University of Western Australia: Adverse impacts highlighted in global review of menstrual experiences

A global review of the impact of menstrual experiences has found many people feel shame, frustration, disgust and distress during their period and do not feel confident to engage in their usual activities.

The learning brief used data from a review of high-income countries led by Dr Dani Barrington, from The University of Western Australia’s School of Population and Global Health, combined with data from a companion review of low/middle income countries.

“The reviews highlight that around the world menstruation is overwhelmingly considered a negative occurrence that produces a range of adverse personal impacts,” Dr Barrington said.

Data from about 10,000 people from 51 countries was collected during interviews, focus groups and from written narratives, and was used to develop models that identify several pathways through which menstrual experiences take shape.

The study found gender and cultural norms shape experiences of menstruation around the world and, for the majority, periods were stigmatised.

“When seeking medical assistance for discomforts or pain related to menstruation, many menstruators in high-income countries are dismissed by health professionals,” Dr Barrington said.

Challenges experienced were hidden which led to limited knowledge about the menstrual cycle and reproduction, particularly in low/middle income countries. Limited support and information was offered and access to menstrual materials and places to privately manage menstruation were needed.

“The review found the experiences can lead to detrimental effects on mental and physical health, personal relationships and participation in wider society, including work and school,” Dr Barrington said.

The data is intended for use by practitioners, policy makers and the general public when designing programs to improve the overall menstrual experience.

“It is laudable that discussions of menstruation are now so mainstream, but if we are going to sustainably achieve good menstrual health for everyone, we must do more than throw free pads at the problem,” Dr Barrington said.

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