There are few things surrounded by more myth than periods. New scientific research, however, is helping to debunk one major misconception: Periods make you forgetful, slow, and generally unable to function like a normal human.
The study, published today in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, looked at whether menstruating affects a woman's concentration, memory, cognitive bias, and ability to juggle multiple tasks.
Lo and behold, they found no consistent link between menstrual cycles and reduced cognitive performance.
"The hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle do not show any association with cognitive performance,” study author Professor Brigitte Leeners said in a statement. “Although there might be individual exceptions, women's cognitive performance is in general not disturbed by hormonal changes occurring with the menstrual cycle."
They tested the cognitive functioning of 88 women from Germany and Switzerland at four different times throughout their menstrual cycle, then re-tested 68 of them during a second menstrual cycle. They also measured their levels of oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone at four stages throughout their cycle.
While some hormones were associated with changes across the first cycle in some of the women, these effects were not seen in the following cycle. This led the team to conclude that there is “no consistent association” between a woman's hormone levels and how sharp their brain is.
This myth about menstruation has continued to persist, with lots of fresh scientific research further muddying the waters.
In addition, just last month in an interview with Oliver Stone, Vladimir Putin said: “I am not a woman, so I don’t have bad days. I am not trying to insult anyone. That’s just the nature of things. There are certain natural cycles.”
Professor Leeners says that the idea appears to run so deeply, many women are prone to believe it too: "As a specialist in reproductive medicine and a psychotherapist, I deal with many women who have the impression that the menstrual cycle influences their well-being and cognitive performance.”
The study suggests that previous scientific research that found a link between menstrual cycles and cognitive functioning were "prone to inflated effect sizes and probable false positive findings due to methodological biases and random variance." Also, many previous studies don't follow women across two or more consecutive menstrual cycles.
The researchers warn that more work needs to be done, as their study did have some limitations. For starters, their sample size was fairly small, although larger than many similar menstrual studies to date. In follow-up studies, they want to involve more women, especially those with hormone disorders, and further develop their cognitive tests.