A survey of 3,000 women and girls in the UK aged 16 to 40 for the Wellbeing of Women charity found that 86 per cent had had mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and mood changes, in relation to their period,
Meanwhile, of those surveyed, 96 per cent had experienced
, with 59 per cent saying their pain was severe. 91 per cent had experienced heavy periods, with 49 per cent saying their bleeding was severe.
Even though these are common symptoms in women and girls with gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids and polycystic ovary syndrome, the report found that 51 per cent of respondents felt their healthcare professional had failed to take their problems seriously, and 82 per cent said they needed better access to accurate information on period problems.
A further one-third never seek medical help, and more than half say their symptoms are not taken seriously, despite other symptoms including pain, heavy bleeding and irregular cycles.
Prof Dame Lesley Regan, the chair of Wellbeing of Women, said: “It’s simply unacceptable that anyone is expected to suffer with period symptoms that disrupt their lives, including taking time off school, work, or their caring responsibilities, all of which may result in avoidable mental health problems.
“Periods should not affect women’s lives in this way. If they do, it can be a sign of a gynaecological condition that requires attention and ongoing support – not dismissal.”
Wellbeing of Women has launched its “Just a Period” campaign, which Regan said aims to address “the many years of medical bias, neglect and stigma in women’s health”. This includes tips on how to get the most out of seeing your GP and what women should do if they feel they have been dismissed by health professionals.
Responding to the findings, Dr Ranee Thakar, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “All too often women are living with debilitating symptoms, waiting to receive support or treatment for far longer than they should.
“Access to high-quality information and support about periods, gynaecological conditions and their symptoms is vital to ensuring that women and girls get the help that they need at the right time.”
Caroline Nokes, the Conservative MP and chair of the women and equalities committee, which is conducting an inquiry into reproductive and gynaecological health, said: “There is a terrible phrase: ‘Well, it’s just a period, why are you making a fuss about that? Can’t you just get on with it?’ Yet many women and girls are experiencing horrendous period symptoms and gynaecological conditions. Endometriosis alone affects 1.5 million women in the UK and costs the economy £8.2bn. Now is the time for change.”
Anneliese Dodds, the shadow secretary of state for women and equalities, said: “Over the past few years, we have opened up the conversation around the menopause, and now we need to see this change with periods as well.”