Kate Shepherd Cohen, Founder and CEO of Menstrual Cycle Support, tells us about the project.
We launched our free online Menstrual Cycle Support foundational course in January 2021 through just one primary care network in Cornwall (where our Founder and CEO lives) – it was instantly oversubscribed, with requests from patients and GP surgeries from all over the country (and further afield!) requesting access. Within six months, to meet the demand, Menstrual Cycle Support became available in every GP surgery in the county and this year – thanks to moving the content into a free-lifetime-access and on-demand course with a supportive and facilitated online community – it is available to patients throughout the UK, both on social prescription and self-referral.
Menstrual Cycle Support believes in a world without suffering and works towards helping menstruators to discover menstrual joy: for a thriving and gender equal society and as a working and innovative solution to close the gender pain gap. Our founder, Kate, was inspired to innovate menstrual healthcare through social prescribing following her own menstrual suffering and first-hand experience of mainstream menstrual treatment options being limited to pills and procedures. Although she had experienced an overwhelming sense of menstrual loneliness and isolation throughout her life, she soon discovered that menstrual suffering is experienced by many: 80% of young people have reported problems with their periods (The Lancet), 1 in 3 menstruators in England alone have been diagnosed with menstrual dysfunction (compromising work/education/family/social life) – (RCGP) and 8 out of 10 say they feel unwell during their menstrual cycle but continue to go to work/school and are less productive as a result (BMJ). Meanwhile, 69% reported an increase in menstrual disorders during the last two years, thought to be caused by the stress of living through Covid-19 (Society of Endocrinology).
The free online Menstrual Cycle Support foundational course on social prescription aims to help menstruators to understand, reframe and embrace their menstrual cycle/menopause experience and, in being supported to create a 3 month cycle diary, learn tips and tools for making incremental changes to lifestyle and help speed up diagnosis time (currently 8 years on average for endometriosis), reduce wasted GP appointments and long waiting lists for secondary care. The cycle diary is fantastic for recording side effects from menstrual-related medication, including hormonal contraception and the course is for anyone suffering with their menstrual cycle/perimenopause.
Menstrual Cycle Support offers the World’s first non-clinical menstrual health service available on social prescription. We were honoured to be presented with an Innovation Award at the International Social Prescribing Conference last year for our pioneering work in menstrual health and in the global menstrual movement.
We have an exciting partnership with NHS-approved data analytic organisation, Meaningful Measures, whose CEO, Dr Marie Polley, is one of the founders of the International Social Prescribing movement and is Co-Chair of the Social Prescribing Network. Meaningful Measures uses a robust research methodology called MyCaw and we are due to release our first report at an event in the Houses of Parliament in October this year.
We believe in the power and potential of social prescribing and – as an organisation working in a taboo subject – are so grateful to be able to plug into the network of supportive community members.
We have an exciting year lined up: we’re launching our new web platform, self-directed course and NHS approved report and on a mission to be available in every GP surgery in the UK and work with schools, universities and businesses nationwide to help ensure all menstruators have access to the Menstrual Cycle Support free online foundational course.