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Why Tweens Should Know About Endo

I didn’t learn much about my menstrual cycle until fifth-grade heath class. You know, the one where boys and girls are separated to learn about puberty. I was about 11 when my fellow females and I learned the details about shedding our uterine lining once a month. We would bleed for about a week — if we weren’t pregnant — and maybe have some mild cramps and fatigue along with it. There was no mention of endometriosis or any other menstrual disorder — fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, adenomyosis.1,2

The whole thing seemed like a drag, but at least it seemed straightforward. There’s no reason your menstrual cycle should affect your overall quality of life, my teacher assured all of us.

She couldn’t have been more wrong, at least for me. My periods, which started when I was about 12, were agonizing from the beginning. I remember sitting in sixth-grade reading class trying to go over a worksheet and having a hard time focusing because my cramps were blindingly painful. I had a tenuous grasp of the menstrual cycle at that point, so I just assumed I would get used to this anarchy in my body. And since no one else complained about their nightmare periods, I figured this was all common.

But like many women with undiagnosed endometriosis, I had no idea periods weren’t supposed to be debilitating.

Why I will tell my nieces about endo

I learned 10 years after my first period that my experience was not normal. And not only did my condition have a name, there was even treatment for it. I still feel sad for that teenage version of myself. I want to go back in time and slide an informational pamphlet about endometriosis under her pillow like a helpful period fairy.

This is why I will tell the young women in my life about my experience as soon as it is appropriate. I have nieces and friends with daughters who are on the cusp of starting puberty, and I plan to arm them with information about every researched menstrual disorder I can think of. They may not ultimately get abnormal menstrual cycles, but they will definitely know what to expect — and what to ask doctors — if they do. If teenagers know there are conditions that can result in period pain or irregular bleeding, they can know they are not alone and they can hopefully get help sooner than I did.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Deligeoroglou E, Creatsas G. Menstrual disorders. Endocr Dev. 2012;22:160-170. Accessed July 2, 2019.
  2. Whitaker L, Critchley H. Abnormal uterine bleeding. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2016;34:54-65. Accessed July 2, 2019.