Student experience of menstruation in school - data collection for study

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as222
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Hi,
As part of completing my Masters in Education, I’m researching about girls’ experiences of menstruation in schools. This is a topic that is rarely studied and often ignored. For one of my data collection methods I would like to use personal narrative to help me understand this subject area.

If you would like to contribute to this study and you are currently between the ages of 13-19 years of age, please could you write an account (short or long) about your experiences of periods in primary/secondary school? This could include the following:
• The usefulness and quality of period education that you have received (e.g., through PSHE lessons)
• How the school through teacher attitudes, peer relationships and school culture etc. has impacted your experience of how you feel about menstruating in schools
• The effects that menstruating in schools has had on your self-esteem

By participating and providing your experiences on this discussion forum, please be aware that you are giving your consent for this information to be used as part of my research anonymously. All information will comply with the British Educational Research Association ethics and adhere to The University of Hull’s data protection policies.

Thank you in advance for your time.
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caz99
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That’s an interesting question.
Basically I wouldn’t say my experience of menstruating in schools was positive. We weren’t able to go to the toilets when we wanted to and I’m really self-conscious about leaking. I think some teachers just acted more like prison guards and they wouldn’t let you leave even if you said “I really need to go” – hint - hint. I asked one male teacher if I could go to the toilet and he said no and said that was the school policy that you can’t leave lesson and because I said I really needed to go then he took me outside the classroom and was like “what’s your problem” and when I said I was on my period his face just dropped and because of the whole situation we both just got embarrassed and it was awkward but then he did let me go to the toilet. But why did I have to go through all of that?
As for PSHE lessons, they were a write off, I can’t think that we even did anything on periods. I just learnt most things from my friends and sisters. It would have been helpful if more information about periods was discussed because I started my period at 12 and didn’t have a clue. I remember in primary school we just watched this short cartoon about puberty and that was it. The girls and boys were separated. Then we went back to our normal class and the boys were like what did you do and it was just this secret atmosphere which was stupid. It would have been useful to see different sanitary pads because then you could at least have some expectation.

