This week, Olympian Fu Yuanhui was praised for speaking openly about painful period cramps after she came fourth in the women’s 4x100m medley relay.
While she was comfortable speaking out about menstruation, the heartbreaking reality is that for many girls, that time of the month is regarded as “shameful” or “dirty” – and it’s stopping them from getting involved in sport.
New survey results from Bodyform, provided exclusively to The Huffington Post UK, found that 70% of young women aged 12-18 years old felt uncomfortable playing sport while on their period, with many of them refusing to participate altogether.
It proves there’s still a way to go before period stigma is vanquished completely.
Bodyform’s latest survey found that two in five young women regard menstruation as “dirty”, “shameful”, “embarrassing” or “disruptive to everyday life”.
Meanwhile, many young women are missing out on sports because of their monthly cycles and half of them aren’t even aware that doing sports can help ease period symptoms.
Fear of leaks was cited as one of the main reasons why girls don’t play sport while on their periods, which is perhaps unsurprising when one in five said they had been let down by their sanitary protection.
Nearly half of girls said they wore more than one pair of pants during their period to try and avoid leaks.
The survey of 1,000 girls found that a quarter of schools and colleges didn’t have appropriate sanitary protection disposal. Furthermore, a quarter said information given at schools about menstruation wasn’t good enough – and one in 10 young women claimed not to have received any information at all.
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The data proves that when it comes to British girls’ views towards periods and sport, many taboos still exist.
Startlingly, as many as one in three girls believe that periods are a barrier towards top sportswomen achieving their goals.
“These survey results show just how important it is for women like Fu Yuanhui to openly talk about periods in the context of sport,” said Bodyform’s marketing manager Traci Baxter.
“It’s shocking that so many girls still feel like their periods can hold them back and, without more candid conversation around this subject matter, these taboos will remain.”
To try and combat the issue, Bodyform has created a Red.Fit hub in conjunction with St Mary’s University and University College London (UCL), which provides young women with tools and knowledge to help them become more mentally and physically motivated throughout their menstrual cycle.
Georgie Bruinvels, research associate at St Mary’s and UCL, explained: “Because there’s a lack of information about the female body and how it changes during our menstrual cycle, girls are often held back from knowing why they should keep active throughout their cycle.
“Joining with Bodyform to conduct research in this area is the first step towards empowering teens to not let anything, including their periods, hold them back from any kind of physical activity.”