Bodyform reveals #PainStories to break silence around endometriosis and women’s pain

The campaign follows #WombStories and supports earlier diagnosis of endometriosis.

#PainStories includes a 'Pain Dictionary' to create a new visual language for experiences of pain
#PainStories includes a 'Pain Dictionary' to create a new visual language for experiences of pain

Bodyform, known as Libresse outside the UK, has created a campaign to support earlier diagnosis of endometriosis and break the silence about the pain that many women endure throughout their lives. 

#PainStories, by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, launches today (2 March) during Endometriosis Awareness Month. It tackles the “gender pain gap” by sharing stories and helping to articulate experiences of pain, with a focus on endometriosis. 

An estimated one in 10 women of reproductive age – about 176 million women globally – suffers from endometriosis, a condition resulting from the appearance of endometrial tissue outside the uterus and causing pelvic pain. Despite the prevalence of the condition, however, it takes an average of seven-and-a-half years to diagnose it. 

These delayed diagnoses are partly down to the perception that severe period pain is “normal”, according to the Essity brand. “[Endometriosis] is ever present but not out in the open. It is quite a suppressed thing,” Lauren Peters, one of the AMV creatives behind #PainStories, said. 

This latest Bodyform work follows on from #WombStories, which launched last year to spotlight the complex and unspoken truths about wombs, vulvas and periods. The #WombStories ad showed women living through various experiences such as miscarriage, the menopause, period pain and endometriosis. 

#PainStories features the “Pain Dictionary”, a collection of new words and definitions for pain that are drawn from real descriptions from people with endometriosis. Each definition is brought to life by an artist to create a verbal and visual language for endometriosis pain, with the aim of helping people recognise and articulate their pain and to shorten long diagnostic delays. 

The activity also includes the “Pain Museum”, an online hub that explores taboos about pain through artwork and shares interviews with medical experts and people living with endometriosis. The virtual museum was created by Ketchum. 

Augustine Cerf, the other AMV creative behind the campaign, brought her firsthand experiences of endometriosis to the work. She said: “We’re taught that painful periods are just normal. I went to about 10 different doctors and specialists and they all said you’re completely fine. I was prepared just to lie under my desk with a heat patch and say this is part of the deal.

“The dictionary was born out of my own personal feeling that there was no language to express my pain. How do you tell people about the quiet thing raging inside you? There's a real loneliness to that. The question you’re mainly asked is how much does it hurt on a scale of 1 to 10 and I found that really reductive.”

#PainStories will run online and on social media, with the Pain Dictionary available on the brand’s Instagram story highlights as an “Insta-book” where the definitions are illustrated and animated. There will also be a downloadable ebook and hard copies will be distributed to doctors, charities and influencers. 

Peters added: “What we hope comes through with the visual representations is not just the extent of pain but also the specificity of it – no person’s pain experience is the same. That visual aid is so important to encourage empathy from those who don’t experience pain.”

To inform the campaign, Bodyform researched and will publish The Pain Report, a deep dive into the gender pain gap around the world which will analyse how and why people talk about pain. It includes interviews with 30 female experts across several disciplines as well as 20 advocates who suffer from painful conditions.

#PainStories also explores other experiences such adenomyosis, painful sex and vaginismus.

Tanja Grubner, femcare global marketing and communications director at Essity, said: “Women have been putting up with excruciating pain for years. Due to outdated taboos, women’s pain is systematically overlooked, and they are too often dismissed, ignored and misdiagnosed. By inviting women to share their #painstories we hope to overcome the culture of silence that holds women back – in this case, from proper diagnosis and treatment. 

“We want this initiative to help those who are experiencing similar things yet struggling to make their voice heard. Listening to how women feel is critical to driving change, and we know it’s so important to understand the problems, before we can start solving them.”

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