Vicarious menstruation has been known about and studied for thousands of years.
I know you're probably thinking "this is crazy," but no, it’s not click bait. This really happens and has been talked about for thousands of years. Imagine being back in Ancient Rome as a physician studying and understanding the human body with the technology available at the time, and seeing a woman bleeding from her mouth every time she’s on her period. I’m guessing that must have been really shocking and confusing. Throughout history, there have been accounts of this happening, and not only through the mouth, but also from various parts of the body.
This disorder is known as vicarious menstruation, and unlike what Frederick Hoffmann (a Swiss pathologist from the 17th century) believed, this has nothing to do with the stress or the anxiety that sometimes comes with menstruation itself. This refers to menstrual bleeding from any part other than the uterine cavity. Moreover, this is a condition that starts in the womb, when women are just tiny fetuses, and which only becomes evident at their first menstruation.
What’s interesting is the fact that although vicarious menstruation has been known about and studied for literally thousands of years, this is a very rare side effect to an actually quite common condition that affects millions of women throughout the world: endometriosis. This is a condition in which a tissue (the endometrium) grows in the womb's lining or in other parts of the body. The most common cases involve having endometrial tissue in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or even deep in the muscle wall of the womb. As you can notice, in these cases, the tissue grows in the area of the female reproductive system. However, when it comes to vicarious menstruation, what happens is that there’s endometrial tissue in very random and unrelated parts of the body like the nose, eyes, and ears.
Since the human body is a complex mechanism, no matter where this tissue is located, it will respond to the hormones that control the menstrual cycle. In that way, with each cycle, it will respond normally by shedding blood, mucus, and/or the surface of the lining. Now, you might know that in most cases of endometriosis, what makes it so painful and uncomfortable is the fact that this abnormal tissue is placed in places where there’s no easy way to dispose the blood, and thus, the pressure it applies to cast it off is in some cases almost unbearable.
There have been reports of vicarious menstruation presented in basically everywhere in the body including eyes, ears, mouth, stomach, underarms, nose, breasts, among others. Although it might sound very disturbing, the truth is that it isn’t that intense, and the flow isn’t as heavy as the one we’re used to with regular vaginal menstruation. In fact, not all of the tissues bleed, only the ones that are in orifices with mucus. But more importantly, and to get this straight, this is not a matter of menstruating from these places rather than the vagina, it’s more of a reflected process accompanying regular menstruation.
For thousands of years, menstruation has been seen as a disgusting even shameful process that must be handled in private and not talked about. However, it’s interesting how conditions like vicarious menstruation have been widely documented throughout history even when they aren't that common, while menstruation, in general, was seen as a given not worth studying and researching until very recently. It’s probable that only a very tiny percentage of you reading have been dealing with this condition, but still, I think that when it comes to matters of the body, it’s important to know about these cases and what our bodies can go through.
Here’s more articles about periods you should take a look at:
Article images by @diemenstruationsbeauftragte
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