Growing Up, Inside and Out

Ah, Growing Up. This book was a tough one and we were determined to get it right. So a lot of material – and I mean a lot of material – was written and discarded so only the most useful would make the cut. Here’s the one piece I so wanted to see in print, but it just didn’t fit.


Periods in SPACE!

If you should ever happen to find yourself streaking through the solar system in a capsule on your way to some moon or planet, here’s something you won’t have to worry about: getting your period. Because when it comes to the topic of menstruation in space, we’ve come a long way.

But this enlightenment took time. Although female cosmonaut Valentia Tereshkova hopped a ride on the Vostok 6 way back in 1963, it took 20 more years before an American woman would shoot skyward.

Why? Policy. At least, that’s the official word. U.S. astronauts had to be military test pilots first, and there weren’t any women in the ranks back then. Still, there was another reason women remained earthbound for so long in North America. Many space medics and other health experts were concerned about—you guessed it— menstruation. How exactly would a woman menstruate in space without the benefit of gravity? Would she experience something called, “retrograde menstruation,” when the fluid actually flows backwards up into her fallopian tubes? (Turn back to page XXX if you want a refresher about where the fallopian tubes are.)

Consultants recommended that women astronauts should take hormone pills so they could have more control over their menstrual cycles. Or even stop getting their period in the first place.

Zero-G is A-OK

Since then, more than 50 women have blasted through our atmosphere and so far, there has been no evidence that anyone has experienced retrograde menstruation. It seems zero gravity really doesn’t have much of an impact on women’s periods at all.

Makes sense. Menstruation is a pretty complicated process that involves hormones, muscles, and even the brain. Besides, anyone who has ever been sick in bed for a few days and gets her period will tell you the fluid still finds a way to get out.

Not every woman in space has gotten her period while on the job, but the ones who have, reported back that all their systems were go. So, if we could put a man on the moon in 1969, why did it take so long to figure out if a woman could safely have her period there?

Looks like we miscalculated the gravity of the situation.

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