Measurement in the study of menstrual health and hygiene: A systematic review and audit

Julie Hennegan, Deborah Jordan Brooks, Kellogg J. Schwab, G. J. Melendez-Torres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background The lack of established measurement tools in the study of menstrual health and hygiene has been a significant limitation of quantitative studies to date. However, there has been limited exploration of existing measurement to identify avenues for improvement. Methods We undertook two linked systematic reviews of (1) trials of menstrual health interventions and their nested studies in low- and middle-income countries, (2) studies developing or validating measures of menstrual experiences from any location. Systematic searching was undertaken in 12 databases, together with handsearching. We iteratively grouped and audited concepts measured across included studies and extracted and compared measures of each concept. Results A total of 23 trials, 9 nested studies and 22 measure development studies were included. Trials measured a range of outcomes including menstrual knowledge, attitudes, and practices, school absenteeism, and health. Most measure validation studies focused on assessing attitudes towards menstruation, while a group of five studies assessed the accuracy of women's recall of their menstrual characteristics such as timing and cycle length. Measures of menstrual knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and restrictions were inconsistent and frequently overlapped. No two studies measured the same menstrual or hygiene practices, with 44 different practices assessed. This audit provides a summary of current measures and extant efforts to pilot or test their performance. Conclusions Inconsistencies in both the definition and operationalisation of concepts measured in menstrual health and hygiene research should be addressed. To improve measurement, authors should clearly define the constructs they aim to measure and outline how these were operationalised for measurement. Results of this audit indicate the need for the development and validation of new measures, and the evaluation of the performance of existing measures across contexts. In particular, the definition and measurement of menstrual practices, knowledge, attitudes, norms and restrictions should be addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0232935
JournalPloS one
Volume15
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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