Real story: Painful Periods Make It Difficult To Work Full-time

The intensity of period pain varies from person to person. For some, it is extremely severe and impacts daily life. This is the case for marketing professional Ella, who’s periods make working full-time difficult. Here, she shares her story.

“There is one week every month that I absolutely dread – period week. It always seems to come around far too quickly and lasts far too long. I suffer from awful period pain which really impacts my day-to-day.

I started my period just after I turned 13. The first few years were really difficult. Although I didn’t suffer from any pains for a while, my periods were so heavy that I would constantly worry about leaking. During this time, my periods lasted anywhere from 7 to 28 days and before long I started getting really severe pains too. I was told that this was ‘normal’ for a young girl experiencing her first periods, but after 2 and a half years I was feeling a little fed up, so I went to the doctors. But even now, I still struggle with my periods – especially the pain!

Dealing with my periods at work…

Working full time and having difficult periods can be really challenging. I recently started a new job and luckily have more flexibility in my role. However, in my previous job, there was no option to work from home and taking sick days really impacted my workload. So, I just had to find a way to stay quiet and deal with it.

Days 2 and 3 of my period are the most unbearable. On these days, I barely get any sleep, regularly throw up, and occasionally pass out – all from pain. When I manage to get past this, I struggle to stand-up straight as it puts such a strain on my stomach that hunching over is the only minor relief I can get. In my last role, I worked a 30-40 minute walk away from the office and on days that were particularly bad, I would have to call a taxi to take me to and from work because I physically couldn’t make the walk.

Talking to my employers…

On a few occasions, I’ve tried to explain my situation to a Line Manager. I thought this was a good idea as I was hoping they might offer flexibility to work from home if the pain was severely impacting my wellbeing at work. I never received a welcoming response. I was expected to just fill up my hot water bottle, pop some paracetamol and get on with it.

Employer support is essential…

The severity of my pain, combined with the panic of having to confront the situation with a Manager, makes it really difficult for me to perform well in my job. Having access to menstrual support wouldn’t reduce the pain, but it will help relieve the stress and pressure of having to suffer in silence.

I can’t explain how valuable it would be to have an option to work from home on bad days and access free period care in the office. I would also love to have the option to discuss my wellbeing with a supportive Line Manager.

I would choose to work in a place that supports menstruation. I think making these small changes will really help to make women feel comfortable and give them the opportunity to confront what is going on with their health.”

If you are suffering from extreme period pain and it is impacting your daily life, we would always advise seeking help/advice from your GP. These types of symptoms can signify an underlying reproductive health condition. If you are an employer wondering how you can support your employees when it comes to menstrual and reproductive health, check out this blog here by business psychologist Clare Knox.