A new research study conducted by the BBC has highlighted the devastating impact endometriosis has on women’s lives — including their careers, education, mental health, and sex life, with around half stating they have experienced suicidal thoughts.

The BBC gathered the experiences of more than 13,500 women with endometriosis in the UK, making it the largest study of its kind. Of those who took part:

  • nearly all said it had badly affected their career, mental health and sex life

  • most said it had impacted on their education

  • most said they rely on prescription painkillers every month, including potentially addictive opioids

  • around half said they had experienced suicidal thoughts.

The charity Endometriosis UK is calling on the Government to “face up to the reality that failing those with endometriosis impacts significantly on the economy, costing the UK £8.2 billion a year in treatment, loss of work and healthcare costs, as well as with the significant impact on the individual’s physical and mental health”.

In addition, MPs have committed to launching an inquiry into endometriosis which will follow the BBC’s research.

Sir David Amess, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Endometriosis said, “The research which has been published today shows the devastating impact that endometriosis can have on a person’s life — including their education, career, and mental health. The APPG is committed to raising awareness of this condition and representing the interests of people who live with it”.

Emma Cox, CEO of Endometriosis UK added, “Endometriosis affects over 1.5 million women in the UK and the impact it can have on all aspects of a person’s life — both physically and mentally — must be recognised. Currently the diagnosis time for endometriosis is an unacceptable 7.5 years on average; this must come down”.

Comment from Kate Palmer, Associate Director of Advisory at Peninsula

Employers should not underestimate the impact that long-term medical conditions can have on an employee. Providing appropriate support to members of staff in this position can help retain key employees and encourage their continued engagement in an organisation.

The first step to take is to hold a meeting with the employee to discuss their condition and any adjustments that may help them with their role. These adjustments should not merely concern physical aspects of the job but may also include amendments to other areas of the role, eg it may help the employee if it is possible to change their working hours or adjust workloads at certain times of the month.

Once adjustments are in place, regular meetings should be held with the employee to ensure that the measures taken are working.

Employees should make allowances for any leave the employee may need to take off related to their illness, with the understanding that the individual will provide as much notice as possible.

It's likely to be a hugely challenging time for the employee and could harm their mental health. To this end, employers may also provide access to an employee assistance programme (EAP). An EAP can offer counselling and further support services to employees who are struggling.

Last reviewed 9 October 2019