By Sola Ogundipe
Towards mitigating the challenges of adequate menstrual management by girls and women in Lagos state, participants at the public dissemination of a study on Assessment of Menstrual Hygiene Management in Lagos State Secondary Schools, have called on mothers to give correct and timely information on menstruation amid other pubertal changes to their daughters.
Speaking at the presentation of the report of the study, jointly conducted by the Lagos State Ministry of Health in collaboration with UNFPA, the Director, Family Planning & Nutrition, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr Folasade Oludara, called on mothers to always give their daughters the right information about menstrual health at the right time.
Oludara who spoke during a panel discussion at the dissemination, admonished mothers to be close to their daughters, and to expand conversation to menstrual hygeine in order to prevent other people giving them wrong information that can cause harm.
“Majority of mothers should inform their children in good time. My advice to every mother is to start giving information to their girls early, do not start when they are already in secondary school.
“I want to recommend that a mother should start talking to her daughter about menstruation from the age of seven. As long as a girl can differentiate right from wrong, the mother should begin to give information and gradually increase on it. If a girl is well empowered, she will have confidence and will be positioned to challenge contrary views,” Oludara noted.
The study was conducted between December 2020 and May 2021, among girls aged 10-17 in SS1 to SS3, in 12 Lagos State-owned/public secondary schools across six LGAs.
In her presentation of the report, Dr Toriola Femi-Adebayo, of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, noted that adolescents often have challenges accessing reproductive health information and services compared to adults, and that menstrual hygiene management should be an imperative part of healthcare.
Femi-Adebayo argued that increased knowledge about menstruation right from childhood may prepare a foundation for safe practices that will protect the health of women even in adulthood.
“Many mothers lack correct information and skills to communicate about menstrual hygiene which they pass on to their children, leading to false attitudes, beliefs and practices in this regard, thus, may result in incorrect and unhealthy behaviour during their menstrual period.
“Menstrual hygiene is an important factor about adolescent health among females and is an important consideration as a woman’s health status during adolescence will also affect have a ripple effect on health during adulthood. Poor menstrual hygiene can increase the risk for urinary tract infections, reproductive tract infections.”
Findings from the report noted the need to make sanitary pads more affordable for adolescents or the facilitation of access to free sanitary pads as well as studies to be conducted to explore the safety and utilisation of reusable pads.
The report recognised an urgent need to explore strategies to improve knowledge of menstruation by targeting adults through utilisation of PTA/religious organisations, even as it said there was need to teach adolescents about proper disposal of menstrual absorbents.
From the study, 219 (22.8 percent) of the participants admitted reusing their menstrual materials including 17 percent of those who used sanitary pads.
Majority said they changed their menstrual hygiene material two or three times a day in the restroom at home or in school, while just 15 percent said they did not change at school.
Over half (56 percent) reported washing their hands every time they changed their menstrual hygiene materials, but 9.9 percent reported never washing their hands after changing.
While just over 70 percent went back home with their menstrual health materials for disposal, about 32 percent disposed them in a toilet or latrine.
It was discovered that the girls in a higher class had significantly higher knowledge grade than those in the lower class just as the knowledge grade of respondents was positively associated with educational level of both their fathers and mothers.
Also from the findings, girls with poor knowledge were 1.7 times more likely to reuse their menstrual hygiene materials, particularly among those residing in rural areas that were three times more likely to reuse.
The findings showed that 55.4 percent of respondents had poor knowledge of menstruation most of who received information from their mothers/mother figure. Almost 90 percent of the respondents reported using sanitary pads as their main MHM
Reusing menstrual hygiene materials was commonplace and reasons given included the cost of the materials. Major factors significantly associated with good knowledge included the respondent’s class, father’s as well as mother’s education.