Period pain debate complex

By Tara Whitsed

It’s certainly not a new idea.

Many countries and workplaces have already put in place a menstrual policy.
But until last week, I had absolutely no knowledge on the subject whatsoever.
It was a survey that prompted Triple J current affairs program Hack to discuss the topic on air last week.
The Western Sydney University study into menstrual health and the management of period pain in young Australian women revealed, according to the ABC, that 40 per cent of the 5000 women surveyed have taken a day off work or university due to period pain and that 90 per cent of women had experienced period pain in the past three months.
The results of the survey, which was sponsored by a sanitary napkin brand, prompted an open discussion on menstrual policies — or period pain leave — which is an idea that seems to be gaining momentum across the country.
Initially, the idea seemed like waving a huge white flag to gender equality.
I thought that to give women some kind of special leave, on top of their already allocated annual sick days, would only drive a wedge between female and male co-workers.
Put simply, period pain is pretty hard to wrap your head around if you are a dude.
It’s understandable. The reality is men have absolutely no idea what period pain feels like and in times past there has been a tendency to dismiss women as being weak for not being able to deal with the pain.
However, menstrual health is an incredibly complex and the survey also revealed almost three quarters of women thought pain during their period was perfectly normal.
With such a wide spectrum of pain experienced by young girls and women, it is hard to establish just how much pain an employee is in, and allowing period pain leave would come down to trusting that employee to be honest about the level of their pain.
This also does not take into account that one employee may be more stoic or have a higher pain threshold than their counterpart.
The Victorian Women’s Trust has a menstrual policy in place and it does seemingly allow for these different levels of pain experienced.
According to the trust’s website, the policy is designed to be flexible depending on the employee’s needs, providing for the possibility of working from home; the opportunity to stay in the workplace under circumstances that encourage the comfort of the employee, for example resting in a quiet area; or the possibility of taking a day’s paid leave.
I do agree there are some women who experience excruciating amounts of pain, but this is usually not normal and can be an indication they are suffering from endometriosis.
While many people who do not understand that condition may think that it is linked to menstrual health; it is not.
Endometriosis is a chronic disease in which the uterus’ lining migrates outside the uterus.
While it can be painful before and during menstruation, it is important to note that this is far beyond the realm of menstrual health and a simple cramp in the stomach that, if you ask me, can be relieved using incredibly effective medications.
- Tara Whited is a News journalist.