Menstrual health literacy is key in the age of ban abortion: the shots

Menstrual health literacy is key in the age of ban abortion: the shots

Marnie Sommer, writer and health educator is co-author of the book A girl’s guide to puberty and periodswhich aims to help young people between the ages of 9 and 14 understand the changes that occur at puberty and what to expect and when.

Grow and Know / Snapshot of NPR

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Grow and Know / Snapshot of NPR

Marnie Sommer, writer and health educator is co-author of the book A girl’s guide to puberty and periodswhich aims to help young people between the ages of 9 and 14 understand the changes that occur at puberty and what to expect and when.

Grow and Know / Snapshot of NPR

One thing few people have talked about since then Raw vs. Wade Overruled is how abortion restrictions will affect young girls across the United States.

Around the time of their first period, many young men learn basic mechanisms for managing their periods, such as how to put a pad or tampon on, and this happens once a month. Traditionally, they may also receive some warning to conceal their role. Young people may get information about their menstrual cycle from a family member, friend, or teacher, or by searching on the Internet.

But often only later do they really learn and understand the more intricate details about the menstrual cycle. This includes instructions about regular and irregular patterns and when to seek medical care for any changes in timing, duration, or overall experience, including the severity of menstrual pain or heavy bleeding. These conversations also have obvious implications for Preventing ovulation and pregnancy.

Now, with coup Raw vs. WadeYoung men who have started menstruating will need to learn early on how to recognize a missed period as soon as possible. In the past, a young person’s mention of being late or skipping a period for a few months may not have been an urgent necessity. However, from now on, in contexts where there is a ban on abortions after a very short period of weeks, missing a single period can have serious effects on a young person’s life.

On the contrary, it is important for young people to know that irregular menstruation can be normal and that it is not always a cause for concern.

I was Research on young people’s experiences with menstruation The onset of menstruation – around the world for nearly 20 years. In 2018, my team began exploring American girls’ experiences with their periods, including their recommendations What all girls need to know When they enter puberty and start menstruation.

Based on those suggestions and ideas, we published them A girl’s guide to puberty and periodsis a novel-style, body-positive illustrated book that includes stories, tips, and questions written by girls.

Globally, I’ve learned that girls growing up in Africa, Asia, and here in the United States often receive insufficient information and support about their periods.

Information about menstruation is not enough

Menstrual health literacy, or a Understanding a person’s menstrual cycle And its intersection with one’s health and wellness, is essential from the time before the first menstruation until menopause.

no American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics They recommended that just as doctors and nurses check a person’s blood pressure or temperature at each visit, they should also ask about their menstrual cycle.

These professional societies suggest that health care providers prepare girls and their families for the onset of menstruation and make sure they understand the difference in menstrual patterns.

My team’s study in the United States focused on teenage girls in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Our findings, along with research about Statewide Menstruation Education Standards Across the country, she reports, the United States is still a long way from introducing menstruation-related health literacy to the population. Our research indicated that many girls did not receive any guidance before their first menstrual period or received information that they felt was outdated and difficult to relate to. Think of educational videos made in the 1990s.

A recent publication from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the average age of onset of menstruation Decreased from 12.1 years in 1995 to 11.9 by 2017. This means that nowadays, many girls are in primary school when they get their first period.

For this reason, it is clear that young people in the fourth or fifth grade need to receive health education that addresses PMS. Girls who do not receive education and support Especially those who get their first period at a young age are more likely to have depression and low self-esteem. Low-income and minority girls are particularly vulnerable.

However, many American girls still do not learn the basic facts about their menstrual cycles at home, at school, or from their health care providers. As our study found, parents Often uncomfortable discussing periodsperhaps because it seems too related to sex.

We also searched She captured the stories of American girls in the first period Across 25 states, I found that many young people are afraid, ashamed, and don’t know who to seek advice when menstruating begins.


Missed opportunities abound

The internet and social media can be important sources of news and guidance for many young people Providing misinformation or reinforcing the stigma of PMS. A 2020 study of members of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 24% of pediatricians surveyed Do not give instructions regularly before the first period. Furthermore, 33% do not discuss their menstrual cycle with their menstruating patients. Male pediatricians were less likely to assess the patient’s menstrual cycle and provide information, possibly due to the subject’s discomfort.

Schools may also not provide necessary guidance. In New York State, where I work, there is no requirement to provide menstrual health education, sex education It is not required to be taught or medically precise. Only 30 states and Washington, D.C. mandate sex education in schools, but not all require medical rigor.

It’s hard to know if many states even include menstrual health in their curricula, because data is limited and public information isn’t always available. I believe that, given the critical importance of some menstruation-related health literacy in late elementary school, schools could consider offering puberty education—including menstrual health—beyond sex education. This is especially true in countries that are reluctant to impose sex education.

Translates menstrual health literacy into health literacy

One survey of women of childbearing age suggested this Only about 50% know The average number of days of a regular menstrual cycle. Not knowing what’s normal or abnormal in terms of an average menstrual cycle — from how often you get your period to how much bleeding or pain you’re experiencing — increases the health risks of a teenage girl or woman.


Health – including menstrual health – is a basic human rights. For those who menstruate, this means the right to healthy literacy during their menstrual cycle, along with the ability to seek care for a myriad of menstrual and reproductive health disorders. These range from Dysmenorrhoeaor severe pain EndometrialThis is a condition in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus and can cause irregular periods and severe discomfort. Both require diagnosis and treatment.

menstruation is public health issue And one long overdue one to ramp up interest and resources, starting with – but not limited to – menstruation-related health literacy. Dropp off Ro It adds urgency to this public health priority.

This story was originally published in the online magazine Conversation. Marni Somer She is an Associate Professor of Medical and Social Sciences at Columbia University and receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop guidance on relevant indicators and measures to improve national-level monitoring of progress in global menstrual health and hygiene.

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