Background: Good menstrual hygiene practice is critical to the health of adolescent girls and women. In Ghanaian public schools, the School Health Education Program which includes menstrual health education has been instituted to equip adolescents with knowledge on menstruation and its related good hygiene practices. However, in most communities, menstruation is scarcely discussed openly due to mostly negative social and religious beliefs about menstruation. In this study, we examined socio-cultural factors associated with knowledge, attitudes and menstrual hygiene practices among Junior High School adolescent girls in the Kpando Municipality of Ghana.
Materials and methods: A mixed method approach was employed with 480 respondents. A survey was conducted among 390 adolescent girls using interviewer-administered questionnaires to collect data on knowledge of menstruation and menstrual hygiene practices. Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) using a discussion guide were conducted among 90 respondents in groups of 9 members. The FGD was used to collect data on socio-cultural beliefs and practices regarding menstruation. Descriptive and inferential statistics and content analysis were used to analyze the quantitative and qualitative data respectively.
Results: Most (80%) of the study participants had good knowledge of menstruation. Also, most (82%) of the participants practiced good menstrual hygiene. Attending a public (AOR = 0.24, 95% CI = 0.12-0.48, p<0.001) and rural (AOR = 0.40, 95% CI = 0.21-0.75, p<0.01) school was significantly associated with reduced odds of practicing good menstrual hygiene. Good knowledge of menstruation was associated with increased odds of good hygiene practices (AOR = 4.31, 95% CI = 2.39-7.90, p<0.001). Qualitative results showed that teachers provided adolescents with more detailed biological information on menstruation than key informants (family members) did at menarche. However, both teachers and family members spoke positively of menstruation to adolescent girls. Social and religious beliefs indicate that menstruation is evil and unclean. Such beliefs influenced community members' attitudes towards adolescent girls and led to practices such as isolating menstruating girls and limiting their ability to interact and participate in certain community and religious activities.
Conclusion: Despite the prominence of negative social and religious beliefs about menstruation, good menstrual hygiene practice was high among study participants. Knowledge of menstruation; place of residents; and type of school were the major factors associated with good menstrual hygiene practice. It is therefore, necessary to intensify the School Health Education Program in both rural and urban public and intensively involve private schools as well to ensure equal access to accurate information on menstruation and good menstrual hygiene practices among adolescent girls.