Pain conditions in children are more common than usually recognised – and pain becomes more common after puberty, especially in girls. Much of this pain is pelvic pain.
While some pain with periods is normal, we now know that around 1 in in 5 teenage girls suffer severe pain with periods. A study of 1000 Australian girls aged 16-18 found that while 93% had pain of some kind with a period, 21% experienced severe pain, and 26% had missed school with periods, either for pain or a mix of other conditions including heavy bleeding.
The most common cause of pelvic pain in teenagers is endometriosis and it is now known that the symptoms of endometriosis can begin from a girl’s first menstrual period – with period pain (dysmenorrhoea) or heavy bleeding (menorrhagia) the most common problems. While discomfort with periods is often normal, pain which causes distress is never normal. Left untreated, these symptoms can severely affect a young woman’s quality of life, relationships with friends and family, schooling and potentially, their future fertility.
The commonest problem teens have is period pain, but there can be other symptoms too, like:
- lower back pain
- pain down the legs
- pelvic muscle pain
- an irritable bowel
- pain through the month
Every symptom impacts on her well-being, confidence and self-esteem.
Parker MA, Sneddon AE, Arbon P. The menstrual disorder of teenagers (MDOT) study: determining typical menstrual patterns and menstrual disturbance in a large population-based study of Australian teenagers. BJOG 2009 117:2;185-92
Perquin C, Hazebroek-Kampschreur A, Hunfeld J, Bohnena A, van Suijlekom-Smit L, Passchier J, van der Wouden J. Pain in children and adolescents: a common experience. Pain 2000;87:51-58.