28 February 2017

S5M-03354 Endometriosis Awareness Week

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-03354, in the name of Kenneth Gibson, on the “It’s OK to talk. Period.” campaign. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,
That the Parliament notes that Endometriosis Awareness Week 2017 will run from 6 to 12 March and have the theme, It’s OK to Talk. Period.; recognises that the aim of the week is to draw attention to the impact of the condition on the lives of the 10% of women of reproductive age who are living with it, including what it understands is a significant number in both Cunninghame North and across Scotland; believes that it can be exceptionally difficult to diagnose, with the average time for diagnosis after the first symptoms are experienced being 7.5 years; acknowledges that this year’s theme was chosen to specifically encourage women and girls to seek medical help if they experience painful, heavy, difficult or irregular periods, as this can be a sign of the condition; appreciates that half of all women with it experience the first symptoms in their teenage years; is aware that it causes physical pain and can lead to infertility and depression; believes that, although endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition, there is not enough debate and awareness about it, and notes the view that urgent work is required to see what can be done to achieve both earlier diagnosis and better treatment options for the many women in Scotland and beyond with endometriosis.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I thank Kenneth Gibson for giving us the opportunity to discuss this topic. Endometriosis is heavily underdiscussed, especially considering the range of people it affects. I am a man in his 70s, and my generation of men did not much engage in or discuss anything to do with female reproduction. Indeed, it was only after my mother’s death that I discovered that a year before I was born she had an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in the loss of a fallopian tube.

Thus, the risks that she took in giving birth to me, my brother and my sister were substantial. That was just not the sort of thing that was discussed with men of my generation. Tonight’s debate is therefore an opportunity to engage men, as well as to reflect the needs of women.

Just this morning, I spoke with a young woman who has been diagnosed with the disease. She was eager to hear tonight’s discussion and grateful for Parliament’s steps in raising awareness and, we hope, furthering research to find a cure.

The idea that there is no cure for a disease that affects one in 10 women in the world is almost unbelievable in the modern age—especially when we think about the great medical advances that have been made in other areas. Yet, despite the fact that all those women live with the disease, the low number of people who have even heard of it—including myself, until the debate came up—is almost unbelievable.

Endometriosis’s impact is wider and more destructive than it looks at first glance. On the one hand, it comes with chronic pain and fatigue—and not just physical pain, as there are mental consequences, too. Fundamentally, I understand that the effect of endometriosis on one person can be quite significantly different from its effect on someone else. Some might experience a host of symptoms, while others are almost asymptomatic. Regardless of that, living with an incurable disease day in and day out is not something that any of us would wish to take lightly.

The strain of the condition does not affect just the individual who suffers from it. The friends and family of a woman who is diagnosed will also feel that strain, which the condition places on relationships and commitments in work and social lives when a woman is in too much pain to go out of the house or even to rise from bed. Frankly—and I say this with no pleasure whatsoever—those women are often keeping families going, keeping children at school and simultaneously undertaking careers.

There a number of support groups for women with the disease, where they can meet others who are suffering. Such groups are a useful outlet, I am sure. However, what would happen if we—and by “we” I mean the medical field, Governments and society as a whole—became a more proactive support group? We need to offer more.

The disease has been swept under the carpet and out of public conversation for too long. Talking about disease, especially one that is gender based, can sometimes be quite difficult, particularly for us men. I hope that mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and friends will take some comfort from the fact that at least some of the men in the Parliament are engaging with the conversation. I know women who have been diagnosed with endometriosis. I say to them that we are in their corner, cheering on the advancements that we hope will come

For many women, the fight is a silent one. However, during endometriosis awareness week in March, we all need to stand up and speak on the subject. In this area, as in so many others, we need strong women to lead us, direct us, put pressure on for new research, create new treatment options and, ultimately, find a cure.

We hope that this debate will raise awareness. Let us keep talking about the condition. I love talking, so that is easy for me; for others, it might be more difficult, but I encourage them to do so, even if that is not something that they would do naturally. Our goal should be to find the day when no woman has to fight against her own body.


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