Information for students

We should all be able to access education, whether at school, college, or university but evidence suggests that this is not always easy for those who are living with what might be symptoms of endometriosis.

The age at which most people start secondary school, 11 years, is also the age at which periods often start. Evidence suggests that endometriosis symptoms, typically severe period pain, start in puberty and are often linked to periods.  

In some people the first and most noticeable symptom of endometriosis is severe period pain. Severe period pain can make it hard to sleep, concentrate, or go about your daily activities, including socialising with friends and family. Sometimes, severe period pain can be accompanied by heavy menstrual bleeding and clots. These symptoms can make going to school or college, and paying attention in class, more difficult, whether the cause of them is endometriosis or not.

Some people might notice that they experience problems with pooing and peeing at around the time of their periods, or that they get very tired. Symptoms like these can also sometimes be linked to endometriosis. If this sounds like you, it is very important to speak to a medical doctor. You may wish to ask a family member, guardian, or friend to support you during any appointments you have.  

About one in ten girls in the UK will have endometriosis and it might be that your doctor suspects this to be the case for you. They may order further investigations or advise you on ways to manage your symptoms.  

It is also important that you or your family member or guardian tell your school about the impact of your symptoms on your education and wellbeing. That might mean speaking to your form tutor or head of pastoral care.

You might find it embarrassing to tell your school or college that your period related symptoms are causing you to struggle in class but it’s important to be honest. This will help your school or college work with you to find ways to enable you to manage your studies.

There are some things that might help you manage period-related problems and possible endometriosis at school.

Access to period products

If your periods are very heavy and you are in a local authority-maintained school in Wales, a range of period products should be available for free. Some schools keep them in pastoral areas in a dispenser. Other schools will have them in the toilets. Sometimes, you might have to ask a member of staff to get them for you. If you think you are likely to experience heavy bleeding that day, and you know that there aren’t period products in the toilets, it is best to ask staff in charge of supplies ahead of time, so you don’t get caught short.

Changes of clothes

If you are likely to have times where your periods leak through your clothes, it might help to have spare pants in your bag, just in case. Your school should also have spare uniforms available in case of emergencies, so don’t be afraid to ask. You might not need to use the spare pants, but it will feel reassuring to have them.

Toilet passes

Some schools expect pupils to produce a toilet pass if they think they might need to go to the toilet during lessons. If this is the case with your school, it might be a good idea to apply for one in advance which makes clear that your periods, related symptoms, or endometriosis can be difficult to manage, such as being unpredictable, painful, or involve heavy bleeding. All of these might mean you need to access a toilet quickly and at different times of the day. You might not need to use the toilet pass but it will feel reassuring to have it.

Support and understanding from your teachers

From 2022, menstrual health and wellbeing, and menstrual health conditions like endometriosis, have been listed on the secondary school curriculum for Wales as one of the things teachers should know about. It may be that topics about health, wellbeing, and Relationships & Sexuality Education (RSE), which includes menstrual education, are delivered by a particular member of staff or a school nurse, so it may be best to go to them if you are struggling or have any questions about your symptoms. You might want to ask them to let your other teachers know about the problems you are having, so that they are aware of times you might find things more difficult or not be able to take part. Talking to your teachers might also help you figure out together how you can participate when experiencing symptoms.    

Some students with heavy or painful periods and other symptoms of endometriosis find that exercise can help them, others find these symptoms make it hard to do physical education. For those who find it hard, a letter from home or the support of a member of staff can make it easier to explain to others what you can and cannot do during physical education.  

If you are at school or college, there are some things that might help you to manage severe period pain and possible endometriosis.

Taking medication

Sometimes, students with severe period pain and other symptoms of suspected or confirmed endometriosis might need to take pain relief or other medications to help them manage their symptoms at school or college. If this is you, it is important to let your teachers or tutors know that this is what you are taking and how often. If you are taking a prescription medication, it is likely that your school will want to keep it safe and secure, requiring you to ask for it at the appropriate times. If you need to take over-the-counter medications like paracetamol but don’t have any of your own, you should discuss your needs with a school nurse or college medical centre.

Keeping up with school, college, and homework

Sometimes, even when family, friends, and teachers are understanding of your difficulties, severe period pain and other possible symptoms of endometriosis can make it difficult to attend school or college. This can mean that you run the risk of falling behind in your work.  

It is very important that you (or your family member, guardian, or carer) have ongoing discussions with your school or college about ways to manage your workload so that you are not disadvantaged because of your health. It might be that you need extra time to complete homework, or that you do some of your work from home on the days when your symptoms are very bad. Sometimes, schools can provide extra tuition after school during the times you are well so that you can catch up, either with a teacher or a ‘buddy’.

Asking for ‘reasonable adjustments’

These are measures or actions taken by the school, college, or university to help disabled students take part in education on the same basis as those students who are not disabled. Education providers are legally required to try to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students who request them. Schools will also try to accommodate the needs of people who have symptoms but don’t describe themselves as disabled.

Reasonable adjustments might include things like changing how the classroom is set up so that you can have your desk closer to the door in case you need to get to the toilet quickly, providing extra support in case you need to catch up on work you have missed, or modifying the curriculum so that you don’t have as many tasks to do if you have been absent a lot. Reasonable adjustments will be unique to each person so it’s important that you, your parent, guardian, or friend is able to take some time to speak to your tutors about your needs and, together, work out ways forward so that you don’t lose out on your education.

A doctor’s note

Sometimes your school or college will ask for a note from your doctor to confirm how your symptoms affect you. If your symptoms mean that you need extra time to complete tasks or your exams, a doctor’s note can be used to support this request.  

Special consideration or ‘extenuating circumstances’

These can sometimes be considered when a student has a long-term health issue or impairment, or temporarily experiences an illness, injury, or other event outside of their control at the time of a formal exam or assessment. These arrangements often differ between exam boards and educational establishments, so it is very important to seek advice from your school, college, or university.  

Providing your teachers or tutors with information

You might wish to suggest to your school that staff members consider taking the SPPINN (Severe Period Pain Is Not Normal) Training Course, to help them identify and support students with severe period pain which might be endometriosis.