Menstrual pain is far from pleasant, as almost anyone who’s ever had a period will tell you. What many may not realize is just how severe those cramps can be for a number of people. According to a new survey from YouGov, 42 percent of women say period pain has affected their job to some degree. While slightly more than half of respondents who experience period pain say it has not affected their work, the over four-in-ten women who have been affected is significant.
The YouGov survey was conducted online with a sample size of 2255 adults. Results were gathered over a two-day period in August 2017, and percentages have been weighted to reflect the greater U.S. adult population. YouGov asked participants about their experience with period pain, looking specifically at its relation to their jobs. The study’s findings show that although period pain is common among working adults, few workplaces have made accommodations for people who experience it.
Almost one in three women have had to take off work because of period pain. Among those women, 82 percent say their employers didn’t make any kind of accommodations for them. In turn, 68 percent of people say that when they’ve had to take off work for menstrual pain, they lied about why they were taking time off or said it was “because of something other than period pain.” Only 25 percent of respondents say they’ve told their employer they need to take off work specifically due to period pain.
Despite how common it is and the degree to which it can affect some people’s day-to-day life, many still don’t take period pain seriously. Recently, one man called menstrual pain a “myth” on Twitter, sparking a slew of scathing responses. While that may seem trivial, it’s evidence of the greater sexism that permeates cultural conversations about menstruation. In fact, we still don’t know exactly what causes period pain in part because of that sexism that questions whether period pain even exists in the first place.
To be clear, period pain is very real, as the 88 percent women in this YouGov survey who’ve experienced it firsthand will tell you. These results mirror similar studies which have found about 90 percent of women experience some form of period pain, from menstrual cramps to premenstrual aches. One 2012 study found one in four young women experiences excessive menstrual pain that is so severe, they’ve missed school or had to be required treatment by medication.
While an aforementioned 30 percent of women have had to take off work for period pain, very few women (only six percent) say they’d be comfortable talking to their boss about period pain. Most women say they’d be most comfortable confiding in a female friend or their mother. While it may be unsurprising that most women would rather not share menstrual detail with their boss, it should come as a shock that a more than half of people aren’t comfortable talking to their partner about period pain. Only 42 percent say they’d speak to their romantic partner about it. Under the assumption that the majority of female respondents have male partners, YouGov’s survey suggests that most women aren’t comfortable discussing period pain with men. This includes male partners, parents, siblings, and close relatives.
One of the biggest problems with the way we talk about periods is that we often don’t talk about them. While many of us may not feel like keeping our dads completely up-to-date on our menstrual cycle, it shouldn’t be entirely taboo to tell those closest to us when we’re having health-related problem. Especially when those problems affect so many of us so frequently. One of the easiest ways to fight period stigma is to talk about it openly. And if we want to be a culture that takes women’s health seriously, we need to acknowledge that period pain is a significant part of that.