A girl's first menstrual period can be a poignant turning point in her life, but according to a new report, menstruation comes as a confusing and frightening surprise for nearly half of the world’s female population, The Independent reported. The report, which was commissioned by period education campaign Betty for Schools, suggests that more education earlier in life would help to erase much of the fear and shame often associated with a period.

The survey found that 44 percent of girls worldwide do not know what is happening to them the first time they have their period, The Independent reported. In addition, about 60 percent of girls reported feeling scared during their first periods, 58 percent felt embarrassed, and 50 percent were too shy to tell anyone else that they had started their periods. The report emphasizes that increasing the availability of menstrual education, and making this education available earlier, will help to remove some of these negative attitudes.

Read: Brief History Of The Menstrual Period

“Women need to feel they can talk openly about periods to ensure that future generations feel better informed and prepared,” she said. "It’s vital that young people, boys as well as girls, are educated to tackle the culture of embarrassment around periods." Paula Sherriff, the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, a position in the UK responsible for policies on women’s and equality issues, told The Independent.

Much of the lack of education surrounding menstruation is built around the long-standing taboo of periods that's been present in cultures around the world since the beginning of time. For example, the ancient Hebrews sent menstruating women into seclusion, and separated them completely from society until they were “clean” again. The practice is still followed today by some Orthodox Jewish and Hindu cultures, NPR reported. Early Christianity was also the source of a great deal of shame surrounding menstruation, as the pain and blood of menstruation was thought of as a reminder of Eve’s Original Sin.

Not every culture shunned menstruating women. For example, Pliny the Elder, a Roman author and natural philosopher, wrote that in his culture a nude menstruating woman was associated with mystical powers, such as preventing storms and protecting crops. In addition, according to Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation, other ancient cultures believed that menstrual blood held mystical powers, and period blood was often used in charms and spells meant to purify or protect, or even to cure disease.

According to Chella Quint, a menstruation education researcher who spoke to The Independent, both schools and corporations must play a role in helping young girls get more information about their periods and gain confidence about this important and natural part of their health.

"This is the paramount way to support ending taboos because it begins to acknowledge the negative relationship that has historically existed and still continues between corporations and schools regarding menstruation education," Quint told The Independent.

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