Schoolgirls to get ‘pep talk’ on how to spot signs of endometriosis

Key points

  • Students in Victorian state secondary schools will be taught to spot the early warning signs of endometriosis.
  • From term three, reproductive health experts will visit 56 schools as part of a national campaign.
  • Endometriosis, a painful chronic condition, affects more than 10 per cent of girls and women.

Students in Victorian secondary schools will be taught to spot the early warning signs of endometriosis, a painful chronic condition that affects more than 10 per cent of girls and women, and how to seek help for it.

From term three, reproductive health and wellbeing experts will visit 56 secondary schools as part of a nationwide education campaign on pelvic pain, period pain and endometriosis.

Students in state secondary schools will be taught to spot the early warning signs of endometriosis.Credit:Shutterstock

Endometriosis is a chronic condition, that can affect fertility, in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus.

Each case takes an average of 6½ years to be formally diagnosed, which can only be done through surgical intervention.

The lessons, called “PPEP talks” (the acronym stands for Pelvic Pain Education Program), will be given to year 10 students in an initiative that is co-funded by the state and the Commonwealth. The program is currently limited to government schools.

Endometriosis, though common, is not yet covered in the Victorian curriculum, Sandringham College principal Amy Porter said.

Porter said there were students at the bayside state school who regularly had to miss lessons because of extreme period pain or endometriosis, but that the condition was not widely talked about among students or teachers, and that many girls would struggle to identify the symptoms of endometriosis.

“We have students at our high school who get diagnosed with endometriosis and the lead-up to that is actually quite impactful on their learning because what they think is extreme period pain is actually endometriosis,” Porter said.

“They can’t concentrate on learning, or they miss learning because of it. So a campaign that could help identify the early signs and seek medical intervention, or at least some guidance from a doctor, would be really useful.”

Better educating young Victorians about their reproductive health and the prevalence of these conditions will empower them to know the warning signs and seek help sooner, the Andrews government said.

“Endometriosis affects one in nine Australian women and girls, and it often takes years to get a diagnosis; we’re making sure they know how to seek help earlier, so young Victorians don’t have to suffer in pain unnecessarily,” Education Minister James Merlino said.

Author and endometriosis campaigner Bridget Hustwaite experienced period pain for more than a decade before being diagnosed with endometriosis and said early education is crucial to reducing the time it takes to diagnose the condition.

Hustwaite has written to the Victorian government, urging it to do more to educate students about the condition. She said she was thrilled that Victorian students were being given the opportunity to learn about it.

“A program like PPEP is exactly what I needed when I first started experiencing period pain at the age of 15 and something that could have saved me from bouncing between GPs for 12 years before obtaining an official diagnosis via laparoscopic excision surgery,” Hustwaite said.

The PPEP program has previously visited schools in South Australia and NSW.

Its adoption in Victoria follows a $20.7 million initiative to place free pads and tampons in every state secondary school.

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