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Reproductive and gynaecological health 2019

Invisible illnesses like endometriosis, are normal and shouldn’t be silenced

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Emma Cox

CEO, Endometriosis UK

Society would have you believe, from a young age, that periods should be silenced. But finally, we’re changing the way periods and menstrual conditions like endometriosis are spoken about.


With international photographer, Rankin, turning his lens to endometriosis this month at an exhibition in London and Edinburgh, alongside the education system changing to teach children about menstrual wellbeing, we’re finally starting to change the way society sees invisible illnesses like endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition where cells similar to the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body – causing symptoms including chronic pelvic pain, bowel problems, infertility and painful sex. It affects 10% of women from puberty to menopause – although the impact can be felt for life.

New curriculum is a step forward, but it must be done right

From an alarming average diagnosis time of 7.5 years, to an education system that has failed to equip young women with the knowledge and confidence to talk openly about our bodies, women deserve a better deal when it comes to our health.

There was backlash in the midst of the positive news about teaching boys and girls about menstrual wellbeing.

Breaking the taboo from a young age is the first step to making this happen. The very nature of endometriosis is that it affects gynaecological health; and at a young age, this can be a difficult conversation to have.

Last month, following pressure from Endometriosis UK, the government announced long overdue changes to the Sex & Relationship curriculum, which will undoubtedly help eradicate misconceptions around menstrual wellbeing at school. For too long, young girls have been left confused and unprepared for dealing with potential conditions, such as endometriosis. By teaching children what is and isn’t normal in a safe and controlled environment when it comes to their menstrual cycle, we hope that we will encourage young people to seek help when something is not right.

Working with government and schools to educate young people

Endometriosis UK now looks forward to working with the government to ensure the new curriculum is implemented across the country to empower children, parents and teachers to talk openly about menstrual wellbeing.

There was some predictable backlash in the midst of the positive news about teaching boys and girls about menstrual wellbeing, but Endometriosis UK urges parents and teachers alike to understand the critical importance of young people understanding about their bodies to not only break down the taboo around periods, but to also be a key role in encouraging children to seek help when something is not right. The education you receive can pave the way for your whole future, and the government must provide the guidance teachers need to get this right. We can’t change the lives of women who weren’t given the education they deserved, but we can get it right for the next generation.

Together, we can send out the right message that conversations, and invisible illnesses like endometriosis, are normal and shouldn’t be silenced.

To find out more about endometriosis, visit: www.endometriosis-uk.org

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