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Hargashah (Sensation of Menses)

According to Torah law, a woman does not become niddah unless a bodily sensation, or hargashah, accompanies her uterine bleeding. Under rabbinic law, which is fully authoritative, she can become niddah even with no sensation; however, the presence or absence of hargashah remains relevant in certain situations.

Talmudic or rabbinic sources describe three sensations:

  1. Her whole body shakes.
  2. She feels her uterus open.
  3. She feels liquid flowing.

The third type is complex; it is unclear precisely what is meant and how this sensation differs from the external dampness that many women experience with their natural secretions. A woman should therefore discuss the practical implications of this hargashah with her rabbi.

In certain circumstances, when a woman brings about other strong sensations in the genital area, there is concern that she may in fact have had a hargashah but overlooked it or attributed it to the other sensations. These circumstances include:

  1. Urination.
  2. Sexual intercourse.
  3. An internal examination (bedikah).

Therefore, if a woman discovers a drop of blood or a stain, however small, immediately following urination or sexual intercourse, or on the cloth she used for an internal examination, the laws are stringent because she may have had a sensation which she did not notice at the time. Similarly, if she felt a hargashah and then discovered a stain on her clothing or another surface, she may be niddah even if the stain does not meet the usual conditions needed in order to cause a niddah status.

If a woman has a hargashah, but detects no obvious bleeding, she should perform an internal examination. If she finds a forbidden color, she is definitely niddah. If she finds a discharge of a permissible color (such as clear, white or light yellow), she may attribute the sensation to that discharge, and is not niddah. If she finds a questionable color (such as brown) she should show it (or arrange to have it shown) to a rabbi. The most complex situation arises if she finds no discharge at all, and in such cases she should consult a rabbi.

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