Painful periods cost women NINE DAYS of lost productivity at work each year through ‘presenteeism’, find scientists
- Women come into work unwell during their period and under-perform
- More than 80% of women in a study reported presenteeism while on their period
- Scientists said the topic is still a taboo and women keep quiet about their pain
Painful periods cost women around nine days of lost productivity each year, a study has calculated.
Scientists say women are coming into school or work even though they are unwell – a term known as ‘presenteeism’- and therefore under-performing.
The landmark study is the first of its kind, addressing a subject which scientists said remains a taboo.
More than eight in ten women reported working or studying while suffering with pain or a mood disorder – and said they were less productive because of it.
Painful periods cost women nine days of lost productivity at work every year, a study in the Netherlands has found. Stock photo
The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, also found crippling symptoms force women to take sick leave one day a year.
Researchers in the Netherlands quizzed almost 33,000 women aged between 15 and 45.
The participants were asked to reveal the details of their menstrual cycle and the severity of their symptoms. The average period lasted five days.
Menstrual symptoms prompted nearly a third of the women to visit their family doctor, and around one in seven to see a gynaecologist.
Overall, women went into work when they were unwell an average of 23 days out of the working or study year at school.
Based on their symptoms affecting a third of the duration of their day, researchers calculated that this amounted to almost nine days of lost productivity each year.
Sometimes the symptoms were so intense women needed to take time off work or school, with one in seven doing so. Nearly 3.5 per cent said this happened almost every menstrual cycle.
WHY DOES THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE AFFECT THE ABILITY TO WORK?
Periods can be so painful they are distracting. They are painful because the muscles of the womb are contracting to encourage the lining to shed.
This compresses the blood vessels in the lining of the womb, which temporarily cut off the blood supply – and hence oxygen supply – to your womb. Without oxygen, the tissues in your womb release chemicals that trigger pain.
Aside from the bleed phases, there are three other phases of the cycle which each affect a women’s mood.
These are the follicular phase and ovulation, the ovulatory phase and the luteal phase.
Many women experience symptoms in the week or two before their bleed starts, known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
PMS, possibly caused by changes in hormones, can lead to an alteration in emotional or mental state, causing a woman to have feelings of irritability, tiredness, anxiety, depression or food cravings.
When women called in sick because of period pains, only one in five told their employer or school the real reason for their absence.
Around two thirds of women said they wished they had the option of flexible work or school hours when they are on their period.
Corresponding author, Dr Theodoor Nieboer, said: ‘Taking all the symptoms into account, it seems likely that the real impact of menstruation related symptoms is underestimated in the general population.
‘Despite being almost two decades into the 21st century, discussions about symptoms may still be rather taboo.’
Younger women under the age of 21 appear to take time off because of their period more often than older women.
Dr Nieboer said: ‘There is an urgent need for more focus on the impact of these symptoms, especially in women aged under 21 years, for discussions of treatment options with women of all ages and, ideally, more flexibility for women who work or go to school.’
The researchers said the results reflect the general population, but there may be selection bias because participants were hired through social media.
It’s the largest study to look at how period symptoms affect work or school productivity.
Other research suggests symptoms can lower quality of life in several areas, such as mental health and social life. It may also put a financial burden on women and their families.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin, are recommended as the go-to treatment for period pain, followed by the Pill.
But it is widely accepted that exercise and good diet can help relieve the cramping pains.
ARE MY PERIODS NORMAL?
Public Health England’s research has revealed nearly half of women – 48 per cent – say they struggle with menstrual issues such as heavy or irregular periods. So when should you be concerned about your period?
Period pain is common and most women experience it at some time in their life.
The pain is usually felt as cramps in the abdomen and is caused by the muscular wall of the womb tightening and temporarily cutting off oxygen.
See your doctor if the pain is severe or is suddenly different from what is normal for you, as it can be a sign of endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease.
Irregular periods happen when the length of your menstrual cycle changes.
They may be normal or easily explained by hormones, but you should see a doctor if they suddenly become irregular, if they are very close together or far apart (less than 21 days or more than 35 days), or if the periods last longer than a week.
Heavy periods, in which a lot of blood is lost, are common but can seriously affect a woman’s life.
Heavy bleeding is defined as losing 80ml (16 teaspoons) or more in each period, having periods that last longer than 7 days, or both.
Heavy periods are not necessarily a sign of an underlying problem but if you notice an unusual amount of blood, or it is affecting your day-to-day life, it’s a good idea to visit your GP.
Source: NHS Choices