Among the stars

What happens when a woman gets her period in space?

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Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti on the International Space Station. (NASA via Wikimedia)

When space flight was still new, women were kept from becoming astronauts for a multitude of reasons, menstruation included. After a conversation with some of NASA’s finest – astronauts Cady Coleman and Serena Auñón, European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan – made up of crowd-sourced questions, NPR answered a question that went unanswered during the meeting: what happens when a woman gets her period in space? The answer is simple: the same thing that happens on Earth. Women have been in space for three decades, but a 1964 study from the Women in Space Program, conducted with no evidence, found “a temperamental psychophysiologic human” (i.e., a hormonal woman, according to NPR) together with a “complicated machine” was a bad idea. Others worried that “retrograde menstruation” would occur, where blood may flow up the fallopian tubes and into the abdomen. All nonsense! Once in space, female astronauts still faced face-palm worthy questions about periods. Sally Ride in 1983 told an interviewer about engineer’s once trying to determine how many tampons should be packed for a one-week flight. They asked her, “Is 100 the right number?’” to which she deadpan responded, “No. That would not be the right number.”

Read the full story at NPR.

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