New vulval health lessons launched in schools

·2-min read

Children aged between 11 and 18 year olds will soon be learning about vulval and vaginal health - using actual images of female genitalia.

Canesten partnered with national curriculum body the PSHE Association to create The Truth, Undressed, a new series of lesson plans featuring age-appropriate content for Key Stages 3- 5.

The educational materials, launched last week, come after recent research found that only 6% of UK women (aged 16-55) found out about intimate health conditions through school and university education, and just under two thirds, 60%, only found out about vaginal infections when they first experienced them.

To increase understanding of thrush, BV and other infections, and to break the taboo around vaginal health and appearance, The Truth, Undressed features accurate, diverse and non-sexualised portrayal of vulvas, pubic hair and depictions of vaginal discharge.

Photo credit: Canesten
Photo credit: Canesten

Teachers are able to choose if they use supporting classroom material which uses photographs, realistic illustrations, or text only, depending on the needs or religious backgrounds of their pupils.

A similar study, conducted by Canesten, also found 46% of UK women (aged 18-24) are worried about the appearance of their vulva and 67% admitted they would change something about it if they could. This dislike is linked to feelings of shame which could cause serious medical repercussions - over half (55%) said that they avoided seeking medical help due to feeling embarrassed to discuss the issue, or not wanting to show their vulva to a professional.

The teaching plans are designed for both male and female pupils, and it is hoped that showing a variety of vulvas in a non-sexual way will reduce unnecessary shame and stigma, and go some way to smashing the 'ideals' peddled by the porn industry.

Liz Laming, The PSHE Association says: 'Until now, it has been difficult for young people to learn the facts about their bodies and understand vaginal health when historically the vast majority of images of vulvas represented in porn and other forms of media and popular culture have been both over-sexualised and depicting a societally "perfect" body which is not representative of reality.'

Photo credit: Canesten
Photo credit: Canesten

Canesten and the PSHE Association enlisted the support of two academics, Dr Ester McGeeney and Dr Elly Hanson, specialists in youth centred research on relationships and sexualities, to help develop the educational programme.

Clinical Psychologist, Dr Elly Hanson said: 'Research shows that negative feelings and inaccurate understandings about the vulva and vagina are common and can have hugely detrimental consequences especially for girls and women.'

There is also a consumer facing element to The Truth Undressed campaign which was developed solely by Canesten to broaden access to this information. Check out the website here.

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting