: Menstruation is a natural and healthy part of life!

Menstrual blood is made up of regular blood and uterine lining.  It doesn’t have any special or dangerous ingredients.  Menstrual blood and uterine lining aren’t dirty, they are natural and healthy parts of a human body. 

Can I participate in my regular activities when I’m on my period?

TRUTH: Menstruation rights are human rights!

Human rights are rights that every human being has by virtue of their being. Menstruation shouldn’t change a person’s human rights and ability to participate in community activities.  Because menstrual blood is natural and safe, it is okay for people to participate in community activities like school, swimming, cooking, holidays, and spiritual gatherings during their menstruation. It is especially important that young girls are able to attend school during menstruation.  Missing many days of school every month can cause a person to fall behind in their studies and makes it difficult to catch up to their peers academically.

Should I be embarrassed about my period?

TRUTH: It is okay to talk about menstruation!

There is no shame in menstruating, it is an amazing part of being human and prepares a body to create life! It is okay to talk with others about menstruation, how to care for your body, and where to dispose of menstruation products.  There are many ways a person can take care of themselves that are safe, clean, and healthy during their menstrual cycle.  Talking about menstruation can help reduce anxiety and fear and increase knowledge and confidence. People who are menstruating have the right to know and make decisions about how they take care of their bodies; talking about it can support them in making healthy and safe choices. 

Test your knowledge

Try this Kahoot quiz after watching the video

Parents

Girls and people with uteruses go through a process called puberty, during which their body experiences many changes in order to allow it to physically reproduce and become an adult.

One physical change is beginning the menstrual cycle. Menstrual periods occur once a month and can last from a few days to a week. Some people have cramps during their periods while others do not. It’s important for menstruating people to understand that their first period signals the beginning of ovulation and their body’s ability to get pregnant if they were to have unprotected vaginal sex. Once a month, a hormone in the brain signals the ovaries to release an egg or ovum (a process called ovulation). The hormone estrogen is also released to signal the uterus to build up its lining. If an egg is not fertilized within 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, the egg disintegrates while still in the fallopian tube. Two weeks later, when the uterus realizes there is no fertilized egg, the built-up lining of the uterus (endometrium) is shed out of the vagina during the menstrual period.

There are many other physical, emotional and social changes of puberty as well, and it generally takes five to seven years for all of the changes to be complete. Additional physical changes of puberty include a growth spurt and hair growth in the armpits, on the legs and around the genitals. Young people may also experience acne, and their sweat may now have a strong odor.

There are also emotional changes during puberty, including mood swings, experiencing sexual feelings, being interested in other people in a new romantic and/or sexual way and often feeling a need for more privacy from parents and/or siblings.

It is important for caring adults to explain the changes of puberty to young people before and while they are going through them. It is also essential to assure them that these changes are normal. Helping young people identify ways to cope with these changes can make this stage of life less stressful. Talking about these changes with the young people in your life lets them know that they are not alone and can come to their parents or guardians if they have questions or need support.

It is common for young people to hear many myths about the menstrual cycle and periods. Having a trusted adult in their lives that they can talk to about this topic is important. Sometimes girls and people with uteruses face menstruation stigma. Stigma is when a person who is menstruating is judged or shamed by others, even though the judgment usually comes from false information. This is because there are still a lot of myths about menstruation, and lots of people are still learning about what it means to menstruate.

About half of the population of people with uteruses, ¼ of the total world population, is at reproductive age and menstruates. While many communities have stigma about menstruation, together we can break down these myths. The bottom line is that menstruation stigma is a big factor that holds girls and people with uteruses back in many ways. But menstruation is not only a women’s issue, all genders must be involved in the conversations and spread positive information to breakdown stigma, myths, and prevent discrimination. Talking with your young person can help dispel myths, and break down stigma about menstruation.

Conversation Starters

It’s essential that you have conversations about topics like puberty and menstruation, so your child knows that they can come to you with questions. The easiest way to start these conversations is to talk about issues as they come up in everyday life, like while watching TV or browsing social media together.

Below are some ways to start these conversations:

Buy menstrual pads, tampons, or menstrual cups for your child (or yourself).

When you get home and unpack the groceries, tell your child that you bought these for them. Explain that you know that they haven’t gotten their period yet and that it may still be awhile, but you want them to know that these things are here when they need them. You can go on to talk more about how to use the menstrual products and let them know that you are always there, whenever they want to talk more about these things. 

Talk to your child about myths, stigma, and stereotypes and about how people may be teased or bullied.

