Improving recognition of menstrual health in psychiatric inpatient settings: focus group

Dark pink text on a light pink background: "Improving recognition of menstrual health in psychiatric inpatient settings. This is a project exploring experiences of how patient's menstrual health is supported in psychiatric inpatient settings". Illustrations of menstrual pads and tampons are on either side of the text.

Recruitment for this focus group has now closed.

What is the purpose of the focus group?

We are looking for 5 people people to participate in a focus group on Wednesday 7th February 2024 at 6–7:30pm to develop guidelines for psychiatric hospitals on how to support patients’ needs relating to menstruation.

Having undertaken research, we have identified that currently patients’ needs relating to menstruation are not being adequately supported in mental health inpatient wards.

Who can take part?

You can join if:

  • You have experience of treatment on a psychiatric inpatient ward in England and experience of menstruation.
  • You are able to attend the focus group at Wednesday 7th February 2024 at 6–7:30pm (unless adjustments are required).

What does the focus group involve?

Before the meeting you will be sent some information about the project and what the focus group will involve. It may also be helpful to have a think before the meeting about what you feel wards need to do to support patients who menstruate.

The meeting will last 1.5 hours with a break in the middle. As a group we will discuss some key areas. You do not need to share anything personal if you don’t feel comfortable. We will have some ‘ground rules’ to help keep the meeting focused and support attendees.

During the meeting, we will list the key things we think inpatient settings should do to support patients and some key actions which could help these needs be better supported.

You will be offered a payment of £100 for your time attending the meeting and some email exchanges and document reviewing outside the meeting. You can be anonymous or be named on the guidelines.

What happens after the focus group?

After the meeting, I will write up a summary of the conversation and bring the key points together into a clear draft of the guidance. I will then share this with each of you and you’ll have an opportunity to make sure it accurately reflects what you wanted it to share.

Once we are happy with the guidelines as a group, these will be shared with other stakeholders (e.g., NHS England, CQC, regulatory and professional bodies) to ask if they are able to support and endorse the guidelines. The draft guidelines may also be shared with some healthcare professionals and academics.

The final document will then be launched and shared with care providers.  

What about my access needs?

We understand that participating in a focus group may be challenging for some people so please discuss any access needs with us. This may be having captions or an interpreter during the meeting or meeting individually instead of in a group.

How can I take part?

Recruitment for this focus group has now closed.

What has the research involved so far?

Our research has identified a lack of national guidance and therefore practices and experiences vary across the country. Some issues have included: 

  • Wards prohibiting period products and items such as hot water bottles due to concerns about risk.
  • Wards not supplying period products or the options they do provide being poor quality, not meeting individual needs and preferences, or being inappropriate (such as providing incontinence pants instead of period products).
  • A lack of provision of bins, especially in male bathrooms for transgender patients who menstruate.
  • Supplies of period products being controlled by staff so patients don’t have free access. Patients are often not told who to ask for these and find it humiliating and undignified to have to ask staff for period products.
  • Staff lacking knowledge about menstruation, menstrual health, and conditions which may influence experiences of menstruation (such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome). This was experienced as patients’ physical and mental health being seen as separate with physical health being “someone else’s responsibility” and physical health being neglected.
  • Staff having negative attitudes or responding with disgust about periods, perpetuating menstrual stigma and increasing feelings of shame for patients.
  • Patients feeling their dignity is compromised and their period is hyper visible in hospital.

Participants also spoke about how their experiences of being mentally ill or managing trauma and distress influenced how they experienced and related to their menstrual cycle. This was particularly relevant for people whose menstruation was impacted by anorexia or eating disorders as well as some people who’d experienced trauma. However, participants didn’t always have good support with this.