Menstruation may warrant time off

Period. The end of a sentence, an era of hell for anyone with a uterus. According to Health Central, a “woman spends 3,000 days of her life menstruating,” which is approximately eight or so years. A period occurs once a month for around five to seven days, depending on the woman.

Everyone’s body is different, which makes every period different. A woman’s period may last five days with no premenstrual symptoms, but her friend’s period may last seven days with extreme cramps, back pain and headaches.

I’m sure women and people assigned female at birth all over the world have skipped class or canceled plans with friends because of their periods, so should they count towards a woman’s medical leave? While that may seem like an amazing idea, personally, I do not believe periods should be the basis of paid time off.

Of course, there are pros to the idea, the most obvious being that we would not have to worry about working through pain and bleeding. It would also normalize the idea of periods as a whole, as some find it to be an uncomfortable topic even though it happens to every woman from early teenage years into their late ‘50s or ‘60s.

A lot of women use contraceptive methods such as birth control pills and intrauterine devices, in order to regulate their periods or minimize symptoms, especially when conditions like endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease are involved. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 90% of women aged 18-64 use contraceptives, and “more than 11% of American women between 15 and 44” suffer from endometriosis, as stated by the Office on Women’s Health.

Being able to take medical leave would allow women who suffer with these circumstances to take care of themselves and again, not have to worry about fighting through the day. Endometriosis by itself causes extremely painful cramps, chronic pain in the pelvis and lower back, “pain during or after sex, intestinal pain… bleeding or spotting between menstrual periods,” and digestive problems, all listed by the Office on Women’s Health. They also state that over 6.5 million women in the United States deal with this issue. These symptoms are definitely worthy of a day off whether it be to just relax or to visit the doctor.

However, while I believe this could potentially help women, it would more so hurt them in the long run for several reasons. Women have been forced to fight for respect and to be taken seriously in the workplace, and if they were to go on medical leave for periods, it may reinforce those ideas in male co-workers.

Women were not even allowed to wear pants in the workplace until the 1970s, stated within Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which one can find on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. We still have a long way to go in the sense of attitudes towards women having high-demand jobs. I would not want to jeopardize that in any way, and unfortunately, paid leave for periods could begin the resurgence of such ideas.

Menstrual leave also, according to Health Line, “leaves those who don’t menstruate in an uncomfortable position,” like women who have started menopause or transgender women. If they want to keep that information to themselves, it would be difficult considering that their co-workers are openly engaging in paid leave.

I’m not saying I would not love being able to call out of work and still get paid because of something I am forced to endure as a woman, but in my opinion, the cons outweigh the pros. I believe it is much safer for women to not undertake this leave.

Rather than enforcing this policy in the workplace, those in charge could consider just giving women more sick days. The average company gives eight paid sick days a year, based on data from Workest. Part-time employees receive six. Knowing that periods are dreadful for women, this number could be increased. This would allow women to call out without having to specify it being for their period, and it would give them more opportunities to take care of themselves when that time comes.

However, I honestly don’t think that paid time off for periods should be considered. As mentioned above, women are already not taken seriously by their male co-workers, so giving them time off would just add fuel to the fire. Women have been fighting for their rights in the workplace for far too long, and asking for paid time off for menstruating would allow men to belittle them. Huge controversies would spark, and it is really just not worth it. Women have been getting by on their periods for centuries now, so why change it? I understand that it is tough, but women are strong. Periods should not stop us from being able to work. 

As artist Mary More sang in 2018, “I can do anything you can do bleeding,” and women should feel so powerful for that. While it does suck to get your period, it is something that we cannot control and unfortunately must deal with. It is not something to be ashamed of though, and working through it is just another example of how amazing women are.

Featured photo courtesy of Antoni Shkraba, Pexels