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“Giving women with endometriosis a voice has not yet ended their struggle” says Birmingham academic after government announces inquiry

Following the announcement of a government inquiry into endometriosis, an academic who has researched the condition has warned that although the illness can be debilitating, remnants of a patriarchal society means that women often struggle to have their symptoms taken seriously.

Birmingham City University’s Professor Emeritus Elaine Denny and Dr Annalise Weckesser's research highlights the issue of ineffective treatment options for endometriosis. 

“Around 10 per cent of women worldwide suffer from endometriosis – that’s a huge number" said Dr Weckesser.

“It can leave women feeling desperate to stop the illness from taking over their lives, but with no known cause and no definite cure, they end up trying a number of treatments often with limited success.

“In many cultures women are brought up to view menstruation as something secretive and shameful. Yet the pain of endometriosis and its impact on all aspects of life requires menstrual pain to be openly discussed in the workplace and among social contacts, thereby breaking the taboo of silence.

“The ubiquitous nature of  period pain, and gendered notions about women’s experience and reporting of pain, lead to women whose pain is indicative of endometriosis finding themselves disbelieved and needing to struggle for credibility.

“Many health practitioners as well as friends and family display a scepticism about women’s pain and make judgements about ‘correct’ levels of pain, which contradict the reality of the lives of women with endometriosis. Yet women need the legitimisation of a diagnosis, an answer to why they have this pain.

“As women’s traditional role and status has been (and for many remains) through reproduction, the pain of endometriosis is frequently given more belief when it is associated with infertility. Women for whom this is not an issue may find that they, rather than their condition, are pathologized and treated as dysfunctional and hypochondriac.

“Despite this, women continue to battle to take control of their health. Having reviewed literature from the 1990s up to 2018, what is very clear is how little has changed. It seems that giving women with endometriosis a voice has not yet ended their struggle.

“The Government’s inquiry into endometriosis is long overdue, but something that I am sure will be welcomed by every woman enduring this debilitating illness.”