Teens may not speak up about their pain and how much it affects them for many reasons:
- girls often don’t think their pain is as bad as pain in adults.
- ‘bad periods’ may be ‘normal’ in their family. Girls may be told they are ‘just like ‘grandma, or an aunt or mum’. This plays out as a family expectation of pain, and their pain may be minimised or discounted.
- girls may be too embarrassed to discuss their periods or other pelvic symptoms with their family or health practitioner.
- when they do see a health practitioner, their period pain may be dismissed or discounted.
- girls may be told they are too young to have endometriosis.
- girls may not be financially able to seek professional advice or may not have the confidence to continue seeking help if their pain has not been taken seriously.
- stomach pains may be described as ‘psychosomatic’ and blamed on her emotional state.
- endometriosis requires a laparoscopy for definite diagnosis, so can easily be missed.
- cultural and society stigmas and myths about menstruation are common, with barriers to a young persons ability to access care.
How can we improve the life of teens with pelvic pain?
Positive changes to better care for young women are needed and already available in many countries:
- An effective education program in schools, that allows teens to rccognise what is normal, and when it is appropriate to seek health has been available in New Zealand schools for over 15 years.
- A public awareness campaign would assist a change in public attitude and promote discussion in families and communities.
- Education of health professionals to improve their ability to recognise the early signs of endometriosis is needed. With improved knowledge, listening well and taking a careful medical history, her symptoms can be managed promptly and effectively.
- A commitment by government to the health of young people is imperative. The City of New York has declared endometriosis, obesity and alcoholism/substance abuse their top three diseases causing significant harm to young people.