Hope this helps and good luck with your study.
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vicvic38
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I would but I'm a year outside your guideline! Good luck though.
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lntrns
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My experience was actually quite positive. In year 6 we had a puberty/sex ed session where we were taught about periods and the types of period products and demonstations of how much blood they could hold (running a tampon under a tap and watching it expand). In year 7 we were taught the biology of sex, reproduction and periods so we understood how that worked and continuously in both pshe and gcse biology lessons we have learnt about sex, reproduction and menstruation throughout my time in secondary school. Though my school did have a strict toilet policy I'm lucky that I had good teachers who understood we couldn't control our periods and allowed us to leave when necessary (I found using a specific tone in my voice helped convey what I meant). Both my primary and secondary school offered period products to us for free in emergencies and my secondary school headteacher also offered us free menstrual cups (the assembly where she announced that was quite awkward but her effort ws much appreciated).
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as222
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(Original post by vicvic38)
I would but I'm a year outside your guideline! Good luck though.
Thank you vicvic38 for taking the time to contact me and looking at the thread. If you are willing to contribute I'd nonetheless be more than happy to read your accounts or views.
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as222
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(Original post by lntrns)
My experience was actually quite positive. In year 6 we had a puberty/sex ed session where we were taught about periods and the types of period products and demonstations of how much blood they could hold (running a tampon under a tap and watching it expand). In year 7 we were taught the biology of sex, reproduction and periods so we understood how that worked and continuously in both pshe and gcse biology lessons we have learnt about sex, reproduction and menstruation throughout my time in secondary school. Though my school did have a strict toilet policy I'm lucky that I had good teachers who understood we couldn't control our periods and allowed us to leave when necessary (I found using a specific tone in my voice helped convey what I meant). Both my primary and secondary school offered period products to us for free in emergencies and my secondary school headteacher also offered us free menstrual cups (the assembly where she announced that was quite awkward but her effort ws much appreciated).
Thank you Intrns for sharing your experiences. They are much appreciated.
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Anonymous17!
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I would say my experience overall was negative. I was actually supposed to receive a lesson on mensuration and periods in year 6 but never got it. My school spectated boys and girls and we’re going to have lessons to teach us about what would be happening to our bodies for next few years. I did something wrong in school, got detention, and wasn’t allowed to go to the lesson! They didn’t even bother to tell me anything at a different day either. So, when I got to year 7, I knew that a period was when I’d bleed but I had no idea what else to expect about it, like how painful it could be etc. I was one of the last people in my class to get my period, and I’d say that other girls were what made my experience positive. My secondary school would charge us money for pads if we started our periods during school. Good thing it was pretty much guaranteed that at least one other girl would be on her period so you could ask for a spare pad or tampon. I have also found that whenever I’ve been on my period in school and I’ve wanted to use the toilet, I would be refused by teacher and only when I told them I was on my period did they let me go. I understand that most schools don’t allow students to go to the toilet during class (for whatever reason) but I don’t feel like I should have to admit that I’m on my period to a male teacher when I don’t feel comfortable doing so. Also, I think that girls and boys alike are severely under educated when it comes to periods. Never in my years of school has polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, pre menstrual dysphoric disorder, dysmenorrhea or Amenorrhea or any of the other disorders and emotional complications that periods can cause has ever been mentioned in school. I used to have extreme nausea, would pass out in school because of heavy periods, would get cramps soooo bad that I couldn’t even walk let alone get out of bed, and yet teachers and doctors alike told me that I just needed to exercise more, drink more water and eat more fruit. Well, after 5 years of fighting, I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis and now have a repeat prescription for the pill. I feel like more needs to be done to educate both boys and girls (and doctors!) on conditions such as mine and others so that women can have healthier relationships with their bodies. I think that there needs to be a cap on how much sanitary products cost (period poverty) and that young women from certain ages should be allowed either vouchers for free products if they need them (like entitlement to free school meals works) or at least vouchers for discounts (again, to combat period poverty.) I would say my experience during school was poor, with teachers not taking my condition seriously, doctors not taking it seriously until recently, girls not understanding my condition due to a lack of education, boys saying I was on my period any time I got slightly annoyed, and getting conned out of my money by my school for starting my period unexpectedly (I did bring pads with me eventually to prepare for if I started, but still, why don’t schools offer these for free?) and yeah, it wasn’t great.

And also, more needs to be done to reframe education around the pill. It shouldn’t just be taught that it is a form of contraception l, because although it is, it is also a form of medication for most women. Most girls I’ve talked to who suffered from painful or heavy periods said they put up with it because they didn’t know at the time that the pill could be used to help them! So the pill needs to be reframed as a form of medication for some women, and also an effective contraceptive!
Last edited by Anonymous17!; 6 days ago
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as222
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(Original post by caz99)
That’s an interesting question.
Basically I wouldn’t say my experience of menstruating in schools was positive. We weren’t able to go to the toilets when we wanted to and I’m really self-conscious about leaking. I think some teachers just acted more like prison guards and they wouldn’t let you leave even if you said “I really need to go” – hint - hint. I asked one male teacher if I could go to the toilet and he said no and said that was the school policy that you can’t leave lesson and because I said I really needed to go then he took me outside the classroom and was like “what’s your problem” and when I said I was on my period his face just dropped and because of the whole situation we both just got embarrassed and it was awkward but then he did let me go to the toilet. But why did I have to go through all of that?
As for PSHE lessons, they were a write off, I can’t think that we even did anything on periods. I just learnt most things from my friends and sisters. It would have been helpful if more information about periods was discussed because I started my period at 12 and didn’t have a clue. I remember in primary school we just watched this short cartoon about puberty and that was it. The girls and boys were separated. Then we went back to our normal class and the boys were like what did you do and it was just this secret atmosphere which was stupid. It would have been useful to see different sanitary pads because then you could at least have some expectation.

