Podcast 'Bloody Science': why we still know so little about menstruation

How does the hormonal cycle, from women and men, control our emotions and mood? And what major misconceptions still exist about menstruation and the pill? Today, on World Menstruation Day 2024, Utrecht University scientists talk about this in ‘Bloody Science’: a 2-part podcast special by Universiteit van Nederland. 

When Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut, went into space in 1983, her male colleagues at NASA gave her as many as 100 tampons (with the strings tied together!). She only went for a week. The reason, according to NASA? ‘We just want to be safe’…

They could build rockets, and travel to the moon, but when it came to menstruation, or how long a woman’s period was -  that seemed to be a mystery. That was 40 years ago. How far have we come since then? What do we know now about the menstrual cycle and how it affects people with periods on a daily basis?

On these two episodes, Utrecht University researchers Lotte Gerritsen and Anne Marieke Doornweerd delve into the knowledge gap surrounding our hormones and the pill, because yes: there is a lot that is unknown, despite nearly 4 million people in the world menstruate, are fertile and therefore have to deal with a hormonal and reproductive cycle.

In episode 1, Anne Marieke Doornweerd, unveils new knowledge about the effects of the menstrual cycle on our emotions and mental health. Did you know, for example, that certain structures of our brain can change during the cycle, in particular those areas primarily responsible for emotions and memory? Or that for some women the one or two weeks prior to menstruation can be so fierce that they may struggle with depression and even suicidal thoughts?

Listen to episode 1

In episode 2, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology Lotte Gerritsen takes us through the latest insights regarding one of the most important inventions of the 20th century: the pill. In recent years, a significant portion of young women in the Netherlands are going off the pill for its alleged physical and psychological side-effects. But what does science have to say about that?

Listen to episode 2