In the modern world

Menstruation is understood to be the flow of blood from a woman’s uterus when she is in or just out of the teenage years. This procedure typically takes place at least once a month in a woman’s body and is frequently another characteristic that sets men and women apart. Menstruation was initially perceived by medical professionals and academics as a biological phenomenon that provided a deeper understanding of womanhood (Hoskins, 2003).

Perception of Menstruation in Society

There were various ways in which the society and the cultures within a community perceived menstruation and this often led to diverse beliefs about womanhood during the time when she was having her menses (Kim, & Yoo, 2009). These beliefs about the menstrual cycle also further served to distinguish the male and the female gender in the society during that period of time. This paper seeks to first highlight the manner with which the society viewed the menstrual cycle and the role it played to womanhood and thereafter examine the manner with which menstruation is seen as a monthly ‘sickness’ that affects the emotional and physical aspects of a female in the society.

Early Perception of Menstruation

Menstruation was initially viewed with a lot of negativity and some communities did not appreciate it as a physiological process that was bound to occur to any woman after they started becoming mature (Gise, 2000). The Greeks, for example, described the menses as “a fluid that is so venomous and malignant as to be ranked among poisons” (Lord, 1999). This comparison that put menses at the same level as poison and this castigated the women at the time and reduced their stature in the society particularly during their monthly periods. The men, on the other hand, enhanced this perception by avoiding any contact with the women during that time of the month since there was a belief that they were unclean and they should be sidelined (Gise, 2000).

Medical Revolution and Changing Perceptions

After thorough research on this biological process, medical researchers came to understand that the process was one that signified a woman’s physiological development and it only occurred when the lining of the uterus started to shed off. The shedding off was after the woman failed to conceive and the lining was periodically being released as blood and this process is what is referred to as menstruation. Medical scholars brought a scientific revolution that changed the belief perseverance that was premised on the Greek ideology. The availability of new evidence that contradicted the Greeks’ view on menstruation ensured that the process was thereafter not associated with negativity. The society became cognizant of the fact that it denoted the maturity of a woman. A common occurrence in the 18th century was that the moment a girl started having her menstrual cycle; the society would prepare her for marriage since this process also signified her physical ability to start a family and which led to the posterity of the society. This fact also signified the status and place of a woman in the society as wives and mothers.

Menstruation as a Transition to Adulthood

As stated earlier, the society perceived menstruation as a key indicator that a girl had finally transitioned from childhood to adulthood. Various scholars advanced the idea that this transition came with various thoughts and ideas that enabled the girl to appreciate the male gender and also embedded some sexual connotations in the mind of a girl. These sexual ideas enabled the society to appreciate the fact that the girl was indeed a woman and that it why just after a girl had her menses, she was eligible for marriage (Lord, 1999). During the 18th Century, there were unique circumstances which led to a girl being married off before having her menses and the society believed that the man who married the girl had to wait until the girl first experienced her period, before the marriage could be consummated. Various writers compared the time a girl first had her menses to the moment when the flowers finally blossom (Lord, 1999). Menstruation was therefore deemed as a prerequisite for a woman’s role as a wife within the society and was a requirement before the marriage could finally be consummated.

Menstruation and the Life-Giving Role of Women

Menstruation brought about significant changes in the biological aspects of a woman. Some scholars regarded the process as the periodical evacuation in the body of a woman that occurred every 28 days. The blood discharge that happened as a result of the process was a key indicator of the potential of a woman to give birth and subsequently become mothers who tendered for their young ones. The menses shaped the ideology in the society that viewed women had a duty of procreating leading to the perpetuation of a given community (Lord, 1999). Some scholars stated that menstruation was important due to the fact that it led to the preservation of the utterance and ensuring that it was ready for conception in the subsequent month. It was further noted that the women who did not experience their monthly periods could not conceive due the fact that their wombs were not conditioned to accommodate a fetus (Marshburn, & Hurst, 2011). Menstruation was seen as a process that enhanced the life-giving role of women in the society.

