2 in 10 women have had financial difficulties to buy menstruation products
The IDIAPJGol coordinates the first study to obtain data on inequity and menstrual health in Spain. Almost 2,000 menstruating women, ages 18 to 55, have responded to the survey, which is still open.
A team from the Jordi Gol i Gurina University Institute for Research in Primary Care (IDIAPJGol) is carrying out the study ‘Equity and Menstrual Health’ . Funded by the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health , it aims to identify and understand (in) menstrual equity , as well as the characteristics of menstrual health menstruating women in Spain . As part of menstrual (in) equity, factors from the educational, health, political, economic and sociocultural fields have been considered. This is the first research project in Spain to obtain data on inequity and menstrual health.
So far a total of 1,892 menstruating women have participated , between 18 and 55 years old. The survey is still open, so from the IDIAPJGol we invite you to participate to continue obtaining data: https://enquestes.idiapjgol.org/ menstrual-health .
Menstrual education and discrimination
12.6% of those surveyed did not know what menstruation was and 47% had partial information about menstruation before menarche (first menstruation). In addition, 48.7% stated that they did not feel ready to have menstruation when they had it for the first time. The first learning about menstruation was from the family in 69.5% of the cases, in educational centers for 40.4% and through friends in 35.5% of respondents. 41.5% of the participants have felt discriminated or judged at some point for having menstruation.
Access to menstrual health services
Although they would like access to menstrual health services, 20% of the participants have not consulted health professionals or other professionals about menstruation. On the other hand, 15.8% have consulted alternative or complementary medicine. This data may be indicative that health institutions have not fully responded to the demands and needs of users in relation to inquiries about the menstrual cycle and menstruation.
Regarding menstrual pain, 7.9% consider it "normal" that menstruation is accompanied by intense pain, while 3.8% consider that it is not necessary to consult a health professional for menstrual pain . These data indicate a potential normalization of pain and menstrual alterations, one of the most significant barriers to detecting health problems such as endometriosis.
Use of menstrual products and 'menstrual poverty'
The participants reported using different products for menstruation. 74.6% of those surveyed used non-reusable menstrual products (single-use pads and tampons), while 58.8% used reusable products (menstrual cup, cloth pads, menstrual panties). 11.6% of the participants used toilet paper and 4.3% diapers as menstrual products. 4.6% practice free bleeding. The percentage of participants who use products not designed for menstrual management (toilet paper and diapers) is striking. The use of these products could be one of the consequences of the lack of accessibility to menstrual products.
In relation to the price of menstrual products, 71.4% of the participants consider that they are too expensive. 19.2% of those surveyed have had some kind of financial difficulty to buy menstrual products at some point in their life. In addition , 37.1% have been forced to opt for cheaper menstrual products due to financial difficulties. This data indicates that menstrual poverty can affect more than 2 out of 10 menstruating women , taking into account that menstrual poverty should be understood not only as the lack of "absolute access" to menstrual products due to economic difficulties, but also due to the lack of "partial access". That is, due to the economic barriers to accessing those products that further promote menstrual health and well-being. The researchers estimate that this figure could be even higher among groups in disadvantaged economic situations.
On the other hand, 94.3% of the participants have used menstrual products for longer than recommended as they have not been able to access suitable places to change menstrual products. This prolonged use of menstrual products can result in numerous health problems.
Policy measures to reduce menstrual inequity and promote menstrual health
Preliminary data from the "Equity and Menstrual Health" project indicates the need to reduce the price of menstrual products, through the application of super-reduced VAT (4%) to these products, which they should be considered essential.
99.5% of the respondents think that political measures should be taken to reduce the economic cost of menstrual products. Regarding the type of measures, 84.9% of those surveyed consider it necessary to reduce VAT on menstrual products , 62.2% argue that menstrual products should have a reduced price or be free for groups with more socio-economic difficulties, and 33.6% believe that menstrual products should be free for all.
Other necessary measures to end menstrual inequity and promote menstrual health would be the implementation of measures in the workplace that help manage menstruation and the menstrual cycle, such as promoting flexible hours and teleworking.
83.1% of the participants consider that measures should be taken in the work environment to manage menstruation and the menstrual cycle. Teleworking and time flexibility were the measures most indicated by the participants (71 , 3%), followed by the option of having sick days or days off to make up (41.1%).
Although our data indicate that more than half of those surveyed use reusable products for menstruation, promoting the use of these products would be advisable to reduce both the environmental impact of disposable menstrual products and the health impact of some non-reusable products. . Another of the measures that we consider necessary is the creation and facilitation of access to sanitary spaces for the management of menstruation.
It will also be crucial to promote menstrual education, as well as the approach to the menstrual cycle and menstruation as vital signs of menstrual and general health in health services. With this and for this, it is necessary to eliminate the taboo, stigma and discrimination still associated with menstruation, through the visibility of menstruation and the cyclicality of the health of menstruating women.
Team "Equity and Menstrual Health"
Laura Medina Perucha (IDIAPJGol), Anna Berenguera Ossó (IDIAPJGol), Constanza Jacques Aviñó (IDIAPJGol), Tomàs López Jiménez (IDIAPJGol), Carme Valls Llobet (Centro de Análisis y Programas Sanitarios, CAPS), Cristina Martínez Bueno (Institut Català de la Salut), Jordina Munrós Feliu (Institut Català de la Salut), Diana Pinzón (SomiArte Taller, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Carmen Revuelta Lisa (Institut Català de la Salut), Ramona Ortiz López (Institut Català de la Salut), Rosa Turbau Valls (Institut Català de la Salut), Mercedes Vicente Hernández (Institut Català de la Salut, grupo GRASSIR), Mónica Isidro Albaladejo (Institut Català de la Salut), Paula Briales Canseco (La Caravana Roja), Lola Hernández (La Caravana Roja) and Anna Sofie Holst (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, IDIAPJGol).
The team would like to thank, among others, the following people, associations and institutions for their support in disseminating the study: La Caravana Roja, SomiArte Taller, Center for Analysis and Health Programs, Institut Català de la Salut, Center Jove a la Atenció a les Sexualitats (CJAS), Life in Red. Menstrual Culture Association, Xusa Sanz, Irene Aterido, Sylvia de Bejar, Laia Casadevall, Aguas de Luna, Cristina Luna, Abel Renuncio, Emilia Bailon, Tania Cero, Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (semFYC), Pharmaceutical Bank, La Nau, Botiga Solidària, Cornellà Town Hall.