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Free period health classes mark "change" in culture

Free period health classes mark

Saturday 06 May 2023

Free period health classes mark "change" in culture

Saturday 06 May 2023

A local nutritionist has been offering free classes on period health to the island’s secondary schools, which she says would have "benefited" her when she was in education.

Jessica Pinel – a registered nutritionist with the Association for Nutritionists, certified health coach, and founder of Humankynd Nutrition – initially gave the sessions on nutrition during periods to adults.

In her own time, she expanded the classes to three schools for free – JCG, Haulieu, and Highlands.

Jessica said: "I was telling the story about when I was younger and I got period pains, heavy bleeding, and how it affected me, and I realised at that point that if I had been given this type of education at school, it would have really benefited me and prevented some of those nasty symptoms from happening."

In her sessions, Jessica gets the students to reflect on what sort of period symptoms they experience.

"We speak about them, and I give them evidenced-based nutrition tips that can support with each of the symptoms," she explained.

"We speak about different foods they can include or minimize the intake of to reduce these symptoms. These can include period pain, blood loss, bloating, mood swings, cravings, and acne."


Pictured: Jessica said the students were much more open when speaking about period symptoms than when she attended school.

While Jessica provides her sessions for free at the moment, she said if more schools get on board, she would pursue sponsorship to continue the programme.

She added that at some schools, boys are also required to attend the sessions "so that boys and girls understand the issues that each other are going through."

Jessica explained that "there has definitely been a change in the culture around periods".

She said: "When the teachers were speaking to the girls about certain things, there was a change in the stigma associated with words like bleeding.

"In the class, I ask if anyone tracks their cycle, and around 50% do, which is so interesting. My generation is not even at that level yet.

"What I would like to see is people with conditions like endometriosis, PMS [premenstrual syndrome] or PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome], given extra support. I know of some jurisdictions where extra sick leave is legislated."

Lisa Williamson, a teacher at JCG, said the response from students had been "really positive" and the school canteen is even considering an overhaul following on from Jessica's classes.

She said: "The sessions have given us an awareness of the importance of green leafy vegetables, options for fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds everyday.

"Many students thought that they had balanced diets suited to their lifestyles and teenage needs, but we unpicked these and discovered that some need more dense fibre in their diets."


Pictured: Miss Williamson said that "everyone should have better understanding that this is not just a female problem."

Miss Williamson also mentioned that the free period product scheme – which launched earlier this year and was recently expanded to further venues – is helping to reduce period stigma in the island. 

"There is greater awareness of what teenage girls are going through and mindfulness around that," she said.

"There has definitely been a really a positive shift in the openness and attitudes of our students when talking about period health and symptoms over the last couple of years. I find it a refreshing difference from when I was a student."

Miss Williamson added: "All the education we do on female health, the students and parents just keep asking for more.

"We'd really welcome any other experts and organisations who talk to students on these topics, because that outside voice can cause some real lightbulb moments for us."

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