Endometriosis Workplace Support

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 29th October 2019.

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Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell 2:30 pm, 29th October 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered endometriosis workplace support.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. This issue affects not just the Minister’s Department, but the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions.

I thank Dr Larisa Corda, who is an obstetrician, gynaecologist and fertility expert—she is in the Public Gallery—the many hundreds of women who have contacted me, and the very brave women who have made the journey to London today to support this debate. I will not reveal the names of the people who have written to me even if they are happy for me to do so, because I want to maintain their confidentiality and ensure that it remains their choice. In opening the debate, I will cover the following areas: the disease itself; the poor diagnosis and medical expertise in dealing with this debilitating condition; its impact on women’s lives; its impact on workplace activity; and the protections that many women feel are not honoured, despite strong workplace health assessment laws.

The disease is often described as cells from the womb growing in other places, but that is a gross underestimation. I believe that that simplistic description is among the reasons why women find it hard to get employers to understand the terrible condition that they are suffering from. According to Dr Corda, since the start of this year more than 100 women have taken their lives as a direct result of this disease.

Endometriosis comes with many symptoms, which occur not just at the time of a woman’s period. The most common are abdominal cramps, back pain, severe menstrual cramps, abnormal or heavy bleeding, painful bowel movements, pain urinating, painful sex, difficulty becoming pregnant, and nausea or sickness. According to endometriosis.org, people with endometriosis are more at risk of several diseases. The risk of ovarian cancer is 37% higher than for the general public; the risk of endocrine tumours is 38% higher than for the general public; the risk of kidney cancer is 26% higher than for the general public; the risk of thyroid cancer is 33% higher than for the general public; the risk of brain tumours is 27% higher than for the general public; the risk of malignant melanoma is 23% higher than for the general public; and, according to cardiosmart.org, a heart attack is 62% more likely. That series of statistics does not describe the impact of the symptoms; I will give some real-life examples later, but the stark truth is that 30% to 50% of women become infertile from the disease.