PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – An Oregon Health & Science University study found teens and young adults had “significant” misunderstandings about period management, which researchers say can limit quality of life and feed into misinformation.
During the study — which was published in the Journal of Pediatric & Adolescent Gynecology — researchers surveyed U.S. residents ages 14-24 on TikTok and asked questions about menstrual history, pattern preferences, and period suppression.
According to OHSU, periods can be delayed or prevented with extended or continuous use of birth control pills or other hormonal medications. Officials said this can be done, for example, by skipping the non-hormonal placebo pills in a monthly birth control package. This method, known as medication-induced amenorrhea, is safe and does not have long-term consequences on health or fertility, OSHU says.
Over two-thirds of study participants said they prefer to avoid any bleeding if the method did not have permanent effects on the body. However, researchers say there were “widespread misconceptions” about the safety of this method, noting more than 63% of respondents thought it was unsafe if hormone medications stopped period bleeding.
Now, researchers are calling for enhanced reproductive education in schools.
“Due to insufficient menstrual health education at school, these conversations are often left to families and friends, who may be perpetuating myths rooted in religious or cultural norms and biases. This can create a dangerous cycle of misinformation,” said Dr. Maureen Baldwin, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine and co-author of the study.
Baldwin added, “our goal as clinicians and researchers is to continue to normalize conversations about periods so young people can better understand their own bodies and make informed decisions about their health.”
An OHSU-led research team in July, found health literacy was lower among teens with certain religious backgrounds and among those living in the south.
Based on these findings, Baldwin is calling for an evidence-based national curriculum on menstrual health that includes information on safe and effective use of hormonal medications for menstrual suppression and signs of abnormal bleeding.
Twenty-four states in the U.S. mandate reproductive health in school curriculums and 20 require information about contraceptive options, according to OHSU.
“There’s always a lot of discussion around sexual education, but if you look at any school curriculum, there is no other health education that’s standardized in schools,” Baldwin said. “There’s no mandate that teaches kids at an age-appropriate level what a normal period should look and feel like, and the options available to help optimize quality of life when menstruating.
Baldwin furthered, “until we improve health education around menstruation, we will continue to battle rampant misinformation.”
“Periods are a normal, biological function experienced by half of the world’s population,” Baldwin said. “It’s crucial we break down the stigma around this topic and empower young people to make health decisions that are best for them and their unique circumstances and preferences.”