Menstruation is a natural process that girls and women need to feel empowered to talk openly about, yet this aspect of heath is often still seen as a taboo subject.
Such stigma may result in many girls and women tolerating unnecessary levels of bleeding, pain and other associated symptoms. This can have a significant impact on their lives across a wide range of domains, including education and work, family life, social life, and their general quality of life.
The onset of menstruation is both a physiological and psychological milestone in a woman’s reproductive life. Most girls will have their first period between the ages of 11 and 14, and their periods will continue regularly (usually monthly) until the menopause, which occurs around the age of 51 years in the UK. On average, women have periods for around 40 years of their life, and therefore, menstrual health forms an integral part of wellbeing.
It is critical important to wellbeing that everyone can talk comfortable about periods, menstruation, in order to better understand what is normal, and what may need further investigation. With this in mind the RCN have produced a publication, Promoting menstrual wellbeing. This publication can help provide understanding and knowledge to manage periods from teenage years to the menopause, and empower girls and women to ask for advice when needed. Nurses, midwives and nursing associates can use this guidance to initiate discussion with women and girls about normal menstruation and bleeding patterns throughout the lifecycle, and assess for menstrual cycle problems. The guidance includes information on the common causes of menstrual disorders, and describes initial investigations and early treatment management, as well as useful resources that may also help engage this conversation.
Identifying potential problems in a timely manner can facilitate prompt referral to appropriate services to improve the long-term health of women, including their physical, psychological and social well-being.
A recent study by Cochrane UK has shown that both low-intensity exercise such as yoga or high-intensity exercise such as aerobics may provide a large reduction in the intensity of period pain compared with not exercising. Exercise may be effective in reducing period pain levels by 25mm on a 100mm scale, which is over twice the amount usually needed to show a ‘significant’ reduction in pain. See: Exercise for period pain: New evidence to support exercising to reduce painful cramping.