Research questions women’s 'normal' menstrual period
Even in 2012, menstruation remains an off-limits topic for most women, making it difficult to find accurate information on periods and what is considered 'normal' when it comes to blood loss and pain according to new research by Bayer Healthcare.*
The survey of 800 women aged 18 to 49 found that three-quarters still consider periods to be a taboo topic for public discussion, and while some information was being passed down from mothers and teachers, there were gaps in the information provided about what blood loss and pain a woman should expect.
When asked about their first period, 77 per cent were not fully aware of the amount of blood loss to expect from their first menstrual cycles, while 84 per cent of women surveyed said they were not fully aware of the level of pain to expect.
Awareness of what was normal when it comes to periods was also low, with almost half of respondents having never heard of heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia) defined as blood loss of 80ml or more per period compared to 30-40ml of blood loss per normal period. **
A further 22 per cent had some understanding of menorrhagia but did not know it was a treatable medical condition.
The majority of women surveyed used between 8 to 20 sanitary pads or tampons during a 'normal' period; however one in five would use up to 30 sanitary pads or tampons on average.
The range of activities most affected by heavy periods were sex (71 per cent), physical exercise, such as swimming (53 per cent) and choice of outfit (50 per cent).
Dr Edith Weisberg, Director of Research at Family Planning NSW, said: "Heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia) affects 25-40 per cent of women in Australia, causing them unnecessary disruption if they are unaware of treatment options for both medical causes and medical management on the condition. Women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding may consider it 'normal' because they are not aware of what is normal menstrual blood loss."
Heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia) can sometimes be a serious condition and if left undiagnosed or untreated can lead to anaemia or even the need for a hysterectomy.
17 per cent of women surveyed educated themselves via the media, including TV adverts and articles in women's magazines, before they experienced their first period.
Dr Edith Weisberg continued: "Education about periods and making women feel comfortable discussing menstruation will help women of all ages understand their bodies and address any concerns. Women with questions about their periods should speak to their GP or a healthcare professional."
The survey of 800 women aged 18 49 was commissioned by Bayer Australia Limited, 875 Pacific Highway, Pymble NSW 2073, and conducted by Nielsen Research in December 2011 and focused on menstruation, periods and heavy menstrual bleeding.
* Nielsen Research (2011) Survey of 800 women aged 18 49 focused on menstruation, periods and heavy menstrual bleeding conducted in December 2011 on behalf of Bayer Healthcare
** Wood (1996) Menorrhagia: a clinical update. The Medical Journal of Australia. 165: 510-514 (Accessed 17 January, 2012: http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/nov4/wood/wood.html