Menstruation is cool, period.
Most people who have periods will agree that they’re a huge pain and inconvenience. The cramps, the blood on underwear, the mood swings and the cost of products are all huge things that make our lives just that little bit more difficult once a month. In fact, people find periods so annoying that there has recently been a huge drop in the sales of sanitary products. This is thought to be due to the increase in contraceptives which will stop or delay your period.
Whilst this is all very well, we all know that periods are hugely important, and we are very much not the only animals that menstruate. Dogs, apes, old-world monkeys, elephant shrews and even bats have periods. Great apes such as orangutans and gorillas have menstrual cycles very similar to humans ranging from 29-35 days long. However, the occurrence of an ape menstruating (which is day 1 of the cycle) is very rare as females spend most of their fertile lives either pregnant or breastfeeding (although I wouldn’t recommend this method to stop your periods).
I’m sure you’ve heard of a dog ‘coming into heat’ which basically means that the female is in oestrous, and her ovaries have released eggs. This will last for about 3 weeks during which time a small amount of blood is discharged. Whilst bleeding on and off for 3 weeks sounds totally horrendous, luckily for dogs this happens about twice a year.
In bats, the menstrual cycle lasts for 33 days, similar to humans. However, not much is known about this, and it is thought that this only occurs after mating which occurs from August to October. This process has been thought to allow female bats to have another chance at mating during the same season if the first did not result in a pregnancy (a bit weird I know …). Most of the studies out there about bat periods (yes, people actually spend their lives studying this), only really have seen menstruation in captive bats as it is so difficult to see this in the wild. Therefore, most of the data available may not be accurate.
Whilst menstruation might seem like quite a wasteful and energy-consuming process it has evolved many times meaning there must be an advantage to it. The continuous and increased number of periods that humans are subjected to might feel like a cruel joke from mother nature but in fact it is our ancestor’s libido and need to procreate that is to blame (I mean … take a look at the apes!). This is yet another example of how we are unique in nature.