More than half of the women surveyed in a study conducted by a team from the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) claims not to have known how to physically manage it the first time their period came down. This work, published in the journal BMC Women’s Healthanalyzes the information received about menstruation, the desired information and the information that has the greatest impact on how menstruation is experienced, and confirms that the menstrual education in Spain is still deficient.
“Menstruation continues to be treated as an uncomfortable subject that must be hidden and what is hidden is not talked about, not investigated, not legislated for and does not receive the necessary attention. But menstrual health requires that attention,” he points out. Sara Sánchez Lópezresearcher at the Ingenio Institute, a joint CSIC and UPV center and lead author of the study.
The study was carried out through an anonymous online questionnaire to more than 4,000 people, both men and women born or residing in Spain, carried out between May 2021 and January 2022. The questions addressed topics such as the education received about menstruation, the comfort with which the topic is discussed, emotions experienced during menarchemenstrual hygiene products, economic impact and social impact, among others.
Their results are revealing: the four most common emotions reported during the first menstruation were shame (23%), worry (20%), fear (16%), and stress (15%).
The study also reveals that 35.7% of the women surveyed I didn’t really know what the rule was when they were downloaded for the first time and 56.1% did not know enough about how to proceed. On the other hand, there are numerous testimonies collected in this work in which menstruation has been the cause of ridicule or derogatory comments.
Only 5% receive information at school on how to handle the rule
The study also notes a trend between the information available on how to manage bleeding and the number of times they recall having experienced shame, fear, worry, and disgust, suggesting that knowing what to do when you have your first period reduces the possibility of experiencing these emotions. “Unfortunately, only 5% of the people surveyed remember having received this information at school,” says Sánchez López.
On the other hand, the data indicate that despite all the social changes that have occurred in these decades, the emotions experienced during the first menstruation in Spain have not changed significantly from the 1950s to the early 2000s.
“The ambiguity of current legislation in terms of content on menstruation leaves the center or even the teacher at the discretion of how much time to dedicate to the subject and what content to include. And, often, it is merely named after its biological function as part of human reproduction,” he says. Rocio Poveda Bautistaalso a researcher at Ingenio and co-author of the study.
Menstrual health education in the curriculum
But the lack of information is not reduced to the first rule. This study shows the need for reliable and accessible information on how to manage menstrual pain, symptoms of endometriosis and other similar disorders, or when to see a specialist. In general, he concludes that more knowledge is needed about how the menstrual cycle affects the whole body and how it varies throughout life, including menopause.
“This study aims to serve as guidance for the creation of efficient legislative and social measures. It is a call to action so that education on menstrual health, deficient today, is incorporated into the curriculum, to guarantee that every person enrolled in Spain receives basic and reliable information on this subject”, concludes Santiago Moll López, from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and co-author of the study.
Together with researchers from the CSIC and the UPV, this study has also had the contribution of Dani Barrington, from the University of Western Australia, an internationally recognized expert for her research and activism on menstrual health.