Do women who live together have their periods together?

I must step carefully here, for menstruation isn’t generally considered a topic for mixed company and I wouldn’t want to make anyone blush. So watch as I tiptoe carefully around the matter without getting to the heart of it. I can get away with that because, while it is true that women living together sometimes end up with synchronised periods, not much is known about how it happens.

Unless you belong to the half of the population that has had a personal visit from Aunt Flo you could be forgiven a certain amount of confusion about the matter, especially if you try to glean anything from advertisements for related products. Blue dye seems to be involved, and a great deal of freedom, but heaven forfend they get to the bleeding point.

But if society shrouds that time of the month in mystery it is only following nature’s lead. Many female creatures advertise their fertility loud and clear while women’s bodies keep mum about their reproductive status. I suspect most women, on hearing that female chimpanzees get bright red and swollen when in heat, give a brief moment of thanks for that crucial 2% difference in our two species’ genetic codes. Unlike our near relations humans go to a lot of effort to keep the timing of the menstrual cycle under wraps.

Yet women who live and work together do sometimes end up getting their periods at the same time. Some explain this using pheromones, chemicals that many organisms use to communicate but which have not so far been found in humans. Others prefer shared environmental influences as an explanation. After all, if two women went out hiking and came back sunburnt you wouldn’t need to invoke chemical signals to explain their synchronised scorching.

We don’t really know why or how, but it does seem that among the many things that can influence the menstrual cycle are other nearby menstrual cycles. Other unknown factors are in play; just throwing two women together isn’t enough, but women living together can end up bleeding together. That’s the truth, period.

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