A father’s knowledge of menstrual symptoms is usually considered limited, yet there have been no studies on paternal understanding of menstruation. As not every family has a mother, a well-informed father can be essential for ongoing health of adolescent daughters. We examined the degree of understanding and concern of fathers of adolescent girls with menstrual symptoms.
Adolescent patients attending the Royal Children’s Hospital outpatient gynaecology clinic for dysmenorrhoea and/or heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB) and their parents were surveyed about menstrual symptoms and potential medications, as well as involvement/concerns with daughter’s health care.
Surveys were returned by 23 daughters, 19 mothers, and 15 fathers. The fathers’ knowledge of menstrual symptoms was poorer than mothers, although most knew of HMB (93%) and mood swings (87%). A large percentage of both fathers and mothers answered ‘don’t know’ or didn’t answer questions about potential long-term health impacts and side-effects of medications, although parents were clearly concerned about side-effects.
Of fathers, 80% felt sympathetic/concerned, 53% helpless and 13% frustrated when daughters were in pain. Parental perception of daughters’ pain was comparable within families, with mothers more likely to overestimate and fathers underestimate. Concerning impacts, 93% of fathers (79% of mothers) worried about their daughter’s welfare and 60% (21%) about schooling; 54% (69%) noted impacts on family activities and 33% (53%) took leave from work to care for daughters.
We present the first insight into fathers’ knowledge of their daughter’s menstrual health. Overall, fathers have an incomplete picture of menstrual symptoms and common medications. Even in this cohort, which could be expected to be well informed due to their daughter’s attendance at a tertiary hospital, it is clear that parents lack sufficient knowledge to make fully informed decisions for daughters. This highlights the need for carefully tailored education material that addresses knowledge gaps and parental concerns.