Show and tell: The menstrual cycle, animated

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Image of Tatheer Adnan (left) and Shruthi Mahalingaiah (right)Who we are: Tatheer Adnan (left), project lead, and Shruthi Mahalingaiah (right), principal investigator at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

What we created: An animation about the menstrual cycle. It anthropomorphizes the reproductive system to help children and caregivers learn about its anatomy and physiology. It was on display in Boston’s Museum of Science during summer of 2022.

Why it matters: Nearly 44% of menstruators have not learned about menstruation when they get their first period, leading to shame, fear, and discomfort. Parents report that menstruation’s relationship to reproduction is a stumbling block in initiating a timely conversation about periods and puberty.

Our video explains the menstrual cycle without articulating its link to sexuality and reproduction. In doing so, we’ve made it easier for parents to talk with their kids.

Our animation helps them discuss sex more gradually while normalizing labeling of bodily organs, creating a more inclusive depiction of menstruation, and explaining menstruation without masking the information in metaphor.

What we learned: Creatively presented information can increase kids’ knowledge, increase caregivers’ willingness and preparedness to have difficult conversations, and pique everyone’s interest to learn more about sexual and reproductive health.

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