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Research suggests school girls need more help to understand period pain and when it might be a problem

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 17 FEBRUARY

More and better menstrual health education is urgently needed in schools to help teenage girls understand period pain and to seek help when it can be serious, according to a newly published research paper.

Improving menstrual health

Birmingham City University

A team of academics from Birmingham City University and Leeds Beckett University recommend that education, opportunities and resources need improving.

They reached their conclusion after surveying secondary school girls about their period experiences and knowledge, including their awareness and understanding of endometriosis, a chronic and painful menstrual health condition with debilitating quality of life implications that can affect as many as one in ten women.

The research team surveyed a total of 442 teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 for their study, which has just been published in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.

They found that almost all girls (94%) experience period pain and most (86%) experience moderate to severe pain. Almost a quarter of girls (23%) miss school because of their periods, mainly due to pain. The study revealed that just over one in four (27%) girls do not know if their periods are normal and almost one in three (30%) do not know if their cycle is regular.

The team also found an alarmingly small percentage (8%) of girls are aware of the relatively common condition endometriosis, a very low figure in and of itself but also when compared to adolescents’ knowledge of other similarly widespread health conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy.

Endometriosis, in which tissues similar to the lining of the womb grow in other places such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, causes a range of symptoms including crippling period and pelvic pain, pain during and after sex, and even infertility. After learning of these effects, 86% of the girls questioned wanted to know more about the condition. 

The researchers concluded, therefore, that better menstrual health education is needed to improve teen girls’ knowledge of what a typical period looks like, which could also help them seek out medical assistance if they’re showing symptoms of a potentially serious issue like endometriosis.

Dr Angela Hewett, Senior Lecturer in Health Psychology at Birmingham City University and one of the authors of the paper, said:

“We’re calling therefore on health authorities and schools across the country to work together to improve menstrual health education, involving professionals working in the field, to develop bespoke resources that can be delivered by experts to pupils in a more sensitive way.”

Secondary School Girls’ Experiences of Menstruation and Awareness of Endometriosis: A cross-sectional study by Amie Randhawa, Dr Angela Hewett, Dr Annalise Weckesser, Professor Georgina Jones and Dr Fraser Hewett is available to read in full in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.

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