Unhygienic and ineffective menstrual hygiene management has been documented across low resource contexts and linked to negative consequences for women and girls.
To summarise and critically appraise evidence for the effectiveness of menstruation management interventions in improving women and girls' education, work and psychosocial wellbeing in low and middle income countries.
Structured systematic searches were conducted in peer-reviewed and grey literature to identify studies evaluating education and resource provision interventions for menstruation management. Individual and cluster randomised controlled trials were eligible for inclusion, as were non-randomised controlled trials. Study characteristics, outcomes and risk of bias were extracted using a piloted form. Risk of bias was independently assessed by two researchers.
Eight studies described in ten citations were eligible for inclusion. Studies were highly heterogeneous in design and context. Six included assessment of education-only interventions, and three provided assessment of the provision of different types of sanitary products (menstrual cups, disposable sanitary pads, and reusable sanitary pads). A moderate but non-significant standardised mean difference was found for the two studies assessing the impact of sanitary pad provision on school attendance: 0.49 (95%CI -0.13, 1.11). Included studies were heterogeneous with considerable risk of bias. Trials of education interventions reported positive impacts on menstrual knowledge and practices, however, many studies failed to assess other relevant outcomes. No trials assessed or reported harms.
There is insufficient evidence to establish the effectiveness of menstruation management interventions, although current results are promising. Eight trials have been conducted, but a high risk of bias was found and clinical heterogeneity precluded synthesis of most results. Whilst trials provided some indication of positive results, further research is needed to establish the role of menstruation hygiene management in education performance, employment and other psychosocial outcomes. This review provides a concise summary of present trials and highlights improvements for future work.