What is menstrual health?

What is ‘menstrual health’, you ask? Well, we now officially have a definition!

The term has long been used to promote for period equality. With an increase in advocacy and research in recent years, the move provides clarity as well as common language.

In order to further policy, practice, and research a global team of multi-sectional experts have defined ‘menstrual health’:

“a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in relation to the menstrual cycle.”

From the paper, ‘Menstrual health: a definition for policy, practice, and research‘, published in the ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters’ journal in April 2021

The Global Menstrual Collective collaborated with over 50 stakeholders to define the definition.

Why do we need to define menstrual health?

An official definition provides a unified language for all to use. It helps highlight the fact that a period is not just physical; mental and social well-being are just as important. It also allows people to focus on the menstrual cycle as a whole.

Activists and charities often call for action from multiple sectors such as policy makers and employers. Dr Hennegan, the study lead author, says: “The goal with our definition is to capture this broader perspective, and also highlight who’s responsible and what it means to support menstrual health.”

The definition is inclusive

One really great thing about the definition is that it focuses on menstrual health over the life-course, not just the reproductive years. The definition is based on the

This definition is grounded in the World Health Organization definition of health includes these requirements:

  • access to information about the menstrual cycle and self-care,
  • access to materials, water and sanitation facilities and services to care for the body during menstruation,
  • timely diagnosis, care and treatment for menstrual discomforts and disorders,
  • a positive and respectful environment free from stigma,
  • and the freedom to participate in all spheres of life throughout the menstrual cycle.

It also promotes the idea that menstrual health is essential for anyone who experiences a menstrual cycle, not just women and girls.