The period. It’s biology, not a problem.


Menstruation is still taboo in many homes today; especially suffering are teen girls for whom the experience of their first period still tends to be associated with fear, loneliness and shame. The situation in biology class at school is not better at all. Normally, all you get is a talk about periods, without going any further. And one such neglected issue is period poverty. What does it mean? Imagine a mother facing a choice: to buy food or to buy pads? Or a young girl who is ashamed of going to school when on her period because she has no sanitary items at home.

Menstruation? It’s quite normal.

The survey of the Kulczyk Foundation has shown that 17% of teenage girls skip school while on their period. The reason is that girls sometimes simply do not have the money to buy tampons or pads. In the era of economic crisis, their moms either count every penny or have no chance of receiving child support payments. Other girl students are afraid to tell their parents they have got their period and need hygiene products. The way parents handle talks about puberty also matters. Mothers largely tend to follow the patterns learnt in their own parental home. They are reluctant to talk about negative experiences. Worse still, they create falsely positive images in the style of old pad commercials where blood is blue instead of red. But, after all, we all know how it really is.

I’m on my period, so I won’t go to school.

Apparently, period poverty is more than just a financial issue. Many girls complain that the sanitary conditions at schools discourage them from using the toilets. And you do need to change pads while on period. Besides, menstruation affects social functioning both at school and outside school. Teen girls are sometimes ashamed of their period and avoid school or, once at school, they their male peers may subject them to mockery. All this then leads to underachievement, falling behind, and lower grades.

The words ‘period’ or ‘menstruation’ are shameful words for many. But there are brave women in our communities seeking to debunk the myths and stereotypes, like Marzena Okła-Drewnowicz, an MP.

Apart from mental barriers, there are the physical ones that prevent comfortable functioning. Numerous girls suffer from acute pain; this may be due to overproduction of the hormone responsible for uterine cramps. Irregular menstrual cycles also occur, and these may be caused by changes in the lifestyle such as the diet, sports activities or intense stress. This should not be ignored. A good solution is to visit a doctor who will check for signs of endometriosis and will prescribe appropriate medications if required.

Let’s not sweep periods under the rug.

Period poverty may affect any girl, whatever her family background. Pads or tampons may be in short supply not only at home, but also at school or in other child care settings, e.g., at a children’s home. Fortunately, the Periodic Coalition is there to bring together organisations seeking to normalise the topic of menstruation. One of its campaigns has resulted in the installation of pad and tampon dispensers at schools. More and more of them become available and new ones continue to be set up. The campaign involves volunteers who replenish the stock.

But the efforts do not stop there. Hand-in-hand with the Periodic Coalition, the Kulczyk Foundation has launched the first ever awareness campaign around menstruation. This is a call on politicians to enact a law decreeing free pads at every school. The campaign includes the first TV commercial about menstruation that will also air on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. This is a story of girls and women with the common focus on school and the issue of menstruation. The full uncensored version of the video is available at Perhaps this initiative will help change the mindset that periods are a taboo? Apparently, trails are already being blazed in social media.

Research reveals that as many as 64%of Poles think that menstrual products should be available at schools for free. Of that number, 67% admit that it has happened that they did not have access to pads or tampons at school.

Pads, tampons and being online

Menstruation is having an ever-greater presence online. This is where female gynaecologists publish their advice posts with colourful graphics. They share knowledge with their followers and solicit questions. Instruction is offered to young girls in order that they learn their own physiology and have easy access to hygiene products. The choice is wide, from cotton pads to practical tampons that prevent the blood from spreading out of the body. They are indispensable if you do sports or use a swimming pool.

To manage their period, every teenage girl can instal a special application on their phone to monitor their ovulation cycle and even to alert them as to which days they are fertile. The user data can be readily shared with the physician online. This type of app can explain in an easy-to-understand way the symptoms and changes occurring during the cycle. They issue reminders of gynaecologist visits, track body temperature and alert the user to not forget to obtain hygiene products.

Certainly, technology does its job, but support at home is also essential. What should parents tell their teen girls about periods? They should say that it is a normal part of the biological aspect of puberty. A good thing would be to suggest to your daughter that she carry an emergency pad in her schoolbag. Remember, your period is not something to be ashamed of but is an absolutely normal thing! Every woman menstruates for the greater part of her life. This is quite enough time to get used to it. Or maybe even get to like it?



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