Newsbeat

The campaign to break the taboo around periods at school

Sanitary towel and tampon Image copyright Getty Images

A 22-year-old who has a menstrual condition wants better education about periods in schools.

Alice Smith has endometriosis and is leading a campaign to get "menstrual wellbeing" on to the school curriculum.

"We need to start breaking down the taboos about what is normal and what is not normal," says Alice.

A government consultation reviewing the sex and relationship education curriculum in English schools ends in February.

Image copyright Alice Smith

Alice was embarrassed to talk about her periods because she didn't know if what she was going through was normal.

Endometriosis, which affects one in ten women, can cause chronic pain, heavy periods, painful sex and depression.

"Every time I had a period I had to go to A&E and I was given morphine," she tells Newsbeat.

She was eventually diagnosed at 14 after an operation.

But, even then, she found it "isolating".

"My best friends knew about it but they couldn't relate because it wasn't spoken about," she says.

'No-one understood'

Eloise, an 18-year-old from Portsmouth, was only diagnosed with endometriosis last year - despite starting her period when she was 11.

She agrees that talking about periods more openly would have helped her.

"It really needs to be talked about from a younger age and there needs to be a lot more awareness about the condition.

Image copyright Eloise Cage
Image caption Eloise started her period at 11

"My periods were horrible - they were so heavy I would change my pads every half an hour.

"I ended up missing a lot of school because I was in so much pain and no-one really understood. People kept saying I'd grow out of it."

She says boys and girls should be taught about periods together.

"It's extremely important menstrual wellbeing is being taught to boys and girls - this shouldn't be a segregated issue.

"Look at my brother, his sister has endometriosis, it's important he knows as much as possible. This isn't just a women's issue."

Image copyright Getty Images

Ellie has started a petition on the issue and, if it gets enough signatures, she wants to take it to Parliament.

A Department for Education spokesperson says: "Current guidance to schools on relationship and sex education encourages schools to make adequate and sensitive arrangements to help girls cope with menstruation."

The government's consultation to update guidance on what should be taught when sex education becomes compulsory in all schools will take effect in 2019.

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