Busting Menstrual Misinformation: Latest Study Reveals Alarming Trends

According to a study published this month by period-tracking app Flo Health, there are significant gaps in the knowledge women have about their own bodies.
While women’s health has undergone a generational culture shift in recent years, which has prompted a more open discourse on historically stigmatized concerns about our uterus, it is still quite common for those of us who menstruate to feeling conditioned to accept that debilitating pain is normal, even something we should shut up about.

Unfortunately, because of this and the inherent lack of comprehensive sex education in UK schools, there are significant gaps in women’s knowledge of their own bodies.

That’s according to research by period-tracking app FloHealth, which found that 56% of women in the UK rely on search engines like Google for medical queries about menstruation, and one woman on five aged 18 to 24 on social media – especially Tiktok.

The survey, titled ‘MIND THE GAPS: Misinformation about menstruation and reproduction in the UK in 2023’, warns that although the internet can be a great source of knowledge, it has the potential to make women vulnerable to misinformation or results may be too generalized when they really need personalized advice.

This is particularly concerning given that 72% of women never check what they learn online, as Flo’s research revealed.

“The growth of online platforms and social media goes hand in hand with the rise of menstrual misinformation. The ubiquity and vastness of the internet allows misinformation to spread at record speed,” says Dr Claudia Pastides , director of medical precision at Flo.

“At the same time, we rarely question the validity and credibility of the sources we turn to.”

“In fact, a 2022 Ofcom report showed that 30% of adults either didn’t know or didn’t consider the potential veracity of information online at all, and 6% believed that all information they found online were true.”

“Furthermore, 34% of 16-24 year olds believe that if websites have been indexed by a search engine, they will contain accurate and unbiased information.”

Some misinformation Dr. Pastides has seen spread include claims that women are able to “optimize” their periods so that they last no more than three days and that the color of your menstrual blood can reveal deficiencies. . It’s both, of course, not true.

Among other key findings, the survey found that one in 10 women mistakenly believe that the “withdrawal method” is 90% or more effective in preventing pregnancy; 46% don’t know when is the best time to have sex to get pregnant; 26% don’t understand that you can get STIs through oral, vaginal or anal sex; 54% were unaware of PMS before their first period; one in 10 people figured out how to use menstrual products on their own; and 21% strongly or somewhat agree that masturbation is shameful or wrong.

“Low health literacy directly contributes to the spread of misinformation and leads to poor health outcomes and unhealthy behaviors, especially in the areas of menstrual, sexual and pregnancy health,” continues Dr. Pastides.

“Every woman’s body is different and every woman’s experience with her menstrual and reproductive health is unique, but that’s not given enough consideration.”

Flo’s findings demonstrate the urgent need for social media platforms and search engines to focus on fact-checking and ensuring that users can easily identify credible sources of information.

Without a doubt, our well-being depends on it.

This article is originally published on thred.com

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.