Erin Annison and dog Darwin

No taboos in major menstruation study


Adventure zealot Erin Annison realised skills honed in Lakes’ mountains and waters left a big gap when she started degree studies – how to deal with menstruation in the great outdoors.

Using her own experiences as a climber, mountaineer, biker and wild swimmer, the University of Cumbria student figured if she was struggling, women the world over must be experiencing similar difficulties.

As part of her Outdoor & Experiential Learning course, Erin set out on a major study into the impact of periods on those taking part in adventurous activities and found 89 percent of women questioned were affected.

She has now seen her paper on the subject, written in conjunction with tutor Professor Heather Prince, published in Sport, Education and Society. 

Erin, 22, and from Penrith, explained: “I honestly wasn’t surprised by the high number of women who had faced issues. Bearing in mind the numbers of menstruating people in the world, there is a massive lack of good education on the topic.

“Many don’t even feel prepared for menarche as a teen. Starting my course, I immediately realised that this was something I hadn’t a clue about dealing with in an outdoor context. If I struggled, others must too, hence the study.”

In an online survey she received 800 responses in 24 hours, demonstrating the level of interest and importance of the subject, said Professor Prince.

Interviews were also conducted with men, probing their knowledge about periods and sanitary products, as well as their strategies in supporting females involved in outdoor action. Data came from the UK and US.

Professor Prince explained: “Erin’s methods of data collection with men had not previously been reported for menstruation studies and illustrates her capacity as a researcher.

“She has been very matter of fact in what is still considered, by many, to be a taboo subject and has been an absolute pleasure to work with.”

Her research examined the effects of menstruation and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) through the voices of women and highlighted practical challenges around hygiene and waste disposal.

It is hoped the findings will raise awareness among outdoor leaders and educators to help manage the constraints facing women and girls.

Third year student at the university’s Ambleside campus, Erin, said: “This has all been the result of simply wanting to know if others felt the same as me, how periods affected them and how they managed them.

“From the survey, it was clear participants weren’t at all embarrassed talking about periods, it was the fear of judgement if they were to bring the subject up in conversation. We all simply want advice on how to manage something that happens to women every month.”

Calling the Lake District home, Erin said her outdoor passion started with climbing and ‘progressed to everything’. She hopes to continue studies in the Scottish Highlands and islands and has particular interests in culture and heritage.

Picture shows Erin Annison and dog Darwin on a camping adventure

For interview requests please contact Karen Barden 07793 083106.