Knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding menstruation
Various taboos and myths exist in different cultures surrounding menses and these have contributed to lifestyle restrictions and induced preventable stresses for many women. Several studies have highlighted that it is important we promote education, so future doctors have a holistic understanding of this topic and are able to provide destigmatising care. There is currently minimal literature describing medical students’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding menstruation.
Materials and methods
A cross-sectional questionnaire study was conducted to explore the current knowledge, attitudes, and practices surrounding menstruation among final year medical students at James Cook University (JCU). Quantitative analysis was applied to closed questions, and open-coded questions were thematically grouped.
The overall findings (n=65; response rate=35%) highlight that while misconceptions on menstruation exist in Australian society, university is a vital source of menstrual health knowledge. Approximately half of the students felt that studying medicine normalised menstruation, while the rest felt there was no change in their attitudes as they were comfortable with this topic prior to medical school. Studying medicine also contributed to changes in 20% of female students’ menstrual practices.
The forms of social stigma identified by students were grouped into 4 themes (n=24): (1) religious and lifestyle restrictions, (2) stigma stemming from males in society, (3) the use of degrading language when referring to menstruation, and (4) unwillingness to discuss the topic. There were also varying views towards the use of medical interventions for the cessation of periods.
Recommendations from students for improvements to the JCU medical curriculum included providing more information on (1) different cultural perceptions of menstruation, (2) practical elements linked with menstruation, and (3) medical knowledge relating to menstruation and menstrual health conditions.
Studying medicine is reported by medical students to improve knowledge, promote positive attitudes, and enforce hygienic practices regarding menstruation. This, in turn, can help reduce misconceptions and promote menstrual hygiene in the wider community.