As any woman can tell you, period pain is no joke. The cramping, bloating, headaches, and lack of energy are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the physical effects of menstruation. Now, a new study has finally shown that period pain disrupts women's productivity in school and at work and hopefully this knowledge will lead to more awareness and understanding.
Specifically, the new study — published recently in the British Medical Journal — found that women lose an average of nine productive days each year due to period pain. To get to their findings, researchers looked at nearly 33,000 women between the ages of 15 and 45 who took an online survey about how many days they missed from school or work due to their periods, according to TODAY.
Researchers also looked at how many days the women still showed up to work or school, even though they were destined to be less productive due to menstrual pain. The study ultimately discovered that a startlingly small number of women called in sick to work or missed school due to PMS symptoms, finding that the average was just over one day per year, according to Science Alert.
"Women said that they weren't as productive as they could be while at work — they needed to go to the toilet every hour or they had a headache and couldn't concentrate," Theodoor Nieboer, an author of the report and a gynecologist at the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, told CNN of the findings.
In fact, according to the study, less than 14 percent of women opted to take off work rather than work through the pain due to fear of being singled out or punished in some way. And for those that did call in sick, only 1 in 5 women actually told their employers why because period talk is still a relatively taboo topic.
"There's a need for greater openness about the impact of menstrual symptoms on work, and companies need to be more open about this with their female workers," Nieboer told CNN.
Not surprisingly, according to the study, more than 67 percent of women wished they "had greater flexibility in their tasks and working hours at work or school during their periods."
Flexible time off for period related illnesses would be awesome, but it is not common place in American companies. However, so-called Period Policies do exist outside of the United States at companies in India, Taiwan, South Korea and more, according to The New York Times. These kinds of policies surely create a more flexible schedule for those on their periods, and ensures that employees are not penalized or stigmatized for telling employers that missed work is due to period related symptoms.
"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 study concluded.
All in all, periods are a pain. And women will go above and beyond to make sure they show up where and when needed whether it's school, work, or family events. But it comes with a cost as productivity levels start to fade. The next time you feel PMS symptoms coming, think about taking the day off. It just might be the best thing you've done for your body in a long time.