Menstrual abnormalities amongst female South African Hajj pilgrims: a cross-sectional study

  • Salim Parker South African Society of Travel Medicine (SASTM)
  • Shahed Omar University of the Witwatersrand
  • Ozayr Mahomed University of KwaZulu-Natal
Keywords: Hajj, menstrual abnormalities


Introduction: Hajj (pilgrimage), the fifth pillar of Islam, is obligatory for every Muslim, male or female, provided that he/she is physically and financially able to do so, at least once in his/her lifetime. One of the rituals of Hajj requires the absence of menstruation. In the current modern era, many females utilise oral contraception to manipulate their menstrual cycle so that the pilgrim can be menses free during the main rituals of Hajj. However, many such females are at risk of breakthrough bleeding. Very little information has been documented concerning the incidence of menstrual cycle abnormalities amongst female Hajj pilgrims in general and South African pilgrims in particular. This study aims to determine the incidence of menstrual cycle abnormalities amongst South African female Hajj pilgrims and the potential factors that predispose to them. Methods: A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted amongst South African female pilgrims during the five-day Hajj period. South Africa is usually limited to 5 000 pilgrims annually with a 50:50 gender split. For most of the five days of Hajj, pilgrims, separated by gender, are housed in special tents. Data were collected using an anonymous self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaires were distributed amongst the ladies’ tents in Mina on the last day of Hajj by nursing sisters attached to the South African medical mission. A total of 470 South African female pilgrims participated in the study with 147 excluded as they were either postmenopausal or had had hysterectomies, resulting in a sample size of 323. Results: Of the 318 participants who responded to the question about hormonal menstrual manipulation (HMM), 195 (61%) attempted this and 123 (39%) did not. Of the 308 participants who responded to the question concerning menstrual cycle problems (MCP), 54 (18%) had problems and 254 (82%) did not. Of the 189 participants who attempted HMM and answered the question on MCP, 44/189 (23%) had MCP, whilst 10/108 (9%) of those who did not attempt HMM had MCP. The OR for MCP was 2.9 (CI 1.46–6.04) if HMM was attempted compared with no HMM attempt. Conclusion: Menstrual irregularities occurred more frequently in those who attempt hormonal menstrual manipulation compared with those who do not. Health education on this issue should be integrated into the pre-Hajj classes. (Full text of the research articles are available online at S Afr Fam Pract 2018; DOI: 10.1080/20786190.2017.1397382

Author Biographies

Salim Parker, South African Society of Travel Medicine (SASTM)
South African Society of Travel Medicine (SASTM) Johannesburg
Shahed Omar, University of the Witwatersrand
Intensive Care Unit Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg
Ozayr Mahomed, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Discipline of Public Health Medicine University of KwaZulu-Natal Durban
Research Articles