Period Power: Education and Periods In The UK
If you’ve been keeping up with our #PeriodPower blog series, you might have noticed that we’ve been shedding some light on why periods are powerful in society, not just in developing countries but right on our front door step too.
From girls missing out on school to period shaming through the media, we’ve still got a long way to go for menstruation equality! That’s why we’re all about the #PeriodPower this year.
So far we’ve talked about how people are affected by attitudes towards periods in different walks of life including prisons, the workplace, homelessness, and what you can do to support the #PeriodPower movement. In this blog post we’ll be discussing how menstrual education affects our relationship with periods, what we were taught in school about menstruation, and what it’s like to get your period at school in the UK!
MENSTRUAL EDUCATION AND OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR BODIES
When did you get your first period? Teens with a uterus usually start their first period around the ages of 10-15. Although some young menstruators will be educated on what to expect before and during their period, there are many young teens in the UK who won’t.
The shocking truth is that in the UK nearly half of the people getting their period for the first time don’t know what is happening to them. With 60% feeling scared, 58% feeling embarrassed and nearly half saying they didn’t feel confident enough to tell anyone about it.
In another study it was found that 26% of young people coming on their period for the first time didn’t know what to do.
Over half the population menstruate and yet young people around the country are facing their first period with shame and even fear. It’s no wonder we’re still living in a time of period taboo where half of us report feeling shame around our periods well in to adulthood!
So, what’s the deal? Periods are a normal, healthy part of life for most of us and yet it seems like we’re being brought up to know very little about them.
MENSTRUAL EDUCATION IN THE UK
If you grew up in the 80’s or 90’s you probably remember those strange, cringey animated videos (on actual VHS of course) taking you through the basics of “that time of the month”...if you got any menstruation education at all. But was this enough? And have things improved?
According to the Department of Education in England, menstrual education is part of the national curriculum and yet 15% of young people reported being taught nothing at all in the classroom.
In fact, in a study by the Eve Appeal, they found that 44% of female respondents couldn’t identify the vagina on an anatomical diagram and 60% couldn’t identify the vulva.
Even if you are getting some education, it can vary a lot between schools and even teachers because of resources and, back to our old nemesis, shame and taboo. 76% of young people have said that they found the menstrual education they received to be awkward and embarrassing and 60% said they thought the education was old-fashioned and unrelatable.
Without proper education, not only are young people left feeling afraid and ashamed but they’re much less likely to spot important symptoms and get adequate help with menstrual health.
For example, 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the UK suffer from endometriosis (it’s the 2nd biggest gynecological condition here) and yet, as Alice Smith explained to the BBC, it’s not spoken about enough and many like her go undiagnosed, have terrible symptoms without proper help and even face infertility issues.
It’s also believed that proper menstrual health education is linked to higher self-esteem, body confidence and informed decision-making when it comes to reproductive health.
THE REALITIES OF GETTING YOUR PERIOD AT SCHOOL
...we’ve all been there and it sucks. Maybe it was even your first period and it caught you by surprise! Not having access to adequate facilities in loos, period products and just general feeling really embarrassed about the whole thing (like school isn’t hard enough as a young adult!).
When surveyed, 82% of young adults said they felt the need to stealthily conceal sanitary items with 71% saying they felt embarrassed by the products altogether.
Period poverty is also having a negative affect with 1 in 10 not being able to afford period products and 50% of young adults missing out on full school days because of this.
Chella Quint, founder of the #periodpositive movement, told The Independent that kids she spoke to complained of toilets being inaccessible during lessons or being too afraid to take bags with them to the toilet during exams.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
There are some great people and organisations already pushing for better menstrual education in the UK.
BettyForSchools is also a great organisation that provides information and resources for parents and educators. It’s specifically tailored for young people and includes some fantastic videos.
If you’re looking for more body and menstrual information we have a ton of resources and articles on the Lunette website. Including Anatomy 101, all the info you need to know about periods and even a specific section for teens who want to use menstrual cups.
We’re also working on putting together period education packs which we’re hoping to have out in the UK later this year, so watch this space!
Most importantly though is simply talking more about periods and doing it in the right way. Whether you’re a teacher, parent or just with your friends too.
The list goes on and on – tell us what changes you would like to see about education about menstruation in the comments! Keep the conversation going and raise awareness by sharing this post and use the hashtag #PeriodPower. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more period power talk!