If you’re a woman that has ever menstruated, you don’t need us to tell you that periods can genuinely suck. Even if you’re lucky enough to have regular, light periods, you’ve more than likely experienced at least one painful period that warranted a day off work, spent curled up in bed until the misery ends.
For the past several years, paid and unpaid menstrual leave policies have become a hot button topic around the globe, with many companies giving women paid time off on their periods in recent years. Several countries have also instituted paid period leave policies, reportedly with varying levels of success. Japan has had a nationwide paid menstrual leave plan in place since 1947, and Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, and parts of China have created similar policies for women as well.
Since the United States doesn’t have a period leave policy (and likely will not as long as we’re in an administration that undervalues women’s health concerns), plenty of women are forced to grin and bear it when it comes to period pain.
Even if your country or company doesn’t have a period leave policy, we still think you should take the time you need to rest from work if you can swing it — here’s why.
Debilitating periods definitely aren’t just a tired trope used in sitcoms and romantic comedies. Dysmenorrhea, which is the medical term for period pain, can be “severe enough to interfere with daily activities in up to 20 percent of women,” according to a 2012 study by the American Academy of Family Physicians. That’s not even counting women who suffer from endometriosis, a condition where the uterine lining grows outside a woman’s uterus, causing severely painful, irregular periods and a host of other horrendous side effects.
But since there’s still such a stigma surrounding women’s issues — menstruation and painful periods chief among them — women feel as though they simply have to go about their day as if everything’s fine, which is just not okay.
When you are literally dragging yourself out of bed, stockpiling tampons and painkillers just to get through the day, you should take a day off if at all possible (which, to be fair, we know is not that case for so many women in America whose jobs would be on the line if they regularly took sick days for cramps).
There are so many reasons to chill when you’re dying with cramps. For starters, you likely wouldn’t think twice about calling out sick from work if you became ill with the flu, a stomach virus, or any other common-yet-terrible physical ailment. Period pain is no different than any of those, save for the heavy dose of gendered baggage it comes with.
When your cramps are that severe, there’s absolutely no reason to think you can go through your normal day without a problem, no matter what lighthearted tampon commercials would have you think. And if you’ve got cramps, there’s a good chance you’re also enjoying other woes like nausea, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. Your body needs rest — crushing it at work maybe just isn’t going to happen. When you show up to work under the weather, studies show you’re working at about 60% your normal capacity.
If you take the day off, you’ll give your body the time it needs to truly heal, allowing you to more effectively plow through your tasks and get back on your A-game as soon as you clock back in.
The bottom line is that women deserve the ability to take time off when they’re not feeling well, and it shouldn’t matter whether the reason is period pain or something else. Periods are a natural, biological function, and while we can hope that someday the stigma and shame surrounding them will become a thing of the past, the one thing we do know is that you deserve to take the time you need to feel better.
If you don’t feel comfortable telling your supervisor exactly why you’re taking the day off, that’s totally fine. Periods are nothing to be ashamed of, but we understand why you might prefer to keep it to yourself.
Even though it can fear society will never see periods as a normal, healthy, matter-of-fact thing that women deal with, we fully support women getting through their monthly cycle in whatever way works for them. If that means missing a day of work, you should use your sick time as you need to. Self-care (especially when it comes to your period) is more than just a buzzword — it’s an absolute necessity, and you have every right to a day spent in bed. You deserve it.