A quarter of UK women face period stigma as millions miss school, work and exercise

28 May 2022

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•    On World Menstrual Hygiene Day, ActionAid UK research reveals that a quarter (26%) of UK women have faced ‘period shaming’ with one in ten (11%) experiencing negative comments from a current or ex-partner  
•    Millions of women have missed exercise, education and work over the last year when they are on their period 
•    A quarter (27%) of 16 to 24-year-old women said that being on their period has made them feel anxious in the last 12 months

New research reveals that a quarter of UK women have experienced ‘period shaming’1 , with one in ten revealing that a current or ex-partner had commented negatively about their period. Furthermore, an estimated 6 million women2 have avoided or missed exercise and 2 million women3 have avoided or missed work due to being on their period in the last year. 

The YouGov poll, commissioned by international charity ActionAid, explored the feelings of people who menstruate and the ongoing stigma that still surrounds periods. The charity released the research on World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28th), to raise awareness of the millions of women, girls and people who menstruate around the world who are held back because of their periods.

The cost-of-living crisis is also affecting women’s ability to manage their periods with 12% of women struggling to afford sanitary products for themselves or a dependant in the last 6 months. Instead, they prioritised buying food (75%), gas and electricity (49%) and fuel (31%), with almost half (46%) resorting to keeping sanitary towels or tampons in for longer.

Nearly two thirds (58%) of women reported leaking through their clothes, changes to their body4 (56%) and people seeing them take period products to the toilet (31%) as reasons they felt ashamed, anxious or embarrassed about their periods.  

Frances Longley, Chief Executive of ActionAid UK says: “Ongoing stigma and shame caused by poverty, covid lockdowns and the cost-of-living crisis have all exacerbated period poverty around the world. Too many people cannot access sanitary products and this holds back millions of women, girls and people who menstruate around the world.  

“Not only does the stigma of periods leave women in the UK embarrassed, anxious and missing out on everyday life, but many of the women and girls we work with around the world are forced to manage their periods in uncomfortable, unsanitary and ineffective ways. This leaves them isolated and unable to claim their basic human rights.  

“Those who menstruate have a right to free and accessible period products, hygienic spaces to use them and a right to discuss these issues without shame.” 

ActionAid UK is calling on Governments worldwide to prioritise access to affordable menstrual products, including free products in schools. ActionAid UK is also asking people to #Shareabetterperiod by donating to support their period poverty work around the world.


  • 1Respondents answered that they had experienced ‘negative comments about their periods’
  • 2Calculation based on 14% of the estimated 15 million women in the UK who menstruate
  • 3Calculation based on ONS figures of 72% of women being in the workforce. 72% of the 15 million women in the UK who menstruate is 10.8 million. 14% of 10.8 million is 2.1 million. Female employment rate (aged 16 to 64, seasonally adjusted): % - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)
  • 4 Examples were bloating and skin changes