Female Health and Employment: Dealing with periods in work

14 December 2017

We conducted a survey of 2000 women to learn more about how women feel about working when they’re on their period. Alongside this, our very own Dr Petra Simic shares her tips for coping with the monthly cycle and offers advice for employers about how to help during this time.

Continuing with your daily tasks during your period can sometimes feel difficult. Heavy bleeding and painful cramps can affect how productive you feel and you might feel too unwell to go into work. Our survey revealed that 23% of women have taken time off work because of their period in the last 6 months, with a following 36% not telling the truth about why they were unable to work. Instead, they used different reasons like having the flu, cold or a stomach bug. The research found that women under the age of 25 are more likely to use one of these reasons too, with 58% giving the excuse of a stomach bug or flu.

Nearly half of the women surveyed (46%) admitted they weren’t comfortable talking about their period as a reason for time-off. And a staggering 67% agreed that they’d be more honest about their symptoms with a female boss.

67% of respondents also said that they would prefer to have periods less than once a month, and 34% would choose to not have them at all. Women can delay their period if it’s really needed. For example, if you’re taking the combined contraceptive pill, you may take more than one packet back to back, without a break to skip your period. However, there are lots of different pills and not all are suitable to take in this way so speak to your GP or practice nurse before making any changes. There are other options, such as medication to take specifically around your period to improve symptoms, or other contraceptive methods which can reduce the frequency and heaviness of periods.

Periods can affect you, both physically and mentally. Changes to your body’s hormones can cause you to feel irritated, angry or anxious, or have mood swings, particularly in the week leading up to your period. During the time of bleeding, you might suffer with painful cramps in your tummy, nausea and breast swelling. All of these symptoms can vary for each woman.

If you’re in work and experiencing any uncomfortable symptoms, you should try to continue with your day as much as possible. Knowing how to minimise your discomfort is important, so make sure you’ve got some appropriate pain relief. Taking this, along with drinking plenty of water and getting as much rest as you can will help. If you’re feeling irritated or anxious, try to be open and honest with your colleagues.

If you’re an employer and you notice a change in one of your employees, it’s important to make sure your team feels supported. It might not feel like a comfortable conversation to have with them, but it’s important and can help employees feel more at ease working on their period.

Monthly cycles can be an uncomfortable time, so we’ve put together our top 5 tips on how to cope.

Make sure you’re prepared

Not everyone has regular periods; if you have an irregular monthly cycle, make sure you’ve got everything you need. Carrying sanitary products and any pain relief you usually use around with you can avoid any of the stresses of being caught out.

Monitor your cycle

The length and heaviness of periods can vary from time to time and between individuals. You should keep an eye out for abnormal bleeding patterns, in particular any bleeding in-between periods, or bleeding after intercourse. It is not uncommon for women to miss a period if under lots of stress, but erratic periods can be caused by a condition, like a thyroid disorder. If you’re experiencing any of these issues, book a routine appointment to discuss with your GP.

Learn what works for you

Managing the symptoms that come with your period is important and can help it to cause as little disruption to your day-to-day life as possible. If you know what works, try and stay armed with what you need at all times. Things like drinking lots of water, getting plenty of rest and avoiding too much caffeine can also help.

Take time to relax

It’s common to feel anxious, irritated and stressed during your cycle, so make sure you take plenty of time to chill out. This will help you to feel more at ease, and help you to be less cranky. Doing some moderate exercise, taking a long bath or reading your favourite book may help you to relax.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

There are lots of different resources out there, so don’t be afraid to speak to a friend, family member or GP if you’re finding it hard to cope. If you notice any changes to your monthly cycle, or you’re finding the pain unmanageable, make an appointment with your GP. They can take you through different options that can help relieve your symptoms.

Taking care of your employees can help them feel valued. It can also help attract and retain talent. Take a look over our business healthcare solutions for small businesses to see how we can help you today.

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