Leaks, cramps and cravings: New survey shows two-thirds of women adapt their lifestyle because of a fear of “Period Dramas”

24 May 2016

Fact not fiction: The majority of women (67%) admit to adapting their lifestyle because they fear awkward #perioddramas such as leaking onto clothes, having to hide sanitary products on the way to the loo, or being caught short with no toilet nearby – according to research released today by WaterAid.

The international charity launched its #perioddrama campaign to mark Menstrual Hygiene Day on 28 May and raise awareness of issues faced by more than 1 billion women around the world who do not have access to a toilet during their periods. They’re calling on people to sign their Toilet Saves Lives petition to help women live with the dignity they deserve.

WaterAid asked over a thousand women from across the UK about their dread of #perioddramas and the (sometimes hilarious) results help shine a light on the awkwardness menstruating women here face, even today. Based on the results the charity has produced a light-hearted short film using popular period dramas to illustrate the centuries old most awkward #perioddramas. Watch the film here >

The survey shows that three quarters of women (75%) saying they regularly fear a drama when on their period. Half of women (51%) revealed they have to change their lifestyle occasionally to avoid the possibility of an embarrassing period drama, while 17% said they do that all the time.

Three quarters of respondents (76%) said a major period fear is blood leaking onto clothes when out in public. A major annoyance, experienced by 55% of women, is a dread of smelling bad, whilst 42% expressed coyness around having to hide sanitary products on their way to the work toilet. Not knowing where the next toilet might be while travelling was a preoccupation for 42% of women, while 25% admitted craving huge amounts of chocolate! A third (29%) fear sneezing while on their period and the risk of subsequent leakage, while only 6% of women reported experiencing no fears of period dramas.

Four out of five women (81%) said they would never ask a stranger for a sanitary product if caught short, while 37% wouldn’t even ask a friend or colleague, even though 76% of us would happily give to a “sister in need”.

Over half (52%) said they felt less confident than usual when experiencing a period drama and 25% felt really unconfident. Period pain even forces 15% of women to take sick leave.

With all these monthly trials and tribulations, most women (89%) agreed that men are at an advantage for not having to deal with period dramas.

Barbara Frost, WaterAid's Chief Executive, said:

“Since the dawn of time, women have had periods – yet most of us still consider it an embarrassing and taboo subject. Our film imagines how the literary heroines Elizabeth Bennett and Jo March may have dealt with their own period dramas.

“Whilst our film is light-hearted, we have a heavy heart when we observe how many women in the developing world have to cope with their periods without being able to lock the toilet door behind them. When there are no safe, private toilets in schools, girls often skip school during their period, or drop out of school altogether once they reach puberty. We need to talk openly about this issue and remove the silence and stigma that surround periods otherwise it will be much more difficult for women and girls to call for change, such as having access to a toilet and running water at school, that will enable them to deal with their periods and play a full and active part in their society no matter what time of month.

“In many cultures, menstruating women have to navigate archaic social taboos around periods that can see them unable to eat with their family, having to sleep outside the family home and shut out of religious ceremonies – there are even taboos about touching food.

“By giving this issue the attention it deserves, we will help ensure every women and girl has access to water, safe toilets and somewhere to wash by 2030.”


Watch the film here >

Download photos >

See portraits of the girls >

In London: For more information please contact Laura Crowley, Media Officer, on [email protected] or 020 793 4965, or Suzy Vickers, PR Manager, on [email protected] or 020 793 4995.

In New York: Alanna Imbach, Media Relations Manager, [email protected] or +1 (212) 683-0430 or +1 (917) 209-8823

In Delhi: Anil Cherukupalli, Media and Communications Manager, [email protected] or Pragya Gupta, Media Officer, [email protected].

In Melbourne: Kirrily Johns, Communications Officer, [email protected] or +61 3 9001 8248.

In Ottawa: Graham Milner, Senior Communications Manager, [email protected] or +1 (613) 230-5182 ext. 226.

In Stockholm: Magdalena Olsson, Communications Manager, [email protected] or +46 (0)8 677 30 33 or +46 (0)73 661 93 31, or Petter Gustafsson, Communications Officer, on [email protected] or +46 (0)8 677 30 21 or +46 (0)72 858 58 51.

Notes to editors:

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. The international organisation works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 23 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 21 million people with sanitation.

  • Around 315,000 children die each year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That’s nearly 900 children each day, or one child every two minutes.
  • Over 650 million people (around one in ten) are without safe water
  • Over 2.3 billion people (around one in three) live without improved sanitation
  • For every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of £4 is returned in increased productivity.
  • Just £15 can help provide one person with access to safe water.

The film

Period drama Stats for the UK survey
When one's period says "Surprise!" 41% of women say not knowing when their next period is going to start is an annoying #perioddrama.
When one’s pad crunches upon sitting. Awkward. 25% of women say the sound of a sanitary pad crunching when sitting down is a #perioddrama they fear.
When one loses one’s tampon string. 16% of women say not losing the string to your tampon is an annoying #perioddrama.
When one leaks. That is all. 75% of women say blood leaking on their clothes when out in public is a major #perioddrama fear.
When one sneezes on one’s period. Yup, that. 29% of women say an annoying #perioddrama is sneezing when on their period and being scared of leaking.
When one loses the pain war with one’s uterus. 15% of women say they’ve been forced to take sick leave because of period pains.
When one’s beau has to purchase one’s tampons… 18% of women say an annoying #perioddrama is having to ask their other half to go to the store to buy sanitary products.
When one’s carriage is without a lavatory. 42% of women say their most annoying #perioddrama is not knowing when they’ll find the next bathroom when travelling.
When one must fashion an emergency pad – anything will do. 45% of women say a big #perioddrama fear is unexpectedly running out of tampons/pads when out and about.
When one must refrain from what one enjoys most. 67% of women say that they’ve had to adapt their lifestyle to avoid #perioddramas.