World Menstrual Hygiene Day: Third Of British Women Too Embarrassed To Talk About Periods

'This is a natural occurrence that affects 50% of the population.'

One in three British women admit they are embarrassed about their periods, according to a new poll released by ActionAid.

The poll of more than 1,000 women in the UK aged 16 and over explored British women’s attitudes towards their period ahead of ahead of World Menstrual Hygiene Day (Saturday 28 May).

It found that women aged 25-39 were more likely to be embarrassed about their periods (54%) than women aged 16-24 (33%).

Findings from the poll also highlighted regional variations across the country with women in Wales far less likely to be embarrassed about their periods than women in Scotland (only 21% compared with 33%), closely followed by women in the South of England (31%).

matka_Wariatka via Getty Images

Around the world many people still see menstruation as a taboo subject, with women and girls in developing countries often stigmatised for simply having their periods, which can lead to them avoiding school.

Jessica Holland, a spokesperson from ActionAid, said it’s "deeply saddening" that in 2016 many women still feel too embarrassed to talk about periods.

"This is a natural occurrence that affects 50% of the population - so why are we still shying away from talking about our periods?" she said.

“This is a problem that extends to women and girls around the world, where taboos around periods and lack of access to sanitary products often affect their ability to live their lives to the fullest.

“For millions of girls and women living in poverty around the world, having their period can mean missing out on an education and losing out on earning money because of lack of adequate toilets, water and sanitary products. This is simply not fair.”

When asked what situations would be the most embarrassing to get their periods in, women involved in the survey gave the following answers:

  • 67% said whilst swimming/ on the beach

  • 67% said at a social event

  • 65% said on their wedding day

  • 65% said whilst exercising

  • 63% said at an interview

  • 63% said during a long commute

  • 62% said at work/ school

  • 48% said when being intimate with a partner

The survey also found that over three and a half million girls and women in the UK (14%) have missed school or work because of their period, yet only a quarter (27%) spoke honestly about the reason - the majority (65%) citing other reasons rather than disclosing they have their periods.

Holland added: "A woman’s period can affect her in very different ways, and no two women are the same.

"Yet our research shows that despite needing to sometimes take time off from work or school because of their period, the majority of women would not feel comfortable being honest about this.

"On World Menstrual Hygiene Day let’s break the taboo and get talking about periods to stand with the girls around the world who face the greatest impact because of their monthly cycle.”

ActionAid is helping girls to stay in school by improving access to hygiene facilities and sanitary products and by building safe rooms in schools, so girls have somewhere to rest if they feel unwell due to their period. You can donate here.

Why Is My Period Heavy?

11 Questions Women Have About Their Periods