When it comes to period care and menstrual hygiene management, there is more emphasis on providing products and destigmatizing menstruation as solutions to this universal issue. However, there seems to be a gap in understanding why such issues around period health and management are so difficult for many individuals in the first place. New research is shedding some light: many of these root causes are linked to menstrual education, meaning, understanding of what IS a period, and how this lack of education is impacting how menstruators prioritize, regulate, and manage their periods.
In the United States, research is showing that many menstruating individuals do not understand their period. In a study conducted by BMC Women’s Health in 2019, researchers studied “the attitudes and perceptions of reproductive-aged women toward contraceptive methods, including how menstrual regulation and suppression preferences influenced contraceptive choice”. Although the study was focused on contraception usage, the study surprisingly revealed that the majority of women had little to no knowledge of the basics of menstruation and female reproductive health. This study revealed far more on the perception of menstrual education and management than it intended to. Within this study’s report, researchers discovered that many women that did not have a full understanding of their period were more skeptical of contraception use and were more judgmental to those that did, even though contraception usage has shown proven benefits in regulating menstrual flow. The individuals that lacked period education were completely unaware of these facts and the general idea of why someone menstruates. The study concluded that women need more information and education on menstrual regulation before making any perception or choice on contraception usage, as the lack of menstrual understanding negatively affects contraception use (6).
Looking into the results of this study shine light onto a deeper problem of how a lack of menstrual education can really impact how someone goes about managing their period. Because of this lack of education, many menstruating individuals go about their day with little to no priority of their period and, as a result, are also often unprepared. “Eighty-six percent of non-homeless women report having started their period in public without supplies and 79% have been forced to use toilet paper or some unhealthy and unsafe object because their period started without hygiene products” (2). This raises concern as it could lead to an increased likelihood of developing unwanted side effects such as reproductive tract infections.
“The financial and social restrictions that face homeless women affect the way that they perceive their bodies and the resources that they can access to manage the effects of menstruation.” (3) Due to this fact, many women experiencing homelessness do not consider their period as a health issue and are also unable to prepare for their period. Thus, when a woman experiencing homelessness begins her cycle, there is more of a worry of concealing the fact that they are on their period rather than managing it, leading many homeless women to use unhygienic and use irregular methods of concealing their period (3).
Many women experiencing homeless in the United States are uneducated on their period and/or sexual health (4) as many of these women have been reported to have little to no health education. This correlation in a lack of period education and improper period management can clearly be seen as a leading problem, causing many individuals to really dissociate menstruation and reproductive health as relating to each other.
Overall, based off this research, to better address period poverty and menstrual hygiene management within the United States, there needs to be more of an emphasis on menstrual and sexual education to help menstruators prioritize their period and take care of their reproductive health. Organizations can build programs that not only provide menstrual products, but also offer reproductive health education that includes information on menstruation. This would help promote menstruating individuals to better prioritize their period and their health, because period health is not mutually exclusive to reproductive health. They go hand in hand.
If you’re interested in increasing menstrual education and breaking down the stigma that surrounds periods, sign up to host an OSOF workshop!
- Rimawi, B. H., Mirdamadi, M., & John, J. F. (2014). Infections and homelessness: Risks of increased infectious diseases in displaced women. World Medical & Health Policy, 6(2), 118–132. https://doi.org/10.1002/wmh3.95
- Parrillo, A., & Feller, E. (2017). Menstrual hygiene plight of homeless women, a public health disgrace. Rhode Island Medical Journal.
- Vora, S. (2016). (rep.). Breaking taboos around menstruation and sanitation. Empowering women (pp. 1–10). Totnes, United Kingdom: No More Taboo.
- Committee on Health Care for Homeless People. (1988). Homelessness, health, and human needs. National Academies Press (US). https://doi.org/10.17226/1092
- Jones, A. (2016). The fight to end period shaming is going mainstream. Newsweek. http://europe.newsweek.com/womens-periods-menstruation-tamponspads-449833?rm=eu [Accessed 19 Sept. 20]
- DeMaria, A. L., Sundstrom, B., Meier, S., & Wiseley, A. (2019). The myth of menstruation: How menstrual regulation and Suppression Impact Contraceptive choice. BMC Women’s Health, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-019-0827-x
- Kane, J. (2017, December 6). Here’s How Much A Woman’s Period Will Cost Her Over A Lifetime. The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 2021, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/period-cost-lifetime_n_7258780