A group of MPs is to launch an inquiry into women’s experiences of endometriosis, after research found thousands have had suicidal thoughts because of the painful condition.
A BBC-commissioned survey involving 13,500 women with endometriosis, which occurs when some of the tissue that lines the womb grows on other pelvic organs and can cause debilitating pain and sometimes fertility issues, found half of respondents had considered suicide because of the condition and many said they were consequently addicted to painkillers.
Most of the women said the condition had affected their career, education, sex life and mental health. Endometriosis affects around one in 10 women and takes on average seven-and-a-half years to diagnose.
The survey results prompted the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Endometriosis to launch an inquiry into how it was affecting women.
APPG chair Sir David Amess said: “The APPG is committed to raising awareness of this condition and representing the interests of people who live with it. We will therefore be launching an inquiry in the near future to hear from patients and healthcare professionals about their first-hand experiences, before making recommendations to the government. It is essential that women with endometriosis are given the right support at the right time.”
The charity Endometriosis UK claimed the condition is costing the UK economy £8.2bn a year in treatment, loss of work and healthcare costs. It said the NHS needed to “wake up to the scale of endometriosis” and offer support to those who need it. It also called for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Endometriosis: Diagnosis and Management guidelines to be properly implemented across the UK and said more investment was needed to fund research into the condition’s causes, treatment and management options.
Emma Cox, CEO of Endometriosis UK, said: “This shocking new research is a stark reminder that both society and the NHS need to wake up and accept that endometriosis is a chronic condition that cannot be brushed under the carpet.
“The potentially devastating impact this condition can have on people’s physical and mental health cannot be overstated. Without investment in research, a reduction in diagnosis time and better access to pain management, women will continue to face huge barriers in accessing the right treatment at the right time.”
Minister for women’s health Caroline Dinenage urged clinicians to “play their part in breaking down the ongoing stigma around endometriosis” and encouraged employers create supportive and flexible ways to help those living the condition.
Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes added: “Having a physical illness significantly increases our chances of having poor mental health. Living in constant pain and struggling with daily life, with relationships, with conception and with work add to the burden for women living with endometriosis.
“These figures are a stark reminder that physical and mental health are not felt separately, yet health services still too often cannot deal with them both at the same time.
“Health services need to wake up to the hidden and unspoken emotional pain too many women experience without the help they need to manage such a poorly understood and distressing condition.”