YAS HOPE Project featured on BBC Radio 5 Live

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Article by Fiona Heatlie

Periods! Periods! Periods! PERIODS!

Feeling uncomfortable yet?

Half of us have them, and one in four of those who do suffer with menstrual problems that can have a significant impact on our lives. And yet, talking about our periods publicly still feels taboo; 66% of us still feel uncomfortable talking to male relatives and friends about our periods. Our language is full of euphemisms, our culture heavy with hints (leaky, moody, ‘that’ time) that our periods are something to be afraid of, a phenomenon that we would be able to manage if we were just, well, stronger. How could we not feel the weight of millennia of shame, heaped on our shoulders?

The Young Academy of Scotland, with its partners NHS Lothian and the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Reproductive Health, is on a mission to break this taboo and ensure that those who are experiencing menstrual problems feel able to access the help and support that they deserve. The HOPE project – Healthy Optimal Periods for Everyone – aims to provides accurate, accessible information for those who menstruate, their families, doctors, employers and policy makers, and resources for educators to facilitate the conversation about menstruation with both boys and girls at a young age.

Not only are the HOPE team destigmatising menstruation, they are sharing information with women to understand what average looks like to empower them to seek treatment to alleviate suffering from period-related conditions; suffering, sometimes severe, that many silently endure. The HOPE project also pioneers research into the diagnosis and treatment of menstrual conditions, working towards a future where women’s lives are no longer ravaged by conditions like fibroids and adenomyosis.

Having found the HOPE website independently, BBC reporter Naga Munchetty, who has spoken publicly about her own struggles with a menstrual condition, was inspired to bring her BBC 5 Live team to visit YAS Member, Jackie Maybin’s lab at the University of Edinburgh in December 2023 and broadcast a live show from the laboratory. Naga and the HOPE team discussed the systematic underfunding of medical research into women’s health; just 2.1% of public spending on medical research is dedicated to women’s reproductive health and childbirth.

Together, Naga and the HOPE team are advocating for this to change; already Naga and HOPE team member Hilary Critchley (representing the Academy of Medical Sciences) have raised this important issue with a UK Parliamentary Select Committee as part of the Women’s Reproductive Health Inquiry, campaigning together to redress this inequity.

If you are interested in the HOPE project, you can get involved by joining their ‘Patient and Public Involvement’ group; no specialist expertise is required. Simply by sharing your experiences, you can support the HOPE project to reach more women, and make painful, debilitating periods a thing of the past.

Photo credit: Zuzanna Soltykowska, University of Edinburgh Press Office

Members of the HOPE project stand for a photo in their lab at Edinburgh University.