Men find facts of female menstruation too painful

MOST British men would go to the doctor once a month if they had painful periods. Twenty per cent would have a lie-down instead.

The higher up the social scale the more likely men were to take some sort of action, according to a survey of 4,000 British men and women and their attitudes and experiences of menstruation.

In contrast, although 91 per cent of women said they had problems with their periods, a third do nothing at all about them.

Family doctors and researchers in the Primary Care in Gynaecology Group, who commissioned the NOP survey, said that women were suffering needlessly since GPs could now do more to help with drugs or advice.

Curiously, a third of men questioned thought that women should not have periods at all. But more odd was the finding that 39 per cent of women did not think they should have periods either.

To what extent these curious views were based on the taboos that surround female menstruation and to what extent they were simply a desire to avoid problems and pain is unclear.

But the signs are not good. In the same survey only 37 per cent of men said they did not like to see their partners in pain. At best we can hope that the other 63 per cent did not notice. Only 70 per cent of men thought that women partners should tell them about their period problems.

What was clear from the survey was that if men had periods the symptoms of pain or vomiting would have 80 per cent of them at the doctor's surgery - 60 per cent of them every month. Most men, however, did not rate irritability or tiredness as symptoms that needed a clinical opinion.

Yesterday doctors in the primary care group, which exists to promote better care of women who have problem periods, said there was very little data available on menstruation difficulties which are a modern Western condition. Contemporary woman has 300 to 400 periods in her life.

'In the past women were pregnant or lactating and may only have had four or five periods before they died. We have only really been able to control our fertility since the Pill, in the 1960s,' one of the group, Dr Sally Hope, a GP from Woodstock, Oxfordshire, said.

A separate report from the group showed the extent to which menstruation still attracts myths. 'Some girls, albeit a minority believe you shouldn't wash your hair and you shouldn't take part in sports. Some even think that bath or shampoo or a walk in the rain may 'back-up' the menstrual flow and lead to a stroke or insanity.'