02 December, 2020

Menses: A Medical History In Fatuity

For millennia, theorists saw menstruation as a pathology to be explained

Menses: A Medical History In Fatuity

The reasons women have menstrual periods have fascinated and baffled medics and philosophers in equal measure for millennia. This is unsurprising, given the curious nature of a monthly episode of blood loss that happens to healthy women. The connection between per­iods and fertility was well known, but it was not until the twentieth century, when scientists understood the role of the monthly process of ovulation, that the process was fully explained. That did not stop (normally male) medical thinkers from offering theories about why women naturally bled each month. In formulating and promoting these theories, they paid little att­ention to the effects menstruation had on women’s bodies and mood and sidelined the experiences of many women who have to cope with painful or heavy periods routinely.

We have recorded theories of menstruation going back over two millennia. In anc­ient Greece, men like Pythagoras, now best known for his mathematical theories, Aristotle and Hippocrates formulated their own conclusions on the nature of women’s bleeding....



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