Managing your menstruation in a dignified way involves more than just having enough tampons or pads. Access to clean water, safe places to change and a supporting environment are also necessary. But how do you measure if all these menstrual health needs are met in low and middle-income countries? A team led by Dr. Julie Hennegan of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has recently developed a scale to do this accurately.
The Menstrual Practice Needs Scale (MPNS-36) focuses on women’s and girls’ perceptions about their menstrual experience. It was born out of a need for a more holistic view, rather than an overemphasis on products and hygiene as the sole solution to difficulties. Dr. Hennegan: ‘In most measurements of menstrual health, the focus has been on the practices that women or girls undertake, such as the type of material or product they use to absorb their menses. While these questions may help us to understand what women and girls are doing, they don’t capture whether these practices meet their needs.’
MPNS-36 consists of 36 items with a four-point response scale. Respondents can answer ‘never’, ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ or ‘always’ to situations such as: ‘I felt comfortable carrying spare menstrual materials with me outside my home’, ‘I worried that my menstrual materials would allow blood to pass through to my outer garments’ and ‘When at school, I had a clean place to change my menstrual materials’. Also reusable pad users are catered for, with items like ‘I had enough soap to wash my menstrual materials’. The majority of the questions cover how the participants are feeling in certain situations, using words like ‘comfortable’, ‘satisfied’, ‘worried’ and ‘concerned’.
‘Menstrual health is about body ownership’
‘When organisations evaluate menstrual health practices, their methods are designed around what they think is important, but menstrual health is about body ownership and the lived experience. To find solutions that make a real difference, we knew we had to go directly to the women and girls,’ says Wendy Anderson, co-founder of The Case for Her, the philanthropic organisation that partly funded the research. MPNS-36 was created after reviewing 76 studies with data from over 6,000 women and girls in low- and middle-income countries. Interested in using this new scale to measure the experience of menstruation? The Menstrual Practice Needs Scale is free to use and available for download on www.menstrualpracticemeasures.org.
Menstrual dropouts: period taboos in rural Uganda
#MenstruationMatters: not just on MH Day
Menstruating in… Kenya
Let’s give a shit!
How to fight period poverty? Five sympathetic African initiatives