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Canada’s first school-based lessons on endometriosis

This month, the Centre for Pelvic Pain & Endometriosis at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre launched Canada’s first high school-based endometriosis lessons.
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​The lessons are part of a research study to find better ways of raising awareness of endometriosis and menstrual health among young Canadians.

Endometriosis is a common condition among women of reproductive age, yet not many know about the disorder. Endometriosis can cause painful periods, painful ovulation, painful intercourse and frequent bowel dysfunction, and in some cases it can lead to chronic pelvic pain and infertility.

“Sometimes teens who have severe menstrual cramps are told by their mothers, who also are likely to have endometriosis, that this is normal,” says Dr. Catherine Allaire, medical director of BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain & Endometriosis. “This perpetuates the normalization of pain associated with periods.”

New Westminster Secondary is the first school to introduce a series of six classes as part of their sexual health curriculum. The lessons will be taught by an expert health educator from Options for Sexual Health, the largest non-profit sexual health organization that offers current sexual and reproductive health care, information and education to British Columbia and the Yukon with more than 60 clinics in BC. 

The 60-minute lessons are based on the education program developed by Endometriosis New Zealand and will be taught to students in grades eight to 12. The lessons will include students of all genders. Endometriosis does not only affect females but can impact their partners and other interpersonal relationships.

It is estimated that one in ten women has endometriosis. Why then is so little known about a common affliction which can greatly impact lives? All too often, the pain is dismissed as a normal occurrence during the menstrual cycle, but this is far from normal. When the pain is so debilitating that it disrupts a person’s life, the problem needs to be addressed and treated.

“Our students are learning more about health issues, early detection and health promotion,” says Maureen McRae-Stanger, director of instruction, New Westminster school district. “These concepts are clearly aligned to our curriculum, and enhance the work students are already doing in Grade 12 Anatomy and Physiology course.”

Research shows that young women and individuals with symptoms of endometriosis are likely to miss one or more days of school per month because of pain, which can cause students to fall behind in their studies affecting their grades and self-confidence. As adults, this translates to a loss of 10 hours of productivity per week.

It is estimated that endometriosis costs the Canadian economy $1.8 billion per year. There is also an eight to ten year delay in the diagnosis of endometriosis, which means that symptoms are not being treated during that time. 

The hope is that early intervention through education will lead to early detection and treatment by empowering young women and individuals to seek answers and treatment for their pain/symptoms. It has been shown that patients had improvements in quality of life and chronic pelvic pain severity one year after visiting an interdisciplinary centre for pelvic pain and endometriosis.

BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre; endometriosis; chronic pelvic pain
Women's Health; Research
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