Women in the study reported how their period affects them not only on days that they call out sick from work or school, but when they show up while in pain, too.

By Renee Cherry
July 01, 2019
Prarthna Singh/Getty Images

It's no secret that period symptoms are a complete pain in the uterus. If cramps, headaches, back pain, and countless other PMS perks make you feel less productive at work, you're not alone. In a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, women who worked through period pain reported losing an average of 9 days worth of productivity per year. (Related: The Best Foods for Cramps, Fatigue, Bloating, and More Period Symptoms)

Here's what happened: Nearly 33,000 Dutch women aged 15–45 answered online surveys about how many days they took off from school or work per year due to their period. They also provided responses about how many days they still showed up to work or school, despite feeling less productive because of PMS. The women completely called off school or work because of their period an average of 1.3 days per year, the study found. But the group lost even more time from showing up to school or work while dealing with period pain—an average of 8.9 days over the course of the year, according to the research. (Related: How I Regained Control Over My Body After Years of Debilitating PMS)

The women also answered questions about workplace and school policies regarding time off for menstrual pain: Over 67 percent of participants said they wished they could be permitted to do less physical work, work from home, take a day off, or otherwise modify their workday while on their period.

Note, some companies have acknowledged the often-debilitating effects of menstrual pain by creating flexible time-off policies for those who experience these symptoms. For instance, UK co-working space, Coexist established a company-wide "Period Policy" in 2016, which ensures that employees won't be stigmatized for telling their boss they have to work from home because it's that time of the month. Culture Machine, a video production studio based in India, introduced a similar policy in 2017 called "First Day of Period Leave," which allows employees to take the first day of their period off with no questions asked.

But at least in the case of the BMJ study's subject group, most women don't feel like their school or workplace's policies are flexible enough. (Related: How Much Pelvic Pain Is Normal for Menstrual Cramps?)

Based on the women's responses, the study authors wrote that there's an "urgent need" for "discussions of treatment options with women of all ages and, ideally, more flexibility for women who work or go to school."

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