Period cramps are awful. At best, they’re a dull ache, but at worst, they leave us slumped over shivering in pain.
And the thing is, many of us feel obliged to turn up at work in spite of the discomfort. According to a recent survey conducted by sex toy company Womanizer, 52 per cent believe it isn’t socially accepted to take sick leave for period cramps while 47 per cent fear that their employers will not accept period pain as a valid reason for sick leave. Ninety-seven per cent of the respondents said that taking sick leave for period cramps has never been discussed, let alone addressed, by their employers.
Most of us will probably agree that we should be allowed to get an MC for period cramps. Don’t know what to tell your doctor? Just be direct.
“My suggestion is to state clearly your discomfort if the pain has affected your ability to work at a normal capacity. Some of us internalise pain but it is ok to specifically request for an MC if you need to rest, and even when there is no need for medication to be prescribed,” says Andrea Tan, a sexual wellness educator and founder of Athena Rising Coaching & Consulting Services.
“An MC is accorded when the patient is unable to work due to discomfort, pain or illness. Typically, doctors do not reject a genuine request for MC. If you’re not comfortable with your GP, you should seek another opinion.”
She adds that it doesn’t help that it’s really important that we ‘show face’ in Asian culture.
“There is an unconscious bias when it comes to evaluating women’s performance in the workplace. On top of that, in Asia, presenteeism [the act of showing up for work without being productive] despite being sick is a persistent issue.”
There’s no doubt that employers can afford to make a concerted effort to implement menstrual sick leave, particularly when moving the needle helps retain talent, demonstrate trust in employees and provide the conditions of a work environment that allows an employee to function most productively. But until then, we can only focus on alleviating period pain.
Apart from medicating with painkillers, you can also use a warm water bottle on the lower belly area, take a warm bath or practise breathing techniques. It is also worth trying to masturbate.
“A lot of pain intensity builds as the body is under stress and relief can come from muscle tension release techniques. We want to be work with our cycles–slowing down to rest when we need to and not try to override our discomfort immediately,” says Andrea.