Menstrual hygiene management practices and associated health outcomes among school-going adolescents in rural Gambia

Helen M. Nabwera, Vishna Shah, Rowena Neville, Fatou Sosseh, Mariama Saidykhan, Fatou Faal, Bakary Sonko, Omar Keita, Wolf Peter Schmidt, Belen Torondel

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Inadequate menstrual hygiene management (MHM) practices have been associated with adverse health outcomes. This study aimed to describe MHM practices among schoolgirls from rural Gambia and assess risk factors associated with urogenital infections and depressive symptoms. A cross-sectional study was conducted among adolescent schoolgirls in thirteen schools in rural Gambia. A questionnaire was used to collect information on sociodemographics, MHM practices and clinical symptoms of reproductive and urinary tract infections (UTIs). A modified Beck Depression Inventory-II was used to screen for depressive symptoms. Mid-stream urine samples were collected to assess for UTIs. Modified Poisson regression analysis was used to determine risk factors for symptoms of urogenital infections and depression among adolescent girls. Three hundred and fifty-eight girls were recruited. Although, 63% of the girls attended schools providing free disposable pads, reusable cloths/ towels were the commonest absorbent materials used. Heavy menstrual bleeding was associated with depressive symptoms (adjusted prevalence ratio, aPR 1.4 [95% CI 1.0, 1.9]), while extreme menstrual pain (aPR 1.3 [95% CI 1.2, 1,4]), accessing sanitary pads in school (aPR 1.4 [95% CI 1.2, 1.5]) and less access to functional water source at school (aPR 1.4 [95% CI 1.3, 1.6]) were associated with UTI symptoms. Conversely, privacy in school toilets (aPR 0.6 [95% CI 0.5, 0.7]) was protective for UTI symptoms. Heavy menstrual bleeding (aPR 1.4 [95% CI 1.1, 2.0]) and taking <30 minutes to collect water at home were associated with RTI symptoms (aPR 1.2 [95% CI 1.0, 1.5]) while availability of soap in school toilets (aPR 0.6 [95% CI 0.5, 0.8] was protective for RTI symptoms. Interventions to ensure that schoolgirls have access to private sanitation facilities with water and soap both at school and at home could reduce UTI and RTI symptoms. More attention is also needed to support girls with heavy menstrual bleeding and pain symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0247554
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2 February
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


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