#sistersport: ‘Period shame’ prevents girls from taking part in sport at school

editorial image

Young women are being held back from participating in sport at school due to taboos around periods, new research suggests.

In a survey of 2,000 women, 44 per cent in the region said they had used periods as an excuse to skip PE classes, even when they felt well enough to take part.

The top reason given for skipping sports classes was a fear of leaking, with two in five, 40 per cent, admitting that this was a serious concern for them.

Around a quarter of women also said they excused themselves because they were too scared of their sanitary pads being visible to others or slipping around as they exercised.

The research was carried out by period education programme Betty For Schools to mark Women’s Sport Week (June 19-25).

Fewer than one in five of those surveyed actually felt too tired or in too much pain to take part, suggesting that embarrassment was the major barrier to participation.

#sistersport campaign

#sistersport campaign

Nearly 70 per cent of those polled in Yorkshire and the Humber said they dreaded PE lessons while on their period.

Sam Quek MBE (pictured), England and Team GB Hockey player, is supporting the campaign.

She said: “For me, sport and exercise are a huge part of life. I find it really sad that periods – something all women experience for a big part of our lives – are creating a barrier to sport for so many.

“We have to work to break down taboos around periods – this starts with elite sportswomen being more open and honest, with schools creating the environment where girls can talk about the changes the bodies are going through, and education that empowers us all to know and understand our bodies better”

The research revealed that better education about periods was needed - more than two thirds of those asked said that if girls were better educated about periods and how they affect their bodies, they wouldn’t be so reluctant to take part in sports at school.

Nearly 60 per cent of people agreed that avoiding PE in school because of periods can have a negative impact on the way girls feel about sport and exercise into adulthood.

Becky Hipkiss, education manager at Betty For Schools, said: “We know the value of exercise for our bodies and our minds – at all ages – and it’s really worrying that so many girls are finding that the weight of taboo around periods prevents them from participating in sports.

“More needs to be done to teach young girls about the benefits of exercise and to help them overcome the embarrassment about this perfectly natural time of the month. This has to start at school, with PE teachers being understanding of different girl’s needs, but also creating a comfortable environment in which girls feel empowered to work within the changes they experience each month.

“Girls also need to be wearing the right size and type of products which mean they can exercise without fear of leaking.”