Menstrual Cramps are said to be as Painful as Cardiac Arrests, but is that Reason Enough to Get a Day Off?

Zareen Subah Aziz and Nudraat Nawer Khan

As the label of taboo slowly but significantly lifts off from the topic of menstruation, people are coming together to acknowledge the hardships that are associated with this female monthly affair. The scientific term for painful periods is “primary dysmenorrhea”, and the pain appears in the form of cramps; intense aching in the lower body, mainly the stomach. According to research conducted by obstetrics and gynecology specialist, Mandi Wilson from the USA Center for Women, a significant number of women experience painful pelvic inflammation during menstruation. As a result of this, women often have to take certain anti-inflammatory or anti-coagulant medications to relieve the pain. Some medical professionals have ruled these menstrual cramps as- “As painful as a heart attack” while some comment that it is in fact, worse than cardiac arrest. Although many other doctors have questioned the validity of this comparison. As bad as a heart attack or not, period cramps are extremely painful. Via a study conducted by the NCBI, 67% of the surveyed women reported having at least a day of menstrual discomfort. 

Given the high intensity of the pain from menstrual cramps, some countries across the globe have recognized “menstrual leaves”. Countries like Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Zambia allows women to take 1-2 days off every month as they deal with menstruation. A 2012 study concluded that 20% of women experience periods painful enough to interfere with daily activities. In respect to that, this step seems desirable and convenient, and a large chunk of working women found it commendable. Critics have varying opinions, ranging from- additional days off could justify lower wages or hiring bias against women, society terming every menstruating female as “ill”, or how this might subtly hint at the inert special vulnerability/disabilities of women. The supporters of this “menstrual policy” countered these by saying that we must learn to accept that men and women were born different. They added that this wouldn’t be this big a deal had the world only been run by women, which goes to implying how they perceive menstrual leaves are mostly a topic of discussion because men can feel like women are getting some sort of advantage by availing one extra day off. Even India passed a bill in 2017 which allows female employees in both the public and private sectors to take two days of paid leave per month. 

Even though the leave policies have been implemented in a few regions, there have been signs of decreasing leave-takers owing to social shaming and pressure. Female employees don’t feel comfortable talking about their periods and asking for leave due to the fear of being shamed and called weak. From this entire discussion, one thing is obvious: menstrual leaves have received extremely mixed reviews, and there are two popularized opinions which can also be viewed as two ends of the decision-making process. 

Women are always told to adjust to their workplaces keeping all their issues aside. And mind you, almost all of these workplaces have been designed keeping the convenience of male employees in mind. It is high time that workplaces understood the complex anatomy of the female body and tried to transform their rules and regulations so that female employees have a stress-free environment to work in. 

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