Hope this helps and good luck with your study.
Thank you caz99 for your reply. I appreciate your retelling your accounts in school.
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hope1279
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I can't remember learning anything about periods in primary school so when I started my period at age 11, I had no idea what it was. In high school we had a male teacher who glossed over the subject which wasn't that useful. When we covered reproduction in biology in year 9 the teacher went into loads of detail but at that point most of us had started our periods already and we had learned from experience by that point. In college we had something called the red box project where college put a tub of pads and tampons in all the girls bathrooms for girls who couldn't afford them or if they forgot their own. I was caught short once and I felt so relieved I could get what I needed without having to go ask a teacher for one which I know some schools did. After that day I bought a few extra boxes of tampons in and put them in one of the boxes for other girls when they were caught short.
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as222
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(Original post by Anonymous17!)
I would say my experience overall was negative. I was actually supposed to receive a lesson on mensuration and periods in year 6 but never got it. My school spectated boys and girls and we’re going to have lessons to teach us about what would be happening to our bodies for next few years. I did something wrong in school, got detention, and wasn’t allowed to go to the lesson! They didn’t even bother to tell me anything at a different day either. So, when I got to year 7, I knew that a period was when I’d bleed but I had no idea what else to expect about it, like how painful it could be etc. I was one of the last people in my class to get my period, and I’d say that other girls were what made my experience positive. My secondary school would charge us money for pads if we started our periods during school. Good thing it was pretty much guaranteed that at least one other girl would be on her period so you could ask for a spare pad or tampon. I have also found that whenever I’ve been on my period in school and I’ve wanted to use the toilet, I would be refused by teacher and only when I told them I was on my period did they let me go. I understand that most schools don’t allow students to go to the toilet during class (for whatever reason) but I don’t feel like I should have to admit that I’m on my period to a male teacher when I don’t feel comfortable doing so. Also, I think that girls and boys alike are severely under educated when it comes to periods. Never in my years of school has polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, pre menstrual dysphoric disorder, dysmenorrhea or Amenorrhea or any of the other disorders and emotional complications that periods can cause has ever been mentioned in school. I used to have extreme nausea, would pass out in school because of heavy periods, would get cramps soooo bad that I couldn’t even walk let alone get out of bed, and yet teachers and doctors alike told me that I just needed to exercise more, drink more water and eat more fruit. Well, after 5 years of fighting, I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis and now have a repeat prescription for the pill. I feel like more needs to be done to educate both boys and girls (and doctors!) on conditions such as mine and others so that women can have healthier relationships with their bodies. I think that there needs to be a cap on how much sanitary products cost (period poverty) and that young women from certain ages should be allowed either vouchers for free products if they need them (like entitlement to free school meals works) or at least vouchers for discounts (again, to combat period poverty.) I would say my experience during school was poor, with teachers not taking my condition seriously, doctors not taking it seriously until recently, girls not understanding my condition due to a lack of education, boys saying I was on my period any time I got slightly annoyed, and getting conned out of my money by my school for starting my period unexpectedly (I did bring pads with me eventually to prepare for if I started, but still, why don’t schools offer these for free?) and yeah, it wasn’t great.

