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Teenagers say their periods leave them ‘bed bound’ unable to eat or sleep, and feeling like life isn’t worth living

Women’s health charity Wellbeing of Women is calling for more education and support for young people on menstrual health and period-related conditions.

Photo of a young white and asian woman in black and white in front of many words describing periods such as painful, flooding

A survey of girls aged 12-18 found that heavy and painful periods are negatively impacting their lives, with 20% reporting their period leaves them ‘bed-bound’ and unable to do anything, 43% unable to eat or sleep, and 11% of girls saying their period makes them feel like life isn’t worth living.

When asked about specific symptoms, 97% of girls said they experience painful periods with 42% of these describing their pain as severe. Almost all girls had experienced such heavy bleeding that it impacted their daily activities with more than a quarter reporting this happens most periods.

We want to educate and empower girls and women to be in control of their menstrual health from their first period to their last. We are calling for the Government to make menstrual health a priority and invest more in education, workplace support and women’s health research.

We would like to see:

  • Better menstrual health education in schools, with interactive workshops and peer support groups that are age appropriate, informative and include all girls and boys.
  • A public health campaign on menstrual health and period problems for teens and young women, with a focus on reaching and supporting women from deprived and marginalised communities.
  • Girls and women routinely asked about their periods when seen by health care professionals at existing touchpoints, such as vaccinations, contraceptive advice, urinary infections, cervical smear tests, general health checks, on registering with GP.
  • All workplaces to adopt a women’s health policy to help employees deal with menstruation and menopause whilst at work.
  • More funding for menstrual health research to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of period problems and other gynaecological conditions.

We want to ensure that menstrual health never prevents girls and women from reaching their potential and enables them to thrive.

We want to create a generational change to tackle dismissal of women’s health concerns across the life-course. Janet Lindsay, Chief Executive of Wellbeing of Women

The survey and advocacy asks are being launched as part of the “Just a Period” campaign, which has been empowering women with education and resources to help them tackle normalisation and dismissal of period-related symptoms. The new data shows that many girls start experiencing severe period symptoms early on, which could be signs of underlying conditions requiring treatment or support.

Alongside impacting education, physical activity, and mental health, delays in treatment can have severe consequences including iron-deficient anaemia, infertility, and the need for complex multi-system surgeries for conditions like endometriosis, which are progressive.

Janet Lindsay, Chief Exec of Wellbeing of Women said, “I am hugely passionate about equipping young women with the information they need to be their own health advocates. This starts at school with good education on periods and what to expect and we believe that menstrual-health conversations with healthcare professionals will empower young women to feel in control of their health journey, from their first period through to their last. Ultimately, we want to create a generational change to tackle dismissal of women’s health concerns across the life-course.”

Dr Nighat Arif said: “The women that I see in my surgery tell me that their symptoms started early on, some from their first periods, yet they waited years before seeking help. Even then, they faced long waiting times for diagnosis and treatment. We hope that by empowering girls early with the information, tools, and resources they need to seek help, they’ll get the help sooner and not spend years suffering unnecessarily.”

Zaynah’s story (age 18):

“I’d always had heavy bleeding, so bad that I needed a blood transfusion in my early teens. But when I turned 16 everything just fell apart. I started to experience severe period pain and heavy bleeding. I started missing my school days. This really affected me. It was my GCSE year and instead of revising, I was suffering with my symptoms. I was diagnosed with adenomyosis and endometriosis a year later, but I wish I’d known about these conditions earlier. We should learn about what a normal period is and what isn’t normal in school.”

just a period woman with megaphone

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