That time of the month can be hell. I am talking about that week and a half to two weeks of discomfort, emotional discourse and inflated proportions. The week prior to menstruation when tears need little provoking and the bloat adds to frustration then takes an abrupt swing into cramps, fatigue and an easily stirred attitude. This is catastrophic enough when it’s just a lone woman dealing with premenstrual and menstrual symptoms, but what if it’s an entire office of women?
I would say there are some fears that remain universal to all men: impotence, marriage and walking into a room full of women on their menstrual cycle. How does it happen, how do communities of women (those that work together, live together, friends) all manage to sync up their periods? The answer isn’t entirely agreed upon. Popular opinions wax and wane between numbers and scent. The number crunchers and pushers of the world claim it’s statistical. However, there is a strong following and clinical research to support the pheromone theorist out there.
It started in 1971, with a woman named Martha McClintock who has spent her career pushing for the integration of psychology into biological science. McClintock’s interest in the impact that social and psychological changes have on biology and its fundamentals led to her research of the menstrual cycles of college females at Wellesley College. After studying the menstrual cycles of a dorm of females at Wellesley, she concluded that these women tended to menstruate at the same time. The cause, pheromones with their chemical signals that the body lets off as scents and the nose detects. It is believed that women let off a scent that causes other women’s bodies to respond to the scent by shortening or lengthening their menstrual cycle in order to sync.
Pheromones are chemical signals that our body produces and release as scents that we unconsciously recognize. Their role in the human body is still being determined through the research of people interested in the effects of pheromones on the human body, like McClintock. When it comes to other mammals, the role of pheromones is apparent. Animals use pheromones to signal reproductive and sexual interest. It’s commonly believed that the same holds true to human attraction. McClintock’s research isn’t central to mating, but gets to the heart of reproduction.
For this theory to gain credibility it is necessary to find a source. If you have women migrating to each other’s menstrual cycles, then you would need an “alpha” woman that the others are migrating towards. Research done at the Sonoma State Hospital Brain Behavior Research Center in California identified women believed to be dominate and the pacesetters and used to pheromones to see if they caused an effect on the menstrual cycle of other women. They experiment involved collecting pheromones from the arm pit of these women onto cotton pads. The dominate women wore these pads under their arm pits for a day. From there, they placed the pheromone covered cotton pads on the upper lips of other six other women, three times a week. After five months, five out of the six women where cycled with the dominate woman’s cycle.
But if everyone emits pheromones, why don’t male pheromones effect our menstruation? After researching, it’s been found that male pheromones tend to shorten and make a female’s menstrual cycle more regular. Women who just hang with guys report having more frequent and steady periods than those that don’t. Using a similar research method as the one mentioned before, cotton pads were used to collect pheromones from male contributors. The women responded to the male pheromones by shortening their cycle and making its occurrence more frequent. Women went from menstruating every 6 weeks to menstruating every 4-5 weeks. It’s also found that women who have sex at least once a week will find the same results. Many believe that pheromones are most strongly released in sweat.
It isn’t an uncommon phenomenon. Many women have reported synchronization of their menstrual cycles with other female members of the household and “water cooler” talk, or the tampon requests, has shed light on the commonality of female coworker’s cycles. While these commonalities can be intriguing, the synchronization of pheromones isn’t hard and fast. Many factors (stress, birth control, antibiotics, diet, exercise) can have an impact on menstrual cycles. An office of menstruating women may not be an ideal situation, but there is always hope that they’ll lose synchronization or find over-the-counter relief.
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