What is period leave?
Last year a company called Coexist in Bristol announced that they are offering women additional paid leave for period pain. They aim was to improve efficiency and create a better working environment for all their staff – men and women. Since then, the idea of ‘period leave’ has been in and out of health news. Similar kinds of sick leave are already offered in South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and some provinces of China: but is this really the best way to tackle painful periods at work?
Why I think period leave is problematic
My first concern is that giving women extra sick leave for painful periods creates a potential threat to equality in the workplace – and not just because women and men would receive different amounts of annual sick days. No, my concern about equality is about how this might affect the employment of women – after all, if women are entitled to more paid days off than men, essentially meaning they could be paid the same amount for less days in the office, surely this makes them less favourable candidates than their male counterparts?
Secondly, I think that simply telling women to take time off as a result of their painful periods, means we aren’t really tackling the issue itself, but merely supporting the attitude that a woman’s menstrual cycle is a weakness. Period pain, like many period symptoms, is actually fairly easily treated in most cases, and I think educating women about these options is much more beneficial than just giving them time off work.
Finally, giving women time off for period pain only normalises problem periods. If your period is so painful that you can’t go to work, it is really time to try and understand what might be going on.
Extremely painful periods can often be a sign of a hormone imbalance, PMS or an underlying condition such as endometriosis. However, it could also be the result of something simpler like medication you are taking or your choice of contraception, which could be influencing your hormones. If you think this could be the case, you can discuss your options over with your doctor.
Better ways to tackle period pain so you don’t need to take time off
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t just have to ‘deal with’ your period symptoms – there is plenty you can do to take back control of your life! The following tips will help to reduce period pain, but if you are suffering from a serious condition like endometriosis, remember to follow your doctor’s guidance first.
For troublesome periods I recommend:
Increasing your magnesium intake. Magnesium is essential for proper muscle function and relaxation, and if you have a deficiency, muscles (including uterine muscles!) are more likely to cramp. Try increasing your intake of magnesium-rich foods such as dark, leafy greens (kale and spinach), nuts and seeds (in particular cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds) and fish. You could also take a good-quality magnesium supplement.
Reducing foods that drain magnesium. Certain foods drain magnesium from the body quicker than others, including caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar, so reduce your intake of these. Watch your calcium consumption too; too high an intake of calcium may actually affect your utilisation of magnesium. Eat plenty of dark leafy green and veggie sources of calcium, many of these are rich in both calcium and magnesium but in the correct ratios as opposed to lots of dairy products which are more calcium-heavy.
Improving bowel function. Many women don’t consider just how closely their bowel is nestled around their reproductive organs. A full bowel increases the pressure in this area and presses against the already-fragile uterus. Keeping your bowel moving by eating lots of fibre or taking a bowel supplement such as Linoforce can work wonders for reducing period pain.
Re-thinking your choice of contraception. Period pain is often caused by too much oestrogen, since oestrogen helps to thicken the lining of the uterus. More oestrogen means a thicker lining, which makes shedding it a much harder job – this can mean heavier, more painful periods as a result. If you are currently using a combined pill, you might want to speak to your doctor about what other options you have.
Agnus castus. If you aren’t on any hormonal contraception, then Agnus castus could be the perfect for you. This herb helps to naturally support your body’s production of progesterone, which is especially useful if oestrogen dominance appears to be an issue. A.Vogel’s Agnus castus is licensed for the relief of PMS symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, breast tenderness, bloating and menstrual cramps, so is a great all-rounder for reducing the impact of your period on your daily life.
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