Mapping the knowledge and understanding of menarche, menstrual hygiene and menstrual health among adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries
UNLABELLED Adolescence is the stepping stone for a child to reach adulthood. Although generally delimited by age, this stage is primarily a social and cultural classification based on markers of development, such as menarche (the first menstruation of girls) and spermarche (indicated by the first self-reported ejaculation of boys as proximity). OBJECTIVE Aim of this study was to investigate the perceptions of adolescents and their mothers on markers of reproductive and sexual development. STUDY GROUP The study was conducted among 12 to 16-year-old adolescent girls and boys, in Matlab, Bangladesh. Their mothers were also interviewed. METHODS Data were collected by means of a survey and through in-depth interviews. RESULTS The study revealed that adolescent girls and boys are not adequately informed about menarche and spermarche, indicating a less than optimal mental wellbeing in reproductive life. No less than 64% of the adolescent girls reached menarche in fear. The lack of knowledge about the origins of menstruation seems to be an intergenerational problem as the mothers lacked adequate information as well. CONCLUSIONS This paper argues that having an understanding of reproductive development is a prerequisite to being able to make contemporary and future informed choice(s). In Bangladesh, mental well-being in reproductive life is a dimension that is easily overshadowed by the physical aspects of reproductive health. Sexual education for adolescent girls and boys must be programmed urgently, to improve not only their own sexual and reproductive health status but also that of future generations.