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Women dismissed as ‘just having their period’ despite majority in severe pain, survey reveals

 (Pexels/Andrea Piacqadio)
(Pexels/Andrea Piacqadio)

British women say symptoms of their period are not taken seriously and dismissed as “just a period” despite most experiencing severe pain, a survey reveals.

Three thousand women who took part said they are often dismissed - even in the healthcare system - or symptoms such as debilitating pain, heavy bleeding for up to six weeks, irregular cycles and associated mental health problems are normalised.

In response medical experts have warned that severe pain and heavy bleeding are common symptoms among women with gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis and urged women to push for a diagnosis.

Almost every woman (96 per cent) surveyed for the Wellbeing of Women charity had experienced period pain, with more than half reporting severe pain.

An overwhelming majority experienced heavy periods (91 per cent) and almost half of the women surveyed, aged between 16 and 40 years old, said their bleeding was severe.

Despite most women reporting either pain or severe bleeding during their period, 51 per cent felt their healthcare professional failed to take their problems seriously.

Tanya Simon-Hall said she experienced severe pain and vomiting for years before she was diagnosed with endometriosis.

“My periods leave me on the floor. I’m vomiting and can’t move. I’m crying (a lot of crying), holding my belly, with shooting pains down my back, down my leg,” she said.

“I get pains in my rectum, so I can’t sit down. There’s a metallic taste in my mouth and a really heightened sense of smell.

“I try to be positive. But there was a stage in my life where the pain was daily – it gets hard to keep going.”

More than 80 per cent reported experiencing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and mood changes in relation to their period, and 82 per cent wanted better access to information on period problems.

Prof Dame Lesley Regan, the chair of Wellbeing of Women, said: “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.”

Severe pain, heavy bleeding and irregular cycles are common symptoms among women with gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids and adenomyosis, which require treatment and support.

But women reported not receiving a diagnosis for 20 years.

Endometriosis alone affects 1.5 million women in the UK and costs the economy £8.2bn.

Caroline Nokes, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “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. Now is the time for change.”

Wellbeing of Women has launched its “Just a Period” campaign on Thursday to help women recognise if they need diagnosis, treatment or support for a gynaecological condition.