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Why do women have periods?


18,896 Questions Answered

TEDEd Animation

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A handful of species on Earth share a seemingly mysterious trait: a menstrual cycle. We’re one of the select few mammals on Earth that menstruate, and we also do it more than any other animal, even though it’s a waste of nutrients, and can be a physical inconvenience. So where’s the sense in this uncommon biological process? TED-Ed describes the history and evolution of menstruation.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

This article, by Suzanne Sadedin, is the inspiration for this lesson: What is the evolutionary benefit or purpose of having periods. It will give you new insight into the evolutionary basis of menstruation.

Why do women have periods when most animals don't,” can also clear up some of those lingering questions you may have. 

How many menstrual cycles will an average woman have to experience during her lifetime? Visit this site and find out. Cultural differences in people can affect nearly every aspects of a person’s life, even menstruation. How do different cultures respond to menstruation? Read this article from NPR and find out. Then, visit All Things Considered, and listen to the difficulties and challenges of living in an area where sanitary pads and feminine hygiene don't exist. How would you feel if that when you began menstruating, you were forced to drop out of school? Can that actually be true? Read this article to find out how advocates are working to keep girls in Uganda in school despite this issue.

Most female humans will eventually get their menstrual cycle at some inconvenient time. Ever wonder, “What Happens When You Get Your Period In Space?” Read this article from NPR and find out the answer to the most common question that people wanted to ask female astronauts.

For more on this topic watch these TED Talks:

How I started a sanitary napkin revolution! Arunachalam Muruganantham
The menstruation taboo: Diana Fabianova
Can a comic book overcome India’s menstruation taboo? Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul

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  • Director Biljana Labović
  • Animation Artist Josephine Mark
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman

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