Kia ora and welcome
You have arrived at the home of the What about me®? resource where you can find out more about periods and looking after your menstrual health.
You can start the What about me®? course whenever you’re ready by clicking on the ‘start course’ button which you will find on every page. The activities on the course work better on a computer rather than a phone.
We’re also here to provide more information that support once you’ve worked through the What about me®? resource.
We’ve been talking about menstrual health in schools through the me® programme since 1998. We discovered that lots of people missed out for lots of reasons. (Scroll further to read the story of me® and find out what’s changed).
Now, with our new online resource called What about me®?, teachers, students, and communities can access this very important information at a time that’s appropriate and convenient to them.
What about me®? has been developed as a fresh new approach to learning in the real world using best digital technology practices in eLearning. It’s unique, medically responsible, positive, educational, engaging, fun, and interactive and demystifies periods and menstrual health.
It provides the latest medical knowledge, including an introduction to the neuroscience of pain and introduces the concept of recognising symptoms that impact negatively on life, simple ways to improve them, and when to seek further help.
What about me®?arrives straight to your device and it’s available FREE to everyone in New Zealand.
What a GREAT QUESTION!
It’s a question often asked by young people who want to know more about periods, the menstrual cycle and symptoms that cause pain, and what to do about it.
It’s a question to be asked by families, schools, workplaces, academics, clinicians, health decision makers, governments, and global populations. What action is being taken to educate, inform and support half the global population who menstruate?
What about me®? prepares young people to understand menstruation, embrace this special time and, through shared experiences and positive learnings, recognise symptoms that impact their life, so that they can be actively involved in their menstrual health and well-being, now and in the future.
Girls and women, transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse people born with female reproductive organs can have periods, so the resource is inclusive of age, culture, and gender.
We know that:
- Menstrual health education cannot be left to chance.
- We must prepare our young people to navigate a range of experiences from their very first period through their adult years with professionally developed, agile, personalised, and place-based learning.
- Menstrual health education is a powerful tool to enlighten, inform, support, and change young lives to stop the suffering of conditions that cause pelvic pain, like endometriosis.
- Evidence is key: research from our in-schools me® programme (first introduced into some New Zealand schools in 1998) demonstrated that good menstrual health education for young people leads to early recognition of symptoms and timely intervention. published research here. Aust NZ J Obstet Gynaecol 2017;1–6
- People with period pain often feel isolated and put up with symptoms that can be life-altering and impact their schooling, studies, career, relationships, mental health, and general well-being.
- People in the transgender community and people who are non-binary who may not identify as women, also live with pelvic pain and endometriosis.
We must stop common stories like this.
Lucy is 15 years old and is sitting hunched over her desk at school barely able to sit, let alone concentrate on her studies. She has her period. Her mother said “all the females in our family have bad periods”. Her peers didn’t seem to understand. People said ‘suck it up’ and ‘get over it’ and ‘don’t be a baby’ and ‘it’ll be ok when you get older’ and ‘it’ll go away when you get pregnant’ and ‘get busy’ and ‘stop thinking about yourself’ and ‘it’s in your head’ and ‘you’re depressed’ and…….. she learnt to live with it, to isolate herself during those times, cuddle up with a heat pack or take drugs. She sometimes missed school and doing things like sport and being with friends.
Lucy was misunderstood and silenced and her lived menstrual experiences impacted her studies, her relationships with family and friends, her mental health and her general well-being.
Lucy’s story, and that of tens of thousands of others in New Zealand alone, is common. Collectively we can make these stories a thing of the past – ones we only read about in medical and social history journals. We can achieve this if we recognise menstrual symptoms that impact life and intervene early.
What about me®? is our opportunity to do just that!
Start the resource
The story of me®
The me® (Menstrual Health and Endometriosis) programme was first developed and introduced into New Zealand schools in 1998 by Deborah Bush MNZM, QSM who co-founded Endometriosis New Zealand together with the late Joan Moultrie and Margaret McKenzie. They listened to thousands of stories about people’s experiences with periods, debilitating period pain, infertility and the impact these experiences had on individuals and families, relationships, schooling, career, and mental health.
While most of these people at that time were in their 30s and 40s, their menstrual symptoms started from their teen years, some from their very first period or before. We knew then that hundreds and hundreds of women could not be wrong and it was clear to us that endometriosis started young!
The research and medical articles at the time said that endometriosis was a disease affecting older middle class caucasian women. WRONG!
We recognised that education about menstrual health and wellbeing was urgently needed. Education to:
- recognise the menstrual cycle from a whole person perspective; physically, socially, historically and culturally.
- celebrate, acknowledge and embrace differences, values and beliefs around menstruation
- recognise menstrual symptoms that impact life and encourage people to talk about periods and seek help if they need to
- improve knowledge, understanding and menstrual empowerment
The me® programme gave us 23 years of experience educating young people in schools, and evaluating, revising and adjusting the programme to allow for new clinical and educational knowledge and pedagogy to understand the way young people like to learn.
We set up a research study to see whether education actually makes a difference to earlier presentation of symptoms, suspicious of endometriosis. We found that it overwhelmingly does! The research confirmed our evaluation and feedback.
We followed a planned approach to developing and delivering me®, following World Health Organisation Principles and Practices.
Our Menstrual health education programme became a powerful tool to enlighten, inform, support and positively change health outcomes for young people.
The me® programme was very successful:
- It reached in excess of 300,000 students and hundreds of schools during the rollout
- The only such programme to be published. It helped thousands of young people understand the menstrual cycle and recognise symptoms that negatively impacted their life. Longitudinal data from the research, showed an increase of those with symptoms suggestive of endometriosis, presenting earlier and being diagnosed. Results: 12% of under 20 year olds presented in 2001 which grew exponentially to 62% in 2015. (Oxford Women’s Health, Canterbury, New Zealand).
- me® was endorsed by the World Endometriosis Society (WES) as the preferred menstrual health education globally
- Award winning:
- The Paul Newman award 2007 and the
- Health Innovation Award in NZ 2007
- Trialled successfully in Adelaide, Vancouver and Mumbai
- It was proposed as a potential screening tool for endometriosis
- Each session was evaluated and appraised to ensure efficacy. In 2020, 98.5% of our in-schools learning community said they wanted menstrual health and endometriosis education ‘me®’ to continue.
Our commitment to deliver positive, medically responsible, support-based, and interactive health education to young people and communities has been dependable and highly respected nationally and internationally since 1998.
So what has changed?
Results from our community said they would prefer online learning in menstrual health which has enabled us to maintain our commitment to deliver menstrual health and endometriosis education.
Subsequently, the me® programme has been redeveloped to be an eLearning experience called What about me®? and is now available free to all New Zealanders with no boundaries or barriers to access.