BACKGROUND: Attitudes toward menarche and menstruation are largely influenced by sociological, cultural, and family environmental factors. Recognizing the influential effects that these factors might have on shaping adolescents' attitudes is crucial in designing a more effective means of transmitting health information.
AIMS: This study aimed to gather an in-depth understanding of perceptions, impacts, and treatment seeking on menstruation-related issues from an ethnically mixed group of rural and urban girls.
METHODOLOGY: In total, 27 focus group discussions (172 participants) were conducted between November 2008 and April 2009. Participants were adolescent girls aged 13-19 years, recruited from 7 public secondary schools in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and 4 public secondary schools from the rural districts of Kelantan, in Malaysia.
RESULTS: Many participants revealed that they were not given or had not received detailed information about the mechanism or physiology of menstruation prior to its onset. Thus, many described the onset of menarche as shocking, an event for which they were unprepared, and which has had a tremendous impact on their emotions. More positive acceptance of menarche was reported in the urban than with the rural groups. Despite the high prevalence of premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea, participants across urban-rural and ethnic groups perceived the problems as completely normal, hence they relied on self-care methods and did not want to seek professional treatment. More rural girls compared to urban girls were embarrassed to talk to their mothers or consult their physicians regarding menstruation-related problems.
CONCLUSION: Menstruation-related education would have a positive impact in improving adolescent girls' knowledge and in nurturing a positive attitude toward menstruation-related matters at home, at school, and in the community.
Copyright © 2011 North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.