Edgar Allen identified and outlined the role of female sex hormones and discovered estrogen in the early 1900s in the US. In 1923, Allen, through his research with mice, isolated the primary ovarian hormone, later renamed estrogen, from ovarian follicles and tested its effect through injections in the uterine tissues of mice. Allen’s work on estrogen, enabled researchers to further study hormones and the endocrine system.
In 2010, Sophia and Paul Grinvalds founded the organization AFRIpads in Kampala, Uganda, to provide reusable cloth pads to menstruating women and girls throughout the country. At that time, the Grinvalds wanted to help implement better menstrual health and hygiene in Uganda to encourage women and girls to engage in work and school. While living in Kampala, in 2010, they employed Ugandan women to sew cloth pads daily and sell to others living in the local village. In 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Council, or UNHRC, conducted a study in Uganda to test the efficiency of AFRIpads and found that a majority of women and girls studied favored reusable cloth pads. Since then, as of 2021, AFRIpads has expanded to collaborate with other organizations to distribute their reusable cloth pads to women and girls living in African countries. By doing so, AFRIpads has helped introduce a sustainable method for managing menstrual hygiene and teaching menstrual education in low-income countries.
On 5 April 2018, the documentary Period. End of Sentence. premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. In the documentary, Rayka Zehtabchi, the director of the film, documents the stigma surrounding menstruation in India and follows a group of women in Kathikhera, a rural village in the Hapur district of India, as they manufacture and distribute sanitary pads. A group of high school students at Oakwood High School in Los Angeles, California, raised money to produce the documentary after one student was inspired by her visit to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, New York, which focused on the stigma surrounding menstruation in low-income countries. Period. End of Sentence. draws attention to the obstacles impeding proper menstrual health management in low-income contexts by documenting the women of Kathikhera’s journey to manufacture and sell sanitary pads.
Developing a codebook of definitions and exemplars of significant text segments and applying it to the collected data revealed several themes. For example, mothers, friends, teachers, the Internet, and social media are among the most common sources of information about menstrual hygiene and health. Yet, women reported that those sources of information often echoed stigmatized ideas about menstruation, eliciting feelings of shame and fear. That poor quality of information was instrumental to women’s abilities to detect and report abnormal menstrual bleeding.
Dysmenorrhea refers to painful menstrual bleeding and often includes symptoms such as cramps in the lower abdominal region, pain radiating down to the thighs, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and headaches. There are two types of dysmenorrhea, called primary and secondary dysmenorrhea, which develop in different ways. In cases of primary dysmenorrhea, people experience painful cramps before and during most of their menstrual cycles, which does not happen as a result of a different underlying condition and is mostly due to hormone imbalances. On the other hand, secondary dysmenorrhea is a symptom of an underlying condition that cause problems with the reproductive organs such as endometriosis. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, researchers have reported that dysmenorrhea impacts up to fifty to ninety percent of women, remaining one of the most common reasons why women miss days of school and work as of 2021, and contributing to decreased quality of life.
Endometriosis is a medical condition that involves abnormal growths of tissue resembling the endometrium, which is the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. Those growths, called endometrial lesions, typically form outside the uterus, but can spread to other reproductive organs such as ovaries and fallopian tubes. Endometrial lesions swell and bleed during menstruation, which can cause painful and heavy menstruation, as well as infertility. As of 2021, there is no cure for endometriosis, although medical therapies such as birth control pills and GnRH analogues can treat the painful symptoms of endometriosis. More than eleven percent of women between the ages fifteen and forty-four in the US have endometriosis, which can often decrease a woman’s quality of life due to painful symptoms and impair her reproductive potential.
Menstrual hygiene management, or MHM, is a concept that concerns girls' and women’s access to the appropriate information and resources to manage menstruation. In December 2012, the Joint Monitoring Program, or JMP, was one of the first organizations to define MHM as a global development goal. Since then, other organizations like WaterAid and the United Nations have expanded MHM’s definition to include menstrual education that is biologically accurate and free of taboo and stigma. Many women in low-income countries lack those necessities for MHM due to high prices of menstrual sanitary products, lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and social stigma surrounding menstruation that prevents it from being talked about. However, as more organizations began to frame MHM as an issue of public concern rather than a woman’s private problem, more researchers, organizations, and governmental bodies have begun to address issues at the root of inadequate MHM.
Amenorrhea is considered a type of abnormal menstrual bleeding characterized by the unexpected absence of menstrual bleeding, lasting three months or longer. Menstrual bleeding typically happens approximately once a month when blood and endometrial tissue, or tissue lining the inside of the uterus, sheds from the uterus through the vagina. Menstruation is expected to stop with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause, or the natural cessation of the menstrual cycle at an older age. However, women may also experience amenorrhea because of an underlying health condition, including low body weight or polycystic ovarian syndrome, that may complicate fertility and contribute to decreased quality of life. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, one in twenty-five women experience amenorrhea as a menstrual disorder within their lives at times.
Estrogen is the primary sex hormone in women and it functions during the reproductive menstrual cycle. Women have three major types of estrogen: estrone, estradiol, and estriol, which bind to and activate receptors within the body. Researchers discovered the three types of estrogen over a period of seven years, contributing to more detailed descriptions of the menstrual cycle. Each type of estrogen molecule contains a slightly different arrangement or number of atoms that in turn causes some of the estrogens to be more active than others. The different types of estrogen peak and wane throughout women's reproductive cycles, from normal menstruation to pregnancy to the cessation of menstruation (menopause). As scientists better explained the effects of estrogens, they used that information to develop oral contraceptives to control pregnancy, to map the menstrual cycle, and to create hormone therapies to regulate abnormal levels of estrogen.
In the early twentieth century US, Jean Paul Pratt and Edgar Allen conducted clinical experiments on women who had abnormal menstrual cycles. During the clinical tests, researchers injected the hormone estrogen into their patients to alleviate their menstrual ailments, which ranged from irregular cycles to natural menopause. The hormone estrogen plays a prominent role in the menstrual cycle by signaling the tissue lining the uterus (endometrium) to thicken in preparation for possible pregnancy. In their clinical tests, Pratt and Allen showed that injecting estrogen into female human subjects restored their normal menstrual cycle, removed symptoms such as hot flashes, and caused uterine tissue to grow. The clinical tests conducted by Pratt and Allen provided experimental evidence and justification for the injection of isolated estrogen in women to alleviate, for a short amount of time, different menstrual problems, and it contributed to later hormone therapy research.