Access to appropriate health products and attitudes towards menstruation must change in order to improve well-being in low- and middle-income countries. That’s what motivated researchers who took part in joint research by Johns Hopkins University and the University of Exeter Medical School published in the scientific journal PLOS Medicine.
But in so-called rich or industrialized countries, menstruation is also not always well known and respected, especially by men. Here are five things to know about this still taboo subject that affects all women at some point in their lives.
Menstruation corresponds to the evacuation of the uterine lining
The blood produced during menstruation corresponds to a natural evacuation of the uterine lining when there is no fertilization of the egg. The blood that flows during menstruation is made up of the endometrial wall that renews itself and the unfertilized egg, dissolved and then ejected by the body. A new cycle takes place from the detachment of the uterine mucosa and its renewal awaiting a possible fertilization. In general, the menstrual cycle varies between 20 to 40 days and lasts between 2 to 7 days, but these data remain different according to women.
From 400 to 100 periods
Before the arrival of these contraceptive techniques, women generally had many children and fewer periods, about 100 periods until menopause compared to 400 currently. This low number of menstruations is explained by the cessation of menstruation during the 9 months of pregnancy and the other months corresponding to periods of breastfeeding.
80% of women suffer from premenstrual syndrome
PMS is a reality for 80% of women of childbearing age. It is manifested by several symptoms such as mood changes, a feeling of fatigue, deep sadness or irritability. In some cases, nausea, headaches and concentration problems may appear. Premenstrual syndrome or PMS can be accompanied by pelvic pain, abdominal tension, breast swelling, water retention and back pain. These are the manifestations that often appear during PMS, but the signs can change with each cycle and depending on the woman. Certain measures such as practicing sports, adopting a diet, regularly taking an adequate supply of vitamins and relaxation are also used as a preventive measure or to reduce the inconveniences associated with premenstrual syndrome.
91% of women complained of an unquiet cycle
The majority of women are faced with an abnormal menstrual cycle. Of the 738 women researched, 91% of them confirmed having had at least one problem in their cycle. Among the most common phenomena are pain and heavy bleeding during menstruation as well as irregularity of the cycle. Some of them even complained of a momentary interruption of menstruation. At the same time, one in five women suffers from severe colic during menstruation, sometimes preventing them from carrying out their daily activities.
Women are getting their first period earlier and earlier
Currently, women get pregnant later, but have their first period earlier than before. If at the beginning of the 20th century, the age of the first periods was established at around 14 years, currently the average is 12.5 years in Western countries and even a little earlier in other countries. It is a consequence of a change in habits, especially food, characterized by the intake of food with a high calorific value. The use of bisphenol-based chemicals or illnesses such as obesity are also among the causes of this change in the average age of first menstruation.
Julie Hennegan: Women’s and girls’ experiences of menstruation in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review and qualitative metasynthesis.PLOS Medicine