Cultural aspects and mythologies surrounding menstruation and abnormal uterine bleeding

Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2017 Apr:40:121-133. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2016.09.015. Epub 2016 Oct 26.


The objective of this chapter is to present an overview of how menstruation, a normal bodily function, was and is perceived in various ethnic groups and cultures in the world, from ancient mythology, historical, or traditional practices to contemporary belief systems. Mythical tales about menstruation abound in the legends and prehistory of ancient cultures. These tales characterize menstrual blood variously as sacred, a gift from the gods, or a punishment for sin, but it is almost always magical and powerful. In contrast, most world religions view menstruation, with varying degrees of severity, as a major problem, a sign of impurity and uncleanliness, and therefore, menstruating women are isolated, prohibited from polluting the holy places, and shunned. Many of these myths and cultural misperceptions persist to the present day, reflected in a wide range of negative attitudes toward menstruation, which can have serious and direct implications for reproductive health. In view of the increasingly globalized nature of current clinical practice, it is crucial that health care providers are familiar with existing cultural and social views and attitudes toward the menstrual function. The ultimate goal is to be able to provide women culturally sensitive and medically appropriate therapies for their menstrual disorders. This biocultural approach to menstruation management is desirable in contemporary medical practice.

Keywords: cultural and religious beliefs; lunar and menstrual phase-locking; major religions; menstrual products; menstruation; social media.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Cycle*
  • Menstruation*
  • Mythology*
  • Religion*
  • Uterine Hemorrhage