And also, more needs to be done to reframe education around the pill. It shouldn’t just be taught that it is a form of contraception l, because although it is, it is also a form of medication for most women. Most girls I’ve talked to who suffered from painful or heavy periods said they put up with it because they didn’t know at the time that the pill could be used to help them! So the pill needs to be reframed as a form of medication for some women, and also an effective contraceptive!
Anonymous17!, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and interpretations of menstruation in schools. You have provided some very thoughtful reflections.
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as222
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(Original post by hope1279)
I can't remember learning anything about periods in primary school so when I started my period at age 11, I had no idea what it was. In high school we had a male teacher who glossed over the subject which wasn't that useful. When we covered reproduction in biology in year 9 the teacher went into loads of detail but at that point most of us had started our periods already and we had learned from experience by that point. In college we had something called the red box project where college put a tub of pads and tampons in all the girls bathrooms for girls who couldn't afford them or if they forgot their own. I was caught short once and I felt so relieved I could get what I needed without having to go ask a teacher for one which I know some schools did. After that day I bought a few extra boxes of tampons in and put them in one of the boxes for other girls when they were caught short.
Thank you hope1279 for feeding back your accounts. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.
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Sammylou40
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I am most definitely way out of your guidelines but if you are interested in comparison between now and when I was at school it may broaden your research
Happy to contribute if you’re interested
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ayumie
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Hi!
I got about 1 hours education from supposed professionals in Year 6, so a few months after I actually got my first period. When I did, I was so clueless about them that I thought I would have them everyday. There was sort of a mocking culture at primary school- some girls were bullied for having ketchup on skirts and people would run around saying they’d started their period. The consensus was that starting your period- the earlier you do, the more embarrassed you should be.
I find it very good to talk with other girls about symptoms, my friends specifically and I feel most young girls kinda bond over it. Boys still cringe and say stuff like ‘You’re probably menstruating’, but we’ve learnt to turn a blind eye to their ignorance. Schools don’t really see how cramps, general low mood, back pain and stuff can lead us to not want to go in. So say we feel ill from cramps, we can’t go home because of it. This generally gives me the idea that periods aren’t as bad as we feel, and that it’s stupid and weak to think they’re deserving of missing time from school to help ease the pain. I hate having a period in school, a lot.
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as222
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(Original post by Sammylou40)
I am most definitely way out of your guidelines but if you are interested in comparison between now and when I was at school it may broaden your research
Happy to contribute if you’re interested
Hi Sammylou40, thank you. I'm open to your suggestion and welcome your contributions. Perhaps you could give an indication of the timeframe you refer to, it may help when developing a context. Thank you in advance.
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as222
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(Original post by ayumie)
Hi!
I got about 1 hours education from supposed professionals in Year 6, so a few months after I actually got my first period. When I did, I was so clueless about them that I thought I would have them everyday. There was sort of a mocking culture at primary school- some girls were bullied for having ketchup on skirts and people would run around saying they’d started their period. The consensus was that starting your period- the earlier you do, the more embarrassed you should be.
I find it very good to talk with other girls about symptoms, my friends specifically and I feel most young girls kinda bond over it. Boys still cringe and say stuff like ‘You’re probably menstruating’, but we’ve learnt to turn a blind eye to their ignorance. Schools don’t really see how cramps, general low mood, back pain and stuff can lead us to not want to go in. So say we feel ill from cramps, we can’t go home because of it. This generally gives me the idea that periods aren’t as bad as we feel, and that it’s stupid and weak to think they’re deserving of missing time from school to help ease the pain. I hate having a period in school, a lot.
Ayumie, you make some interesting points. Thank you for providing your experiences.
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Sammylou40
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(Original post by as222)
Hi Sammylou40, thank you. I'm open to your suggestion and welcome your contributions. Perhaps you could give an indication of the timeframe you refer to, it may help when developing a context. Thank you in advance.
I’ll give you my experience in full tomorrow if that’s ok.
I had sex education in the 70s and 80s
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Anonymous17!
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(Original post by as222)
Anonymous17!, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and interpretations of menstruation in schools. You have provided some very thoughtful reflections.
No problem, glad I could help!
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twinklelittlstar
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- The quality of period education was good. We didn’t have PSHE back then, but our science teacher taught us everything we needed to know in Year 7.
- Felt fine, mostly. I remember there was once a girl who’s period came before any of ours did and thus nobody had pads, and we asked the older girls for one and all was good, so peer-wise, no probs. Only thing was, sometimes we’d have an emergency mid-lesson and the male teacher would take long to catch the hint. (To be more exact, the girl ended up screaming “I’m bleeding out and I need a f*cking tampon! May I go now (to the bathroom)?”).
- None, really
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