Updated: Dec 5, 2021
I was watching a documentary on Netflix about how women in India were overcoming the issues surrounding managing their menstruation (safety concerns when changing their rags outside of the home, health issues with not generally having access to affordable sanitary products, not being allowed in temple while bleeding and, the stigmas and taboos connected with menstruation by their society).
Those filming took the time to ask some young men whether they knew what periods were and some suggested it was a disease that affected women more often than men, others thought the film makers were talking about the end of a class period aka the school bell. When educating the younger women, the female elders said periods were the result of the body ridding itself of dirty bad blood. It was quite fascinating to see these perspectives - some of which would likely be shared by those in the western world even though we are able to talk a lot more openly about women's health.
Newsflash, in case you needed to hear it: Periods are not a disease, they are not an ailment and they are not the expression of unclean blood leaving the body.
So - if it isn't the body getting rid of something toxic (a disproved theory that resulted from very poorly controlled studies from the 1920s ) - why do humans bleed during menstruation? Why does the body not reabsorb it's uterine lining like some other mammals or, develop it's thickened uterine lining in response to an embryo implanting rather than in anticipation of the possibility of that happening?
Here's some reasoning why:
The energy theory: that it takes the body less energy to dispel the uterine lining each month when not pregnant rather than absorbing it like some animals that have smaller blood vessels than we do AND;
That human embryos and fetuses are more *aggressive than those in mammals whose uterine lining develops after plantation and therefore the thickness of the uterine lining is developed in anticipation of this and as a protective barrier for the womb owner. *Our embryos bury themselves deep in the wall right from the get go and will then take take take take take all the nutrients needed (even at the host's detriment) PLUS;
Humans are more inclined to have abnormal pregnancies than other mammals because we have sex all cycle long rather than just at the height of our ovulation. This means than an egg might be at it's last point of viability for example when fertilised and the age of the egg (from time of release) can increase the likelihood of abnormality. Having a fully established uterine wall already in place at the point of fertilisation results provides an increased chance to determine abnormality and put a halt to an ultimately non viable pregnancy before it continues to develop. This is because a primed uterine lining is equipped with cells to identify this.
Menstrual blood forms part of our delicate internal eco system. It is expelled from the body to preserve energy and in spite of how good it is. In fact menstrual blood is such a powerful and potent product that is now being researched as part of studies into regenerative medicine.
In 2007, it was discovered that menstrual blood includes stem cells and it's clinical potential has since been being investigated. Stem cells have previously been sourced from bone marrow, umbilical cords and placenta to name a few. Menstrual blood stem cells are by comparison non invasive and less of an ethical issue to obtain, pluripotent meaning they can evolve into any cell type rather than being a somatic stem cell which can usually only evolve based on it's lineage and, may contain additional unique properties that have further therapeutic benefits. Their potential use in therapy for a range of different diseases has been recognised in pre-clinical research and will undoubtedly lead to clinical use in the future.
These benefits are something our ancestors inherently understood without the need of a permission slip from the advancement of science's understanding and explanations.
Prior to the dominance of patriarchal religion, a woman's menstruation or menstrual blood was typically revered.
In the 1300s, the menstrual blood of young virgins was being used during the Ming Dynasty for what were believed to be life extending elixirs for the emperor;
Ancient Egyptians and Taoists ingested menstrual blood mixed with red wine to increase spiritual power;
In Ancient Greece, menstrual blood and corn mixtures where spread on the earth at the spring festivals to increase fertility;
The proto-Germanic peoples who would become the Vikings believed that a woman on her bleed was more in touch with the land and, the Vikings didn't seem to consider menstruation vulgar, unclean or requiring seclusion and,
According to the Cherokee, menstrual blood was the source of feminine strength and had the power to destroy enemies.
This is obviously just a few notations on the approaches to menstruation and the female bleed in years or centuries gone past.
The stigmatisation of menstruation instead came later, hand in hand with the stamping out of female archetype based religions and, pagan rituals including those where women were revered for being more intuitive during their bleeds. Rather than women being allowed to retreat and tap into power, the story shifted. Their life creating blood was rebranded as unclean or dirty and they were shunned and shamed.
We can however choose to shift the narrative once more back to it's origins and back to the truth.
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