Education programs about menstrual health in schools helps raise awareness of endometriosis among adolescent students and encourages young women to look for specialized health services at a younger age, according to recent research.
The study, “Endometriosis Education In Schools: A New Zealand Model Examining The Impact Of An Education Program In Schools On Early Recognition Of Symptoms Suggesting Endometriosis,” was published in the journal Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
According to the authors, the worldwide prevalence of dysmenorrhea (painful periods) in adolescents is 25% to 93%, with 20% to 31% missing school due to pain and 24% to 66% saying their pain greatly interferes with daily life activities, such as sports and exercise, relationships with family and friends, and social activities.
Severe dysmenorrhea may be linked to an underlying disease such as endometriosis. Although it plays a significant role in young women’s life, there are no studies investigating how menstrual health education programs in schools helps raise awareness of endometriosis.
To fulfill this gap, researchers analyzed audit data from education in secondary schools and data from an Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Coaching clinic operating in a private endometriosis center in New Zealand, where a Menstrual Health and Endometriosis program (the me program) was implemented in 1997.
The program reaches both boys and girls ages 13 to 18 and aims to:
- Identify abnormal menstrual symptoms;
- Raise awareness of endometriosis;
- Improve physical, emotional, and social well-being and protect women’s future fertility;
- Encourage teenagers to seek healthcare;
- Remove social stigmas, awkward attitudes, and taboos related to menstruation and menstrual irregularities.
The analysis showed that in a region where the educational program is consistently delivered, student awareness of endometriosis was 32% in 2015. In that year, 13% of students complained of distressing menstrual symptoms and 27% reported sometimes or always missing school due to menstrual pain.
Importantly, consistent delivery of the menstrual health education program was associated with an increase in younger patients attending for specialized endometriosis.
“We have demonstrated strong suggestive evidence for the first time that consistent delivery of a menstrual health and endometriosis program in secondary schools increases awareness of endometriosis and may promote timely presentation of young women to specialized healthcare services,” researchers wrote.
“This might also promote earlier intervention. Further research is required to verify whether this does indeed result in early presentation and whether this may improve short-term and long-term outcomes of importance to women.”