This technical brief sees Menstrual health is an entry point and essential lens to understand and approach women’s sexual and reproductive health journeys. The menstrual cycle accompanies girls and women from the beginning of puberty until menopause and is an important predictor and indicator of health (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2016). Despite its importance, global health practitioners have often overlooked the value of menstruation. As a consequence, girls and women don’t receive appropriate education about their menstrual cycle and fertility, contributing to a lack of confidence and ownership of their own bodies, which are essential elements to make informed decisions throughout their sexual and reproductive health journeys.
In December 2018, building on previous projects, PSI-Europe partnered with The Case for Her, a funding collaborative investing in early stage markets within women’s and girls’ health, with the aim to understand the role menstrual health
plays in PSI’s network members’ programs and its potential to strengthen and improve Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) interventions. With this technical brief, the authors hope to support the SRHR work in-country, providing a technical brief for integrating menstrual health in existing SRHR programs.
Menstruation is a natural biological occurrence that nearly all women of reproductive age experience. On average, a woman will have 450 cycles over approximately 38 years of her life. Proponents of ‘menstrual hygiene’ have called for access to clean toilets, clean water in the toilets, soap, safe space to change and/or wash and discrete disposal options.
However, global health practitioners have given less attention to how menstruation affects a woman’s reproductive life and her perceptions of fertility and motherhood, and how cultural beliefs and social and gender norms restrict her participation in society during menstruation or other types of vaginal bleeding. Many young women and other menstruators around the world face physical and social challenges or even discrimination or violence during their menstruation, often rooted in harmful gender norms. When programming integrates menstruation in all its SRHR aspects, it becomes even more gender-transformative, challenging those harmful norms which inhibit girls and women to make informed and independent decisions about their health and body.