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“Am I Going to be Natural or am I Not?”: Canadian Women’s Perceptions and Experiences of Menstrual Suppression

Abstract

This paper reports on findings from a qualitative interview-based study of women’s experiences and perceptions of menstrual suppression using a diverse sample of 12 women from Vancouver, Canada. The study used open-ended, in-depth interviews to ask women questions related to the following overarching research question: How do Canadian women perceive and experience menstrual suppression? Of the 12 women, six had experience with menstrual suppression, while six had never suppressed their periods. The six women who suppressed their periods cited convenience, pain management, and feeling more positively about their bodies as their reasons for suppression. The six women who had not suppressed their cycles cited fears about compromising their health, worries about altering the “natural” menstrual cycle, and an uneasiness with pharmaceutical products in general as rationales for rejecting menstrual suppression. Ultimately, the findings reveal that there are many considerations and factors involved in women’s decisions about menstrual frequency. While many of the women appreciated the appeal of menstrual suppression, the long-term risks and health uncertainties deterred many of them from reducing their menstrual frequency. The findings are discussed in relation to medical literature which encourages women to suppress their menses, as well as sociological theorizing about menstrual culture within a Foucauldian framework of discipline and control.

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Correspondence to Robin Repta.

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Repta, R., Clarke, L.H. “Am I Going to be Natural or am I Not?”: Canadian Women’s Perceptions and Experiences of Menstrual Suppression. Sex Roles 68, 91–106 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-0038-x

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Keywords

  • Menstrual suppression
  • In-depth interviews
  • Social context
  • Canada