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Duchess of Edinburgh tackles taboo around menstrual health saying period products should be kept 'out of the closet'

Sophie has previously opened about the menopause

Duchess of Edinburgh wearing black blazer and blue shirt
Danielle Stacey
Online Royal CorrespondentLondon
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The Duchess of Edinburgh got candid about periods as she visited a school in East Dulwich, London on Wednesday.

Continuing her work around breaking the taboo around menstrual health issues, Sophie, 59, joined a myth-busting workshop at Harris Girls Academy.

When asked what comes to mind when talking about periods, the Duchess said: "When you have heavy periods worrying about when you stand up from a chair. That's the worst one."

Sophie, who had emergency surgery in 2001 after suffering an ectopic pregnancy, spoke to the girls about period products and how tampon size related to flow rather than body shape.

 She said: "If you were going shopping and your friends are going for the mini and regular tampons are you going to feel self-conscious saying 'I need the big guns'? It’s not because of the size of what you are thinking 'Oh I must be really big down there'."

She added that period products should be on display at home rather than locked in a cupboard, saying: "Let’s get them out of the closet."

Sophie, who is mother to Lady Louise Windsor, 20, and James, Earl of Wessex, also praised three boys who joined the group of 15 to 18 girls at the workshop. 

She told them that they were "very brave" for agreeing to talk about periods, adding: "I think bringing boys into the conversation is very important. I’ve been to many countries around the world and other countries seem to be more progressive."

Sophie wants to raise awareness of menstrual issues© Getty
Sophie wants to raise awareness of menstrual issues

Tanya Simon-Hall, owner of Adeno Gang, which runs workshops about menstrual health in schools and colleges, said: "The Duchess said: 'Even I learnt something new'. They all got a takeaway from the session so they can go on and inform other people."

Dame Lesley, the government’s ambassador for the Women's Health Strategy and chair of Wellbeing of Women, said that girls need to be told about menstruation at a younger age.

 "Ten is now the average age that girls start to menstruate, so they need to know about it earlier. Not masses of details but something to put over in a positive way," she said.

Duchess Sophie takes a group photo with school pupils at Harris Girls Academy© Getty
The Duchess joined the workshop at Harris Girls Academy

She added that she wanted every medical professional to ask about female patients’ periods, even if they are presenting with seemingly unrelated symptoms.

She added: "The Duchess was very helpful on our campaign on the menopause two years ago and now with our campaign Just a Period we hope to make it something that everybody talks about – over the dinner table, the breakfast table, in the petrol station, even. The Duchess demonstrated that she is really open, receptive and, of course, she has a daughter, too."

Chella Quint, founder of the Period Positive movement and author of Own Your Period and Be Period Positive, tells HELLO!: "When people with high profiles choose to break menstrual taboos it can really shift the narrative. Her frankness and her ability to talk about all the gory details is really valuable and it's great to have an ally in her.  Our recent campaign encourages everyone to talk about periods and menopause at the same time - it's all one conversation that needs to be joined up - at home and by professionals. It's fantastic to see the Duchess taking on both topics. She sounds like someone who would make a great Period Positive Schools champion!"

The Duchess of Edinburgh during a visit to a menstrual health workshop at Harris Girls Academy in East Dulwich, south east London© Getty
Sophie has previously opened up about her experiences of the menopause

In 2021, the Duchess won plaudits for candidly sharing her experience of menopause, saying: "You suddenly can’t remember what on earth it was you were talking about. Try being on an engagement when that happens. Your words just go. And you're standing there going, 'Hang on, I thought I was a reasonably intelligent person'. What has just happened to me?"

She added: "It's like someone has just gone and taken your brain out for however long before they pop it back in again, and you try and pick up the pieces and carry on."

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