Period products everywhere... but Menstrual Health needs more...
In January 2022, our Health Minister Robin Swann, stated that the free period products scheme (falls) “outside (the) health remit”. Yet, fast forward to the 24th of March and thanks to the passionate endeavours of local campaigners and politicians, legislation was passed to make period products freely available in the NI assembly. Late to the party, NI was the last part of the UK to have such a scheme in place to address period poverty. So is that it, does this go far enough? How can our own Health Minister be so at odds with the idea that this is part of Menstrual Health?
Let's look at what Menstrual Health is. The World Health Organisation’s definition of Menstrual Health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity in relation to the menstrual cycle”.  Admittedly, there is limited evidence of how provision of menstrual products improve school attendance and psychosocial outcomes but menstruation is about much more than this. This is exactly why we need a broader approach to menstrual health as argued by Dr Dani Barrington in her recent O&G magazine publication where she points out the need for a more holistic approach. This approach would seek to address not only access to menstrual products but also proper facilities, adequate Menstrual education, timely medical diagnosis and treatment with respectful care. She goes on to argue about the need for consideration of the cultural context within which each of these things exist, something that is often forgotten.
“ A more holistic approach ensures that not only do those who menstruate have access to menstrual materials (which they choose for themselves, not those others assume are most appropriate) and suitable facilities to change, wash and dispose of them, but also promotes access to knowledge about the menstrual cycle, timely medical diagnosis and treatment, a positive and respectful environment (including when seeking medical care), and the choice of whether and how those who menstruate participate in all spheres of life. Furthermore, such programs need to consider the cultural context within which they exist; they must not assume that menstrual practices common in high-income countries are always preferred or ‘the best is west”.
Having PCOS we know only too well what it is to wait for PCOS diagnosis and we continue to wait for proper licensed treatments for PCOS which affects not only our menstrual cycle but also our general health and longevity. So yes we do need a broader view of Menstrual Health and it is definitely not just about pads. We need physical and psychological health to be considered too.
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© PCOS Vitality 2022
 J. Hennegan, I.T. Winkler, C. Bobel, D. Keiser, J. Hampton, G. Larsson, V. Chandra-Mouli, M. Plesons, T. Mahon, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP), Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization, (2021). https://doi.org/10.1080/26410397.2021.1911618.
 Improving menstrual health: more than providing pads – O&G Magazine, (n.d.). https://www.ogmagazine.org.au/24/1-24/improving-menstrual-health-more-than-providing-pads/#easy-footnote-1-14585 (accessed April 9, 2022).