Ever Wondered How Women Astronauts Handle Their Periods In Space?

The way women manage their period down on Earth is known to most of us. But have you ever wondered how female astronauts handle their menstrual cycle on International Space Station (ISS)?


For decades, NASA dealt with women and their periods by not sending women into space. Is there any difference owing to the microgravity environment or does space have the same effect on human bodies?

It is said that there were dangers in putting “a temperamental psychophysiological human” in charge of a “complicated machine.” But according to the reports, women astronauts get their period in space just like they do on Earth.

It sounds logical, Right? Several others wondered if zero gravity would lead to retrograde menstruation, which is basically menstrual blood flowing back up the fallopian tubes. There is literally no evidence to substantiate this, but it led to women not being allowed in space programmes for years.

In the early years of human spaceflight, many people thought that microgravity might cause menstrual fluid to travel upwards into the body instead of out from the body – a phenomenon known as retrograde menstrual flow. In retrograde menstrual flow, the blood flows from the uterine cavity into the fallopian tubes and then into the pelvis and abdomen.


Study On Periods In Space:

In this scenario, not only the intensity of pain would increase, but it also doubles up the risk for endometriosis. Space gynaecologist Dr. Varsha Jain and space pharmacologist Virginia Wotring conducted a study on periods in space. The findings stated that most female astronauts take daily contraceptive pills before and during space flight, but don’t take the placebo pills, which suppress menstruation.

But there is a problem here for female astronauts who want to take on long journeys, like a Mars mission, which lasts around three years. This would require each astronaut to take 1,100 pills with her, which would amount to a significant amount of weight, especially when every ounce counts. And this too has not been tested, with a possibility that the medication would degrade over time.

In 1983, just before American woman astronaut Sally Ride’s first journey into outer space, reporters interviewed her and asked her absurd questions like – Would she dress up? Would she get emotional if things went wrong? Will her uterus be fine? Her answer was kind of obvious. She reacted by saying, “It’s too bad this is such a big deal. It’s too bad our society isn’t further along.”


The best solution here would be to take long-acting reversible contraceptives, like hormonal IUDs, injections of progestin and implants beneath the skin. Progestin injections last three months, but also cause bone density loss, which would add to the issue of bone density loss for people living in zero gravity.

Hormonal IUDS and implants last up to five years and three years respectively, but their effects need to be studied better. It would be a little too risky for an astronaut to use an IUD and find out in space that it malfunctions or is painful.

Therefore women are, on the whole, are better suited than men when it comes to conducting an experiment in a low-gravity environment despite witnessing monthly biological cycles.