Empowering Conversations: A Year 12’s Take on Endometriosis, Period Pain, Contraceptive Perspectives

Period pain, Contraception and Endometriosis. Words that typically evoke unease and discomfort – a result of their stigmatised nature. As a Year 12 Extraordinary Learning student researching these topics, I have created an interactive presentation for my peers, collaborated with a Body in Question teacher to produce a lesson plan and thoroughly analysed current perspectives. My dissatisfaction with the lack of conversation regarding sexual health and my experience with dysmenorrhea motivated my learning. This article summarises my key findings. 

What are Endometriosis and Dysmenorrhea?:

Endometriosis is a condition that affects 1 in 9 people with a uterus and consists of the endometrium (tissue that lines the uterus) growing in other areas of the body. The condition causes significant pain, scarring, inflammation, organ adhesion and infertility. Endometriosis is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as other pelvic pain disorders. The treatment for endometriosis is also inaccessible to many patients due to the lack of representation and understanding of the condition and the invasive procedure – a laparoscopy – required to remove the tissue.  Dysmenorrhea, colloquially referred to as period pain,  is the pain experienced by 1 in 5 people who experience periods. A large misconception is that period pain is normal and untreatable. Any pain past the first 2-3 days of menstruation is abnormal and requires discussion with a healthcare professional who can advise different treatment options. Depending on the severity, pain medication, anti-inflammatories medication and lifestyle changes – typically diet, exercise and warm compresses – can be used to manage the effects of period pain.  For pain that is unresolved by these changes other options, such as contraceptives to shorten periods and reduce the associated pain, may be considered. If you or someone you know is experiencing pelvic pain, consider consulting with a healthcare professional to resolve the issue. 

What are Current Perspectives on Contraception:

There are varying perspectives regarding sexual health and well-being. These perspectives typically result from differing health determinants, particularly the social and economic environment. In analysing the issue of contraceptive responsibility, men, women and healthcare professional perspectives were considered. The issue analysis encompassed a small demographic and focused on heterosexual relationships due to the increased data and information compared to people within minority groups. Among individuals identifying as women, many expressed a considerable aversion to their role as primary contraceptive users. Conversely, men commonly expressed contentment with the status quo, conditional on minimal side effects if they assumed sole contraceptive responsibility. Healthcare professionals typically shared the perspective that the current social system is inadequate and that change is needed in attitudes surrounding sexual health as a whole. These varying perspectives strongly contribute to pelvic pain treatment as contraception has been found to be a valuable option for those suffering. For further insight, the following resources are recommended, as they informed my understanding alongside numerous research papers: 

So What Next?:

Moving forward, change is needed in attitudes on an individual, community and government scale. In raising awareness regarding the importance of sexual health and well-being, more people suffering from conditions such as endometriosis and dysmenorrhea will feel less isolated. Current societal expectations prevent many from speaking out about their pain, in making small changes – such as improving health literacy and having more conversations about issues like pelvic pain – people will likely be more comfortable in speaking out and seeking help.

Liv, Year 12 Extraordinary Learning Student