A recent study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health sheds insight on the differences in menstrual cycles among those who menstruate. Using a period tracking app, the research team examined data from 12,608 volunteer participants. They looked into almost 165,000 different cycles in total.
Additionally, researchers purposefully chose people based on whether or not they menstruate rather than their gender identity. Lead author Huichu Li, a doctorate student at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told NewScientist, “This is noteworthy since most of our landmark studies on menstrual periods are from the 1960s and they’re basically homogenous.”
Consider this your recurring reminder that menstruation isn’t exclusive to cisgender women. Menstruation can occur in transgender men, some intersex individuals, and nonbinary people who were given the gender of a woman at birth.
Their results were fascinating: On average, Asian women’s menstrual cycles lasted 1.6 days longer.
Compared to white, non-Hispanic people, Hispanic people’s median length of stay was 7 days longer. (The team’s statistical research indicates that this was also not a coincidence.) People of Asian and Hispanic descent were also more likely to experience “cycle variability,” which meant that their periods fluctuated in length from month to month.
It’s interesting to note that other ethnic groups represented in the sample, such as Black, American Indian, Alaska Native, Middle Eastern, or North African people, did not show any discernible differences in cycle length.
Although they have some suggestions, researchers are not quite certain why these variances happen. Stress levels, cultural expectations, and environmental exposures are probably contributing factors in addition to others.
Systemic racial disparities, for example, unequal financial status, access to healthcare, and exposure to the environment, such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals in personal care items, are some potential contributing factors, Li continued.
This study follows some other intriguing research into menstrual cycle trends among people who experience periods. The COVID-19 vaccine has been linked to “small, within the normal range of fluctuation, and transient” abnormalities in peoples’ menstrual cycles, according to a research brief published in late September. Given that almost half of the world’s population has menstrual periods, this is a field of study that deserves more investigation.
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