At any one time, a quarter of women of reproductive age are menstruating. And yet, there is a still a great deal of confusion about how periods affect women’s lives.
For centuries, many cultures believed that a woman on her period was ‘impure’. This is complete nonsense, of course, but even today that belief lingers – along with countless other unhelpful rumours and myths. 
Let’s be clear about this. There is nothing ‘dirty’ or ‘tainted’ about being on your period and nothing to stop you living your life as you see fit. As for the many misconceptions and half-truths you may have heard, let’s tackle them one by one.
Nothing to fear
There is no evidence to support this. Sharks are attracted to blood, it’s true. But the amount you’re producing is so small, especially once it’s been dispersed by the water, that they’d have to be almost next to you to sense it . So swimming is completely safe when you’re on your period, as is being around other animals in the usual safety-conscious ways.
This is an ‘old wives’ tale’ – in other words a load of rubbish. Wash your hair as much as you like.
Period blood actually looks like way more than it is. On average, you only lose about two to three tablespoons of blood every time you menstruate. So unless you get very heavy periods (menorrhagia), there’s no need to worry about being weak – although other symptoms like PMS can affect your overall wellbeing. If you are one of the 10 per cent of women who get heavy periods , and your flow is so substantial that you feel faint or dizzy when you stand up, discuss this with your doctor.
Quite the opposite. Exercise is actually one of the best things you can do to ease menstrual cramps. You may not feel like participating in anything too strenuous, but gentle movement like walking, swimming, Pilates or yoga will boost your mood and help relieve some of your aches and pains. Just remember to use a tampon when swimming and change it straight away after you leave the water to prevent infection.
There aren’t any tell-tale signs that you’ve got your period. You don’t smell or walk differently and your skin tone doesn’t change. That said, you definitely shouldn’t feel like you have to hide the fact. Nowadays, girls are much more upfront about menstruation and symptoms like PMS and cramps. In fact, you might find it helps to be open about your periods, at least with your girlfriends. After all, they’re getting them too.