Paralympian Charlotte Henshaw: 'We need to talk about periods without embarrassment'

Charlotte Henshaw

Mansfield Paralympic champion Charlotte Henshaw is urging more women to talk openly about their periods and menstrual health.

The para-canoe champion said she had been suffering with pelvic and lower abdominal pain for years. But it wasn't until her coach encouraged her to track her periods that she was sent to a gynaecologist and diagnosed with endometriosis.

She said: "It's really challenging to live with those symptoms and the unknown of what is causing this pain. Some days it was so bad I couldn't get out of bed, it was so painful. It really did affect my training.

"Menstruation, period, all those words need to become a lot more frequently used, and without embarrassment.

"I've definitely grown more confident in talking about my reproductive health in the last few months because I've had to. It's fostered so many more useful conversations."

It comes as new research shows that 76% of women would put off going to the GP, even if they had a painful period that was interfering with their day-to-day life.

The research from Endometriosis UK found that number was even higher in women aged aged 16-24, with 89% saying they would put off going to their doctor about painful periods.

Most women stated they assumed painful periods are "a normal part of life" with many avoiding medical attention at the fear of not being taken seriously.

However, painful periods can be symptomatic of wider issues, like endometriosis.

GP Dr Lisa Philip explains: "I think it's really upsetting that this affects so many women and they don't feel like they can see the GP.

"I think we grow up and we're conditioned to think period pains are normal, and a normal part of life and we should get on with them, which to a certain degree is true.

"But if your period pain impacts you so much that you can't carry on with your daily life and you have to take to bed for two the three days a month, then it's a significant problem."

Emma Cox, CEO of Endometriosis UK, added: “We hear a lot of stories from those with endometriosis who were told as a teenager that they were being overdramatic, that the pain was all in their head, or their level of pain not believed.

“As awareness and understanding of endometriosis grows, we hope comments like these can be consigned to history."

Dr Lisa Philip wants to encourage women to talk to their GP about their period

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a condition where cells and tissue usually found in the lining of the womb starts to grow elsewhere in the body.

These cells behave in the same way as those in the womb, but unlike a period, have no way of leaving the body.

It is estimated one in 10 women have endometriosis. It can be debilitating, have a huge impact at work, and those with the condition can need frequent access to a toilet due to bowel or bladder related symptoms.

Endometriosis UK is urging anyone experiencing painful periods and pelvic pain which interfere with day-to-day activities to take action and contact a doctor, rather than put it off.