What is menstruation/a period?

Menstruation, or period, is normal vaginal bleeding that occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle. Every month, your body prepares for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the uterus, or womb, sheds its lining. The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus.

What is period poverty? 

We understand that several terms are used interchangeably within this sector, and each has its strengths and weaknesses.
Period poverty is a paradoxical terms whereby it’s use further perpetuates the stigma and shame relating to sub-optimal menstrual health. The term emerged from the global north, but has gained traction in the global South.
Our definition is based on the Action Aid (2021) definition. period poverty affects women, girls and individuals that menstruate all over the world. Access to appropriate and sage period products, safe and hygienic spaces in which to use them, and the right to manage menstruation without shame or stigma, is essential for anyone who menstruates.
What is menstrual health?
In a recent publication, Menstrual Health was defined as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in relation to the menstrual cycle.

 How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting period poverty and menstrual health?

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of millions of people around the world, tested our health systems and exacerbated the structural and social inequalities faced by vulnerable populations.
Although we appreciate that not all individuals that menstruate are women, and not all women menstruate, we also recognise that women and girls are disproportionately affected by pandemics. This is because national lockdowns can indirectly reinforce sexist gender norms. As a result, women are often faced with a double burden of undertaking income-generating work, whilst taking care of dependents. They are at a greater risk of experiencing gender-based violence particularly during lockdowns, where they could be housed with their abuser. Additionally, they can suffer from reduced access to essential services such as maternal health services and sexual and reproductive health services. Women also make up 70% of the health workforce and without adequate access to appropriately design personal protective equipment and period products could face challenges in delivering quality care.


educate yourself and teach others

Start by reading the reports and our mission page to know more about period poverty during the covid-19 pandemic and share your knowledge with others so more people can join the movement. 


Start a conversation 

to eliminate the stigma surrounding menstruation and period poverty the first step is to start talking about it. Spark up a conversation about menstruation, menstrual health and period poverty or  share our social media posts and graphics. this is a way to get more people to join the conversation and advocate for change.


Advocate for change 

Write a letter to your local government or tweet asking for menstrual health to be prioritized during the pandemic.
It’s important not to make assumptions about what people need. We need to support individuals that menstruate to develop agency so they can make their own informed choices by advocating for access to a variety of menstrual products, information and education.

Graphics to share in social media


External Resources and Reports

To gain a deeper understanding of the specific problems COVID-19 has posed for managing menstrual health and hygiene, Plan International conducted an online survey exclusively for professionals who work in the WASH and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) fields across the Plan International federation.

The online survey was live from 11 May to 17 May 2020 and attracted 61 responses from professionals working in 24 countries.

The number leading concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on menstrual hygiene management amongst Plan International’s professionals who took this survey were:

  1. 81% were concerned people who menstruate would not be supported to meet their menstrual hygiene management (MHM) needs
  2. 78% worried the pandemic would further limit freedom of movement; and
  3. 75% said COVID-19 may pose increased health risks for people who menstruate, as resources, such as water, are diverted to other needs.

In addition to the WASH professionals’ survey, a second survey for people who menstruate was distributed across Australia, Ireland, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Vanuatu, to provide further evidence. 

While these samples are not statistically significant, and the data is not weighted, qualitative evidence from these participants has been included in this report in the form of quotes and – where possible – percentage of respondents per country who indicated an issue.

Download full report 

In 2021, through our Bloody Good Employers (BGE) initiative, we are setting our sights on change in UK workplaces. We believe that we can drive big change here, and improve the lives of people at work, nationwide. Over the last year, we’ve conducted research with both employers and employees. This report shares our findings. They underline the need for change, and open up conversations about what we do next to develop BGE and launch in 2021.

Download full report 

This brief complements other UNICEF guidance on aspects of the response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and should be read together with the guidance on monitoring and mitigating the secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on WASH services availability and access.

Read full report