Edinburgh nurse with endometriosis calls for more education in city schools

A healthcare worker says menstrual well-being must play a bigger part in the school curriculum to stop women needlessly suffering in silence.

Saturday, 6th March 2021, 8:33 am
Dionne McFarlane was a teenager when she first experienced the excruciating pelvic pain caused by endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue grows elsewhere in the body, often around reproductive organs, the bowel and bladder.

The tissue builds up and bleeds every month, but with no way of escaping, blood becomes trapped and causes inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue.

While the condition affects one in 10 women in Scotland, and is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK, there is currently no cure.

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Treatment can help reduce the symptoms which include pain, heavy periods, bladder and bowel issues and in some cases infertility.

Dionne McFarlane was a teenager when she first experienced the excruciating pelvic pain caused by endometriosis.

“It is like someone is repeatedly stabbing you” she said, “It is so sharp and so intense it can make you vomit.”

After years of appointments with her GP and gynaecologist, Miss McFarlane was eventually diagnosed with endometriosis aged 18.

Since then she has had four surgeries to remove endometrial tissue and has had to learn to manage the persistent pain through a cocktail of medications.

Five-years on from her initial diagnosis Miss McFarlane, 23, who works as a nurse in the Capital, is campaigning for more education around the condition.

She believes the topic should be taught to all schoolgirls by the age of 13 to help avoid thousands of teens suffering in silence.

“Thirteen might sound young” she said “But girls need to understand what might be happening to their bodies.”

Shocking statistics released by Endometriosis UK revealed that 62 per cent of women would put off going to the doctor if they began to suffer symptoms of endometriosis. This statistic rises to 80 per cent among 16 to 24-year-olds.

A spokesperson from Endometriosis UK said women's reluctance to seek medical help can be partly attributed to lack of education.

They said: “Young people are not equipped with enough information at school about what is and is not normal, which is why we are campaigning for menstrual well-being to form a mandatory part of the school curriculum in Scotland.

“This would help remove taboos, and ensure everyone understands what is “normal” for a menstrual cycle, and how and when to seek help if someone is experiencing potential symptoms of a menstrual health condition.”

Chief executive officer of Endometriosis UK Emma Cox said education is also needed for healthcare professionals as the latest statistics show people visit the doctor on average 10 times prior to their diagnosis.

Ms Cox said: “Myths such as “chronic period pain is normal” or “you must have a low pain threshold” manifesting in society, workplaces, schools, and even healthcare settings contribute to those experiencing symptoms being put off from seeking medical advice and contribute to diagnosis taking on average a shocking eight years.

“The impact of delayed diagnosis on people’s physical and mental health can’t be overstated. If undiagnosed, the disease may progress, and negatively impact people’s careers, education, relationships and all aspects of their life.”