It seems like a tale from the Dark Ages, but it’s just the latest example of period stigma in action: Last month a woman sued her former employer for allegedly firing her over her period leaks. And while this might be an extreme example, period pain can absolutely interfere with your work.
In fact, in a recent YouGov survey, 42 percent of respondents said period pain had affected their ability to do their jobs.
The survey, which included responses from 1,157 U.S.-based people identifying as female, asked about the symptoms respondents usually get along with their periods and the degree to which they affected respondents’ ability to work. That included any type of “period pain,” such as migraines, cramps, and muscle pain. The survey also asked about the usual treatment respondents receive, whether they’ve seen their doctor for their pain, and whether or not their employer makes any accommodations for their pain.
A whopping 88 percent of people surveyed experienced some type of period pain.
According to the results, the vast majority of respondents have pain with their periods. Of those, all but seven percent said they’ve used painkillers at some point to deal with their symptoms. But 65 percent hadn’t talked to their doctor about their pain, suggesting that they may be missing out on helpful medical advice to deal with their symptoms.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that nearly half of respondents (42 percent) said that their periods made it harder to do their jobs. Additionally, 30 percent said their period pain was so bad they needed to take a day off work. However, those who took time off weren’t likely to give the actual reason why: Only 25 percent responded that they would tell their boss they were calling out due to period pain. Instead, people tended to blame it on other symptoms (43 percent said migraines and 52 percent said stomach pains, for instance) but did not specifically mention periods or cramps.
It might not seem like a big deal to call out sick with a migraine instead of a period migraine, but for a natural bodily process that happens every month, society sure is skittish to talk about it.
So, even if it’s uncomfortable, being a little more up-front about this may help reduce the stigma around periods and the realities of having them. Considering that the survey found 82 percent of employers offer no accommodations whatsoever for painful periods, there is plenty of room for improvement.