To characterise typical menstrual characteristics in a large sample of secondary school girls, as well as knowledge of typical menstruation, endometriosis awareness and educational needs. To establish whether self-reported atypical period symptoms indicate menstrual characteristics suggesting the need for further clinical review for a specialist opinion.
Cross-sectional survey.
Secondary schools in West Midlands, England.
442 girls, 15-19 years.
The questionnaire determined demographic characteristics, age at menarche, menstrual cycle patterns and experiences, awareness of endometriosis, and preferences for learning about it.
Period pain was common (94%), with pain reported as moderate/severe (86%). Girls reported missing school due to their periods (23%), mainly due to pain. Most believed their period was typical (63%); however, 27% were unsure, and 30% did not know if it was regular. Self-report of atypical periods was associated with symptoms suggesting need for clinical review and with consulting a doctor (χ²(2) = 36.272, p < 0.001). Only 8% could describe endometriosis, though 86% wanted to learn more about it.
Most secondary school girls report dysmenorrhea. Although most reporting atypical periods had seen a doctor, over a quarter did not know whether their period was typical or regular. The majority do not have knowledge of endometriosis, contrasting with adolescents’ familiarity with other common chronic conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy. We suggest Menstrual Health Education (MHE) to improve knowledge of typical menstruation and pain treatment, aiding earlier identification of problematic period symptoms that might indicate underlying pathology.