Australian workplaces are being encouraged to educate staff about endometriosis in a bid to raise awareness about the painful disorder affecting one in 10 women.
Endometriosis Queensland president Jessica Taylor told the ABC that while people were slowly becoming “endo aware”, more needed to be done to explain the condition to men.
“One in 10 women have endo, but they are the ones we know about,” Ms Taylor said.
“If we can start talking about it, then people are less likely to foster that negative commentary, that it is ‘just a period’.
“It is not ‘just a period’ that can be controlled with a heat pack and Panadol.”
Endometriosis can cause extreme pain and infertility in women and sometimes can take between seven to 10 years to diagnose.
Ms Taylor said workplaces were the perfect places to educate people about the condition.
Ash Webb, from Toowoomba in Queensland, was diagnosed with endometriosis when she was 19 years old after countless visits to her doctor and hospital emergency departments.
“When I was first diagnosed I had a sense of relief,” Ms Webb, 30, said.
“During high school, I recall laying in the corridors, having stomach cramps.
“It wasn’t all just in my head. I wasn’t sick for no reason, so I felt validated.”
Ms Webb, who works in administration for an oil and gas company, said her workmates became “endo aware” through a series of face-to-face workshops.
“I’m in a male-dominated industry, so it was interesting,” she said.
“It’s a tough disease, because it’s still a taboo topic.
“Usually I will say to a couple of colleagues, ‘hey today is a bad day’.
“When they’re aware of it, it’s a lot easier, because then you can have those conversations and someone might go and offer to heat up my wheat pack.”
She said discussing the health issue at work became easier after the workshops.
“You can probably explain it to a male in passing and it’ll go straight over their head.
“But when you can sit them down with a room full of their peers and it seems to make a lot more sense to them.”
As a result of the workshops, two of Ms Webb’s female colleagues have since been diagnosed with the disease.
“They’ve gone and had their laparoscopies and come back to me within days of having their operations and saying I have endo,” said the pregnant mother of one.
For Endometriosis Awareness Month, Ms Taylor said she wanted more people to learn about the condition and how to help women with it.
“A number of years ago we spoke to a transport company with a male-dominated workforce and the men were so understanding and very kind and wanted to be educated,” she said.
She said the information became useful a couple of years later when a women in the company’s office was diagnosed with the condition and had to undergo fertility treatment.
Ms Taylor also said it was not uncommon for women to go decades without being diagnosed.
“Even women in their 70s were still finding impacts of endo from decades of it being undiagnosed,” she said.
Ms Taylor said according to a 2018 report, endometriosis cost the Australian economy $7.7 billion annually in healthcare, absenteeism, and lost social and economic participation.
“Put simply, if you are having period pain, heavy bleeding or pain from intercourse, bowel movements or urination, that is not normal,” she said.
“It warrants further attention, because early management does help.”
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month around the world.
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