When you see topics like myths, stigma, and stereotypes (about anything) on TV or social media, talk to your child about what they think or feel about the situation. You might ask them, “Have you ever seen someone teased? How did that make you feel? What did you do?” Watch movies like Turning Red or Big Hero Sex with your children, talk about what they learned and how the movies made them feel.

Talk to all your children, not just the girls, about menstruation.

Even if your child is a boy or won’t get a period, talking to them about periods and menstrual products will help reduce stigma. Menstruation is not only a women’s issue, all genders must be involved in the conversations and spread positive information to breakdown stigma, myths, and prevent discrimination. Talking with your young person can help dispel myths, and break down menstruation stigma.

Educators

Girls and people with uteruses go through a process called puberty, during which their body experiences many changes in order to allow it to physically reproduce and become an adult.

One physical change is beginning the menstrual cycle. Menstrual periods occur once a month and can last from a few days to a week. Some people have cramps during their periods while others do not. It’s important for menstruating people to understand that their first period signals the beginning of ovulation and their body’s ability to get pregnant if they were to have unprotected vaginal sex. Once a month, a hormone in the brain signals the ovaries to release an egg or ovum (a process called ovulation). The hormone estrogen is also released to signal the uterus to build up its lining. If an egg is not fertilized within 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, the egg disintegrates while still in the fallopian tube. Two weeks later, when the uterus realizes there is no fertilized egg, the built-up lining of the uterus (endometrium) is shed out of the vagina during the menstrual period.

There are many other physical, emotional and social changes of puberty as well, and it generally takes five to seven years for all of the changes to be complete. Additional physical changes of puberty include a growth spurt and hair growth in the armpits, on the legs, and around the genitals. Young people may also experience acne, and their sweat may now have a strong odor.

There are also emotional changes during puberty, including mood swings, experiencing sexual feelings, being interested in other people in a new romantic and/or sexual way and often feeling a need for more privacy from parents and/or siblings.

It is important for caring adults to explain the changes of puberty to young people before and while they are going through them. It is also essential to assure them that these changes are normal. Helping young people identify ways to cope with these changes can make this stage of life less stressful. Talking about these changes with your students lets them know that they are not alone, you are a trusted adult, and can come to you if they have questions or need support.

It is common for young people to hear many myths about the menstrual cycle and periods; having a trusted adult in their lives that they can talk to about this topic is important. Sometimes girls and people with uteruses face menstruation stigma. Stigma is when a person who is menstruating is judged or shamed by others, even though the judgment usually comes from false information. This is because there are still a lot of myths about menstruation, and lots of people are still learning about what it means to menstruate.

About half of the population of people with uteruses, ¼ of the total world population, is at reproductive age and menstruate. While many communities have stigma about menstruation, together we can break down these myths. The bottom line is that menstruation stigma is a big factor that holds girls and people with uteruses back in many ways. But menstruation is not only a women’s issue, all genders must be involved in the conversations and spread positive information to breakdown stigma, myths, and prevent discrimination. Talking with your young person can help dispel myths, and break down stigma about menstruation.

Talk to all of your students about menstruation, even if they are boys or won’t get a period! Talking to all genders about periods and menstrual products will help reduce stigma. Menstruation is not only a women’s issue, all genders must be involved in the conversations and spread positive information to breakdown stigma, myths, and prevent discrimination. Talking with your students in a mixed-gender setting can help dispel myths, and break down menstruation stigma.

National Sex Ed Standards

PD.5.AI.1 - Credible Sources of Information about Puberty and Personal Hygiene

Identify credible sources of information about puberty and personal hygiene

View all PD.5.AI.1 Videos

PD.5.GS.1 - A Plan for Maintaining Personal Hygiene

Make a plan for maintaining personal hygiene during puberty

View all PD.5.GS.1 Videos

PD.5.CC.1 - Physical, Social, and Emotional Changes During Puberty and Adolescence

Explain the physical, social, and emotional changes that occur during puberty and adolescence and how the onset and progression of puberty can vary

View all PD.5.CC.1 Videos

PD.5.CC.2 - How Puberty Prepares Human Bodies for Potential Reproduction

Describe how puberty prepares human bodies for the potential to reproduce and that some healthy people have conditions that impact the ability to reproduce

View all PD.5.CC.2 Videos

Discussion Questions

After watching the video with your class, process it using the following discussion questions:
  • Have you heard of other myths about periods? Let’s discuss where they might come from and what the truth is.
  • What are some other examples of stigma you have seen in society, media, or your community?
  • How can people who don’t get their periods be allies to girls and people with uteruses?
  • What are 2 things you can say or do the next time you hear a myth about periods/menstruation?
  • What are three resources young people can use to learn the facts about menstruation?
  • Who are two trusted adults you can talk to if you have questions about menstruation?

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