4 People on What It's Really Like to Miss Work or School Because of Your Period
There seems to be a secret code among people who menstruate, in which someone mouths, "I started my period," and the other person stealthily passes them a tampon. What's less commonly discussed is the severe bloating, cramping, back pain, and other symptoms that can disrupt an entire school or work day, and for some people, keep them confined in bed all day. In a recent Dutch study, almost 14 percent of people surveyed reported missing work or school due to their periods. Another 80 percent of the study population reported being present at work or school, but losing productivity because of the pain, resulting in about nine days a year lost, according to the authors. On top of that, only 20 percent of the study participants who missed days felt comfortable telling their supervisor or teacher the real reason they were calling out.
Why are so many people plagued with such challenging periods? In many cases, there may not be an underlying condition that's to blame for painful periods; sometimes, really bad cramps are simply categorized as primary dysmenorrhea, Alyssa Dweck, MD, an ob-gyn in Westchester County, NY, told POPSUGAR. Other times, period pain is associated with endometriosis or uterine fibroids, benign muscular growths that can appear in the uterus. PCOS is another condition that may not directly cause cramps, but can cause irregular periods and therefore very heavy and sometimes painful bleeding when menstruation finally occurs, Dr. Dweck explained. Severe cramping may also be caused by ovarian cysts or even the insertion of a copper IUD.
In some cases of especially painful periods, a doctor might prescribe a prescription pain medication or even a hormonal birth control pill to help better manage the symptoms. But birth control isn't a quick fix for everyone struggling with menstrual pain. "If pain is from another source, such as scar tissue, infection, or mechanical pressure of fibroids, one may need to address those issues in another fashion, including surgical intervention," Dr. Dweck said.
Because everyone's periods are different, it's important to track your symptoms to understand what might be going on with your menstrual cycle and causing you to be unable to carry on with your regular routine. But even just knowing that you're not alone can help make painful or heavy periods feel less isolating. Here, four menstruators raise their voices about what it's like to need to miss out on school or work because of their periods, and why more awareness would improve their own well-being.
The more we can openly discuss periods and everything that goes along with them, the less taboo they'll become — and the easier it'll be to speak to your own boss when you have cramps that are keeping you from clocking in.