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20 Sep, 2023

Survey reveals the suffering of women and girls with period problems

A new survey of 3,000 women and girls, commissioned by Wellbeing of Women, has revealed that millions of women and girls suffer from period problems, such as severe pain and heavy bleeding, with almost one third never seeking any medical help, and more than half reporting their symptoms not taken seriously.

Despite effective treatment options being available, medical experts say severe pain and heavy bleeding are normalised, even within the healthcare system. Women and girls are not receiving the treatment, care and emotional support they need to manage these common, yet debilitating problems.

Severe pain, heavy bleeding and irregular cycles are common symptoms in women and girls with gynaecological conditions, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids and polycystic ovary syndrome which require treatment and support. Many women can wait years before receiving a diagnosis for these conditions.

Women and girls are frequently ignored or, when listened to, were told that heavy and painful periods are ‘normal’ and that they will ‘grow out of them’, found the Women’s Health Strategy for England.
The survey found that almost all aged between 16-40 have experienced period pain (96%), with 59% saying their period pain was severe.

More than 9 in 10 have experienced some heavy periods (91%), with almost half (49%) saying their heavy bleeding was severe. Only 14% have tried medication to reduce heavy bleeding, despite treatment such as tranexamic acid being shown to reduce period blood loss by as much as 54%.
More than half (56%) have found it difficult to access treatment and support. Over half (51%) felt their healthcare professional had failed to take their period concerns seriously.

Of the 58% who sought help from a healthcare professional:

  • 42% were given treatment to help manage their period symptoms
  • 16% received a diagnosis
  • 39% were given information or advice on how to manage their symptoms
  • 25% received an explanation for their symptoms

Nearly 9 in 10 (86%) have experienced mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and mood changes, in relation to their period. More than 4 in 10 (41%) say they have experienced severe mental health problems.
More than 4 out of 5 (82%/83%) agree that there needs to be more accurate, easily accessible information on periods and gynaecological conditions.

The charity Wellbeing of Women has launched its 'Just a Period' campaign to address the unacceptable normalisation of period symptoms and gynaecological conditions. The charity is showing the impact these problems can have on women and wants to make sure there is good information and education available for anyone who needs it.

Professor Dame Lesley Regan, Chair of Wellbeing of Women, says:

“Women and girls have been dismissed for far too long. It’s simply unacceptable that anyone is expected to suffer with period symptoms that disrupt their lives, including taking time off school, work, or their caring responsibilities, all of which may result in avoidable mental health problems.
Periods should not affect women’s lives in this way. If they do, it can be a sign of a gynaecological condition that requires attention and ongoing support – not dismissal. Through our ‘Just a Period’ campaign, we will be addressing the many years of medical bias, neglect and stigma in women’s health.”

BBC Breakfast and ITV This Morning GP Resident Dr Nighat Arif and Ambassador of Wellbeing of Women, says:

“As a doctor, I see women and girls in my clinic with bad periods and who have been dealing with severe pain, flooding through their clothes, and mental health problems for years. No woman or girl should be told it’s ‘Just a Period’. That’s why I am backing this campaign from Wellbeing of Women. Anyone with pelvic pain, heavy vaginal bleeding and/or an irregular menstrual cycle, should see their doctor. There are good, effective treatments and no woman or girl should be held back by her period.”

Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP and Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee which is conducting an inquiry into reproductive and gynaecological health, says:

“There is a terrible phrase, ‘well, it's just a period’, why are you making a fuss about that? Can't you just get on with it? Yet many women and girls are experiencing horrendous period symptoms and gynaecological conditions. These are impacting the health of women and girls, and preventing them from taking part in work, school, sport and everyday life. Endometriosis alone affects 1.5 million women in the UK and costs the economy £8.2bn. Now is the time for change. I will continue to advocate for the needs of women and girls through my parliamentary inquiry and the ‘Just a Period’ campaign.”

Alice Liveing influencer and personal trainer, blogger and best-selling author, and Campaign Ambassador for Wellbeing of Women, says:

“I've had excruciatingly painful periods for as long as I can remember. I have passed out, been sick and taken days off work. Other women I speak to experience similar. I had to see many doctors before getting the treatment I’ve needed. Women should not be dealing with their pain or putting up with symptoms that disrupt their lives. I am proud to be an ambassador for the ‘Just a Period’ campaign by Wellbeing of Women. Let’s make sure women’s pain isn’t dismissed any longer.”

Dr Philippa Kaye, ITV This Morning GP Resident and Campaign Ambassador for Wellbeing of Women, says:

“Periods are a natural part of life for millions of women and girls, but living with symptoms that prevent them living their lives is not normal. If women and girls experience severe pain, heavy bleeding, or any other symptoms that have a negative impact, they should visit their doctor. Sadly, many of these debilitating symptoms are normalised or dismissed, meaning women and girls are unable to access the treatment and support they so desperately need. I will be working closely with Wellbeing of Women to raise awareness and create educational content, to help ensure no-one is held back by their period.

Dr. Aziza Sesay, NHS GP with an interest in women’s health and Campaign Ambassador for Wellbeing of Women says:

“In my clinic I see teenagers who are anaemic, who miss several days of school, and they don’t realise that this isn’t normal. They’ll literally use the words, ‘it’s just a period’. It’s vital that we raise awareness and education on periods, which is why I’m excited to be a ‘Just a Period’ campaign ambassador. We need to stop the narrative that heavy and painful periods are something we have to live with. I want women and girls to have the knowledge to advocate for themselves, to push for more investigations, and to push for a diagnosis and treatment so that they don’t have to live with debilitating symptoms.”

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