In addition to the typical maternity leave during pregnancy, a company in the United Kingdom is offering its female employees a new policy that allows them to take time off work during their red days.
Bristol-based management firm Coexist, which has a mostly female workforce, is implementing the period policy for the first time in the country.
One of the company's directors, Bex Baxter, proposed the period policy as she has seen women bent over in pain at work because of menstrual cramps. The period policy allows an employee who is on her period to take a paid excuse leave.
Most women usually think they are not allowed to go home because of the pain, Baxter said, and they often feel guilty and ashamed, therefore refusing to acknowledge it. That is where it all started.
"If someone is in pain — no matter what kind — they are encouraged to go home," said Baxter. "But, for us, we wanted a policy in place which recognizes and allows women to take time for their body's natural cycle without putting this under the label of illness."
Baxter believes that reversing the policy actually increases productivity, especially because a productive work cycle is in sync with the cycle of the body.
The Coexist director said she arrived to the decision of introducing the policy upon finding results from a new study which showed that 17 percent of women missed school, work and other obligations during their periods due to stigma. Her decision was then embraced by her co-workers.
Nike is the only global company with a period policy for its female employees in the United States. Japan has had menstrual-leave policies for more than 70 years, according to CBS News.
Baxter hopes other companies will follow suit to give women more flexibility and to "create a happier and healthier working environment."
"This is not about employees taking more time off but working more flexibly and efficiently around their menstrual cycle and encouraging a work-life balance," said Baxter.
Severe pain during menstruation is an issue for women, but only one in 10 women suffers from dysmenorrhea.
Studies showed that 90 percent of women experience period-related pain. Nearly 20 percent describe their pain as moderate, while only 2 percent say that it is severe.
There are two types of dysmenorrhea: primary dysmenorrhea occurs during the first red day and can cause vomiting, nausea and paleness. Secondary dysmenorrhea begins up to seven days before the period starts and will reach intensity for the first few red days and gradually reduce in intensity.
Gynecology consultant Dr. Ahmed Ismail said a common cause of dysmenorrhea is endometriosis, the appearance of endometrial tissue outside a woman's uterus which results to pelvic pain.
However, dependence on painkillers to alleviate dysmenorrhea is an issue.
"The women won't be able to tolerate any pain in the body without taking an extremely strong pain relief medication," said Ismail.
Other women also suffer from heavy periods called menorrhagia, where women lose huge amounts of blood during consecutive periods. According to the NHS, this condition can affect a woman physically, socially and emotionally, as well as disrupt everyday activities.
Ismail said it is important to take into account that a patient's painful period symptoms can differ in intensity.
"The pain levels are not static or continuous and, therefore, the woman's experience will differ from month to month," he added.
Photo : Mariela De Marchi Moyano | Flickr