The impact of menstruation on ‘neglected’ university education

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The disruption of college education by menstruation has been virtually ignored in the West, even though it affects more than half of the student body.

A systematic review found that severe period pain affects the academic performance of students around the world, forcing them to leave campus and undermining their participation and concentration. Inadequate facilities and lack of sanitary products are also wreaking havoc.

But the impacts often go unnoticed by faculty, according to Alana Munro of the University of Sydney, who is undertaking doctoral studies on an issue that is also overlooked by researchers.

The review, published in the journal Plos one, found that the menstrual experiences of female college students had only been examined in 83 peer-reviewed studies around the world over the past 30 years. More than three-quarters were conducted in low- and middle-income countries, with just four in the United States, four in continental Europe, one in England and none in Australia.

Ms Munro criticized a misconception that “menstrual poverty” was non-existent in high-income countries, despite the hardships many students face. And while there was some recognition of the disruptions caused by menstrual disturbances, almost no attention was paid to “socio-cultural” factors such as stigma and shame.

She blamed the feeling that people should ‘get on with it’, combined with a long-standing tendency to ignore female physiology in medical studies. “There has been a bias in the research not to look at the menstrual cycle and how it affects health or other outcomes because it was considered quite complex,” she said.

“It’s only now that we begin to understand that the menstrual cycle is important in shaping outcomes throughout life, and we need to pay more attention to it.”

Ms. Munro’s research has highlighted menstruation as a source of anxiety. Seventy percent of respondents to an instant survey said their period had an impact on their attendance at school, university or work, 82 percent in favor of accessing menstrual leave.

She said other universities should follow Sydney’s lead in providing free menstrual machine vending machines, not only to help financially struggling students, but also to keep people from having to leave campus to buy. furniture.

But she cautioned against “one-size-fits-all” policy responses, noting that “everyone experiences their periods differently.”

“The students… have some pretty interesting and creative coping strategies. We do not mean to say that they are victims of menstruation. They know what they are doing. We just need to better support them in their academic journey.

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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