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      Adolescent Menstrual Health Literacy in Low, Middle and High-Income Countries: A Narrative Review

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          Abstract

          Background: Poor menstrual health literacy impacts adolescents’ quality of life and health outcomes across the world. The aim of this systematic review was to identify concerns about menstrual health literacy in low/middle-income countries (LMICs) and high-income countries (HICs). Methods: Relevant social science and medical databases were searched for peer-reviewed papers published from January 2008 to January 2020, leading to the identification of 61 relevant studies. Results: A thematic analysis of the data revealed that LMICs report detrimental impacts on adolescents in relation to menstrual hygiene and cultural issues, while in HICs, issues related to pain management and long-term health outcomes were reported more frequently. Conclusions: In order to improve overall menstrual health literacy in LMICs and HICs, appropriate policies need to be developed, drawing on input from multiple stakeholders to ensure evidence-based and cost-effective practical interventions.

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            'The girl with her period is the one to hang her head' Reflections on menstrual management among schoolgirls in rural Kenya

            Background The onset of menstruation is a landmark event in the life of a young woman. Yet the complications and challenges that can accompany such an event have been understudied, specifically in resource-poor settings. As interventions aim to improve female attendance in schools, it is important to explore how menstruation is perceived and navigated by girls in the school setting. This research conveys rural Kenyan schoolgirls' perceptions and practices related to menstruation Methods Data were collected at six rural schools in the Nyanza Province of Western Kenya. Using focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, and field notes from observations, researchers collected information from 48 primary schoolgirls and nine teachers. Systematic analysis began with a reading of transcripts and debriefing notes, followed by manual coding of the narratives. Results Focus group discussions became opportunities for girls to share thoughts on menstruation, instruct one another on management practices and advise one another on coping mechanisms. Girls expressed fear, shame, distraction and confusion as feelings associated with menstruation. These feelings are largely linked to a sense of embarrassment, concerns about being stigmatized by fellow students and, as teachers explained, a perception that the onset of menstruation signals the advent of a girl's sexual status. Among the many methods for managing their periods, girls most frequently said they folded, bunched up or sewed cloth, including cloth from shirts or dresses, scraps of old cloth, or strips of an old blanket. Cloth was reported to frequently leak and cause chafing, which made school attendance difficult particularly as the day progressed. Attitudes and practices of girls toward menstruation have been arranged into personal, environmental and behavioural factors. Conclusion Further research on menstrual management options that are practical, sustainable and culturally acceptable must be conducted to inform future programs and policies that aim to empower young girls as they transition into womanhood. Stakeholders working within this and similar contexts must consider systematic mechanisms to explain to young girls what menstruation is and how to manage it. Providing sanitary supplies or guiding girls on how to create supplies serve as critical components for future interventions.
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              ‘We Keep It Secret So No One Should Know’ – A Qualitative Study to Explore Young Schoolgirls Attitudes and Experiences with Menstruation in Rural Western Kenya

              Background Keeping girls in school offers them protection against early marriage, teen pregnancy, and sexual harms, and enhances social and economic equity. Studies report menstruation exacerbates school-drop out and poor attendance, although evidence is sparse. This study qualitatively examines the menstrual experiences of young adolescent schoolgirls. Methods and Findings The study was conducted in Siaya County in rural western Kenya. A sample of 120 girls aged 14–16 years took part in 11 focus group discussions, which were analysed thematically. The data gathered were supplemented by information from six FGDs with parents and community members. Emergent themes were: lack of preparation for menarche; maturation and sexual vulnerability; menstruation as an illness; secrecy, fear and shame of leaking; coping with inadequate alternatives; paying for pads with sex; and problems with menstrual hygiene. Girls were unprepared and demonstrated poor reproductive knowledge, but devised practical methods to cope with menstrual difficulties, often alone. Parental and school support of menstrual needs is limited, and information sparse or inaccurate. Girls’ physical changes prompt boys and adults to target and brand girls as ripe for sexual activity including coercion and marriage. Girls admitted ‘others’ rather than themselves were absent from school during menstruation, due to physical symptoms or inadequate sanitary protection. They described difficulties engaging in class, due to fear of smelling and leakage, and subsequent teasing. Sanitary pads were valued but resource and time constraints result in prolonged use causing chafing. Improvised alternatives, including rags and grass, were prone to leak, caused soreness, and were perceived as harmful. Girls reported ‘other girls’ but not themselves participated in transactional sex to buy pads, and received pads from boyfriends. Conclusions In the absence of parental and school support, girls cope, sometimes alone, with menarche in practical and sometimes hazardous ways. Emotional and physical support mechanisms need to be included within a package of measures to enable adolescent girls to reach their potential.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Academic Editor
                Role: Academic Editor
                Journal
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                ijerph
                International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
                MDPI
                1661-7827
                1660-4601
                25 February 2021
                March 2021
                : 18
                : 5
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Centre for Educational Research, Western Sydney University, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia; C.Curry@ 123456westernsydney.edu.au (C.C.); 19168353@ 123456student.westernsydney.edu.au (S.); t.ferfolja@ 123456westernsydney.edu.au (T.F.)
                [2 ]NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia; Kelly.Parry@ 123456westernsydney.edu.au (K.P.); caroline.smith@ 123456westernsydney.edu.au (C.S.); mhyman124@ 123456gmail.com (M.H.); m.armour@ 123456westernsydney.edu.au (M.A.)
                [3 ]Translational Health Research Institute (THRI), Western Sydney University, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: k.holmes@ 123456westernsydney.edu.au ; Tel.: +64247360252
                Article
                ijerph-18-02260
                10.3390/ijerph18052260
                7956698
                33668788
                © 2021 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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