Menstrual Misery? New hormone-free therapy for teens with heavy, painful periods

teen girl with pain

Data out this week from Harvard University shows that 98% of adolescents with chronic pelvic pain have endometriosis.  For the 176 million women worldwide that suffer for endometriosis, this data provides a strange form of relief and recognition.  They aren’t complaining, whining, histrionic women and teenagers who can’t handle their menstrual period.  On the contrary, they probably have a medical condition called endometriosis that needs treatment.  And they don’t need hormonal contraceptives or birth control pills. 

For decades medical science has either ignored and not treated painful menstrual cramps and heavy menstrual periods, or offered only hormonal contraceptives as therapy.  But now we know that these symptoms of chronic pelvic pain represent endometriosis 98% of the time, and hence cannot be ignored or treated only with ibuprofen.  We also know that hormonal contraceptives mask the symptoms of endometriosis, but don’t effectively treat the disease or decrease the infertility associated with endometriosis.  Catholic moms were right after all.  Birth control pills really aren’t good for your teen daughter, no matter how bad her periods are. 

The best news is that now we have effective therapy for endometriosis that treats symptoms and improves fertility, and it doesn’t involve taking hormonal contraceptives. 

Between 25 to 65 percent of women with endometriosis have fertility problems.  Approximately 5 million U.S. teenagers are affected by the condition.   In other words, pretty much all of us moms know some teen or young adult out there that has endometriosis and needs it treated to prevent infertility.  Don’t ignore those painful heavy periods.  Find them a good Catholic doctor. 

Dr. Patrick Yeung, Jr., MD, is a minimally Invasive Gynecologic  Surgeon and director of the Center for Endometriosis at St. Louis University.  He’s also a faithful Catholic father of two beautiful daughters.  He’s a real Catholic dad, the kind that goes out to the church lobby with his noisy thirteen-month-old but still sits under the speaker so that he doesn’t miss the mass and kneels on the marble lobby floor during the consecration while keeping one eye on his toddler.   He’s the kind of guy you feel comfortable bringing your daughter to. 

He’s also advancing a better therapy for endometriosis—laser excision.  Laser excision, compared to ablation therapy, has a much lower risk of recurrence of endometriosis.  He’s published the research that shows hormonal contraceptives are usually unnecessary after surgery for endometriosis. 

You can read more about Dr. Yeung, his research, and The Center for Endometriosis at   There’s also a detailed article about Dr. Yeung’s work by Jennifer Brinker of the St. Louis Review:

To find a Catholic physician near you, visit,, or

About Kathleen Berchelmann M.D.

Kathleen Berchelmann M.D.'s picture

Kathleen M. Berchelmann, M.D., is a pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine. She is a 1998 graduate of Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts and a 2003 graduate of The University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency in Pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis.

Prior to medical school, she attended divinity school at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Berchelmann is a board-certified pediatrician and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Berchelmann is a wife and mother of five.

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