Periods or menstruation is a natural biological activity that occurs in every healthy woman. As a mother you will be prepared for it with your prepubescent daughter, but do you need such preparation for boys too? Do boys have periods?
MomJunction takes a closer look at this commonly confused phenomenon and examines the real facts.
Do Boys Get Their Period?
No, boys do not get periods or a monthly cycle of bleeding from their genitals after attaining puberty (1).
So, why do girls have periods and boys don’t?
Menstruation is the cyclic breakdown of the inner lining of the uterine wall along with the unfertilized ova or egg.
- Girls have a uterus and produce eggs. They get period to flush out the uterine lining
- Boys do not have period as they do not have a uterus and do not ovulate. It means there is no uterine lining or unfertilized eggs that need to be sent out of the body.
- However, just like girls, boys also go through puberty. While girls develop breasts and pubic hair, boys undergo changes such as change in their voice, growth of hair in the private parts and on the face.
Period involves not only bleeding but also certain emotional stress, which boys too can experience.
If Girls Have Periods What Do Boys Have?
Boys do not have periods but they could undergo psychological traits of menstruation such as mood swings.
Mood swings in adolescent boys:
Before the onset of the menstrual cycle, girls go through a phase called premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It is a time when they go through an overwhelming rush of emotions such as lethargy and sadness (2) due to the release of female sex hormone estrogen.
Interestingly, male sex hormone testosterone also causes some similar effects on the behavior of adolescent boys, such as clumsiness and moodiness (3).
There is a condition called irritable male syndrome (IMS), quite similar to PMS, but it is only associated with matured adult males that go through a cyclic drop in testosterone (4).
It is quite common to see ‘periods-like behavior’ in adolescent boys since the upheaval of emotions strikes a similarity with the mood swings seen in menstruating girls.
Male Menstruation is not a regular cycle and neither is it normal. It is a health condition that requires immediate medical attention. Male menstruation refers to the bleeding from a boy’s genitals due to various health problems including:
- Schistosomiasis: This is usually the leading cause of menstruation in boys. Schistosomiasis is caused by the parasite Schistosoma haematobium. One of the symptoms of the disease is traces of blood in urine and stool (5). It was so common in the ancient times that people in Egypt expected adolescent boys to go through a ‘male menarche’.
The disease is spread through freshwater that contains schistosomes. The parasitic flatworms enter the human skin by boring a hole in it. Along with bleeding from the genitals, a person will show symptoms like blisters on skin, swollen abdomen and constant stomach ache.
- Kidney infection: Numerous kidney ailments such as infections and stones could lead to blood in the urine (6). Kidney infections that can lead to a condition of male menstruation are commonly caused by bacteria. These infections interfere with the kidney’s ability to purify the blood and may cause them to leach blood out from the bloodstream into the ureter, which ultimately comes into the urinary bladder.
Kidney stones may also cause blood in the urine. This commonly occurs due to bruising of the nephrons in the kidneys that may cause them to bleed.
- Tumor in bladder, kidney or prostate: A tumor is quite likely to cause bleeding from genitals. The cancerous growth could occur either in the urinary bladder, kidney or on the ureters (7). Blood from the genitals and pain during urination are classic symptoms of the ailment. Cancerous growths can interfere with the normal functioning of the urogenital organs causing them to leak blood in the urine.
- Urinary tract infection: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) have similar causes as kidney infection. It usually occurs due to exposure of the urinary tract to bacteria like E. coli or Staphylococcus saprophyticus of which the former is the most common cause. Boys are more prone to this infection until the age of one. After the age of two, it is far more common in girls (8). Maintaining general hygiene and drinking plenty of water is the best way to prevent UTIs.
- Certain drugs: Some drugs may cause bleeding from the genitals as a side effect. Drugs that help in blood thinning or aspirin-type medications, penicillins, and sulfa-containing drugs can cause blood to seep from the blood vessels in the kidneys to the urine (9).
It is not normal for boy to have periods. Boys and periods are biologically impossible and thus an event unlikely to occur. For this reason, boys having periods is definitely something you need not worry as a mom.
However, if your boy complains of blood leaking from his private parts, you need to take him to the doctor to diagnose the cause and act accordingly.
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