Optimal Attitudes Regarding Menstruation

Thoughts and feelings created regarding menarche and menstruation are a combination of personal experience and cultural influences.1 Western culture has relegated menstruation to a necessary but silent aspect of female sexuality, reflected in literature depicting menstruation as debilitating while negatively affecting aspects of control or freedom regarding the female body.7 Most evidence indicates that while menstruation must be endured, the unspoken rule is that it must also be concealed.8 This might create contrary perceptions of menstruation which could result in a negative perception of the body with possible results of reduced self esteem and body image.3

Moreover, Western culture characterises menstruation as a hygienic calamity which must be sanitised at every opportunity.3 With these prevailing positions on menstruation, cultivating a healthy and positive disposition around menstruation can influence other aspects of self perception, such as body image.  The resulting attitude towards menstruation has been associated with adverse physical symptoms and moods while being passed down culturally from women to girls and even men to boys.7 Even so, other research suggests that some young girls correlate menstruation with similarity among peers and becoming a woman – both indicated as positive attitudes in the literature.7

Increasing affirmative messages through media by celebrating and honouring menstruation could improve attitudes thereby producing a healthier perception of this biological function.8 Perhaps when advertising refrains from portraying menstrual blood as blue water in order to demonstrate absorbency of their products, might girls and women begin to appreciate the reality of their bodies in the context of a healthy, sexually functioning entity. Parents contributing a commemorative approach towards menarche can facilitate a positive outlook which impacts on-going experiences of menstruation.9 Allowing the child to feel special and unique in her imminent womanhood cultivates an air of excitement and anticipation of menarche, promoting a positive outlook on menstruation. Some methods for setting the scene might be: creating a special space for menstrual items (such as sanitary pads or tampons although not in a manner which promotes secrecy or shame) or arranging a special shopping excursion for menstrual items.

It is important to highlight both the joyful and challenging aspects of menstruation equally as some research has shown that only emphasising the positive can create a feeling of duplicity and enhance the feeling of abnormality for experiencing the possible cramping or other side effects related to menstruation.10 Ensuring that complete and accurate information is exchanged will not only facilitate positive attitudes surrounding menstruation but will also alleviate the actual side effects associated with menstruation.10 This accentuates the urgency of encompassing and honest conversations regarding menarche and menstruation.

Part 4: Impact of Education on Menstruation

References

  1. McGrory A. Menarche: responses of early adolescent females. Adolescence. 1990;25(98):265-70. Epub 1990/01/01.
  2. Mansfield PK, Stubbs ML. The menstrual cycle:feminist research from the society for menstrual cycle research. Women & health. 2007;46(1):1-5. Epub 2007/11/23.
  3. Rembeck GI, Moller M, Gunnarsson RK. Attitudes and feelings towards menstruation and womanhood in girls at menarche. Acta Paediatr. 2006;95(6):707-14. Epub 2006/06/07.
  4. Oinas E. Medicalisation by whom? Accounts of menstruation conveyed by young women and medical experts in medical advisory columns. Sociology of Health & Illness. 1998;20(1):52-70.
  5. Bancroft J. Human sexuality and it’s problems. 3rd ed. United Kingdom: Elsevier Limited; 2009.
  6. Rembeck GI, Gunnarsson RK. Improving pre- and postmenarcheal 12-year-old girls’ attitudes toward menstruation. Health care for women international. 2004;25(7):680-98. Epub 2004/10/19.
  7. Stubbs ML. Cultural perceptions and practices around menarche and adolescent menstruation in the United States. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2008;1135:58-66. Epub 2008/06/25.
  8. Charlesworth D. Paradoxical constructions of self: Educating young women about menstruation. Women and Language. 2001;24(2):8.
  9. Beausang CC, Razor AG. Young western women’s experiences of menarche and menstruation. Health care for women international. 2000;21(6):517-28. Epub 2001/03/10.
  10. Farage MA, Miller KW, Davis A. Cultural aspects of menstruation and menstrual hygiene in adolescents. Expert Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2011;6(2):14.