Functions of Menstrual Blood

The society has often believed that the menstrual blood contained multiple functions. The first one is that the catamenia highlighted the amount of blood that a woman required during her pregnancy to ensure that the offspring she carried remained healthy until it was finally delivered (Rembeck, Möller, & Gunnarsson, 2007). The second function is that the menses ascertained the health of a woman. Society believes that a woman who fails to menstruate is generally unhealthy and should seek medical attention (Rembeck, Möller, & Gunnarsson, 2007). Menstruation embodied the ideology that women are designed to take up the childbearing role within the society.

Impact of Menstruation on Women

With as much as menstruation is said to be a sign of physiological maturity in women, some of the cognitive functions of the body related to pre-menstruation pain such as cramps and nausea could be construed as a sense of weakness in the body of a woman. The suffering that a woman undergoes often has a toll on the productivity of a woman within the society and usually dictates the manner with which she will relate with various people within the society. The suffering associated with menstruation contradicts the notion of physiological maturity in the body of a woman.

Emotional and Cognitive Effects of Menstruation

Due to the hormonal imbalance that is usually experienced during menstruation, the women often have a sudden change in the appetite (Stolberg, 2000). Their intake of food can either go up or drastically go down. Their digestion is sometimes impaired and their general mood is often sad and most people in the society have come to learn that they are very irritable during this time. The period pain often leads to a tremendous amount of suffering and in severe cases, they require specialized treatment to ensure that the pain is ameliorated (Stolberg, 2000).

Women's Mood and Behavior During Menstruation

The variation of moods that is usually experienced by women who are in the period often determines the ways that a woman will undertake a particular task that is ahead of her. The mood will affect the attitude towards various people in the society and will enable the society to form a particular perception about a particular woman in the society. It might lead the society to appreciate the postmenstrual syndrome and understand the reason why a particular lady is behaving in a peculiar manner. Nonetheless, there are a number of women who tend to maintain an objective stand while on their periods and this ensures that people they interact with would hardly realize that they are menstruating. This is because they hardly deviate from the customary modes of undertaking their affairs. It seems that menstruation served to highlight the character of womanhood as being dependent on emotions to go about their daily activities within the society. The cognitive functions that are as a result of the menses usually undermine the overall emotional reliability and intellectual capacity of a woman. This in turn often has an effect on their ability to make rational decisions during their period. Menstruation reinforces the notion that women are emotionally unstable due to the fact that various variables tend to have an effect on them.


It is seen that the society had various attitudes and perceptions about menstruation. The concept seems rather complicated due to the combination of both physiological and emotional facets of the body of a woman. The concept of menstruation should not only be looked at as a purely physiological process in the body of a woman that distinguishes a man from a woman. The concept has a wider application in the sociological aspect that enables people to understand womanhood. It specifically serves to highlight the various perceptions that the society had towards the discharging of blood and how these views shaped the status of the woman in the society. Catamenia is also important due to the fact that it highlighted the level of maturity of a female body and the manner with which the society in the early years used it as a basis of signifying the transition from childhood to adulthood. Menstruation also was viewed as a key indicator that was essential in the development of an offspring. It represented the amount of blood that a woman required during her pregnancy for the fetus’ nourishment. With as much as menstruation highlighted some very important roles of women in the society, it brought very sharp contrasts that portrayed a woman as a weaker gender who was greatly influenced by their emotions. This influence was due to the premenstrual suffering that occurred in the body of a woman during catamenia. Finally, the general perception about menstruation is that it embodied women as life givers and also portrayed them as mothers and wives within the society.


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Menstruation: Beliefs, Practices, Interpretations. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 17(1), 121-122.

Kim, M., & Yoo, I. (2009). Knowledge of Menstruation, Emotional Reaction to Menarche,

Attitude toward Menstruation and Coping Behavior among Korean Primary School Students. Korean Journal Of Women Health Nursing, 15(1), 64.

Lord, A. (1999). " The Great Arcana of the Deity" Menstruation and Menstrual

Disorders in Eighteenth-Century British Medical Thought. Bulletin Of The History Of Medicine, 73(1), 38-63.

Marshburn, P., & Hurst, B. (2011). Disorders of menstruation (1st ed.). Chichester, West

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Rembeck, G., Möller, M., & Gunnarsson, R. (2007). Attitudes and feelings towards

menstruation and womanhood in girls at menarche. Acta Paediatrica, 95(6), 707-714.

Stolberg, M. (2000). The monthly malady: A history of premenstrual suffering. Medical

History, 44(3), 301-322.

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