I’m saddened to read reports of schools telling their pupils they are not to take time off school because having your periods is just part of life. Why? Well, because this normalization of pain and suffering associated with menstruation just compounds the stigma associated with women’s bodies and compounds the dismissal of women’s subjective experience of pain. This is a common problem throughout women’s health.
Trying to reduce absenteeism is one thing but could we delve a little bit deeper to examine if practices have been put in place to see what the problems feeding into absenteeism rates are? Can we better support girls on their period? Furthermore, who decides if someone’s menstrual pain is a valid reason to be absent? Do we ask these questions of those who do not menstruate? Is this equal? How do we measure what is enough suffering in terms of justifying a day off? Can we trust girls and their parents to decide this for themselves?
Dysmenorrhea (painful periods) is common in those aged under 25. It can affect concentration and cognitive performance. Yet, despite the high prevalence, many girls do not seek help for it and some associated conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis and adenomyosis can go undiagnosed and untreated. Willingness to seek help is low because girls themselves normalize this pain and suffering. This normalisation of heavy bleeding, pain and associated symptoms with menstruation can lead girls and women to assume that this is all an inevitable response to menstruation. This policy on absenteeism compounds this idea and may arguably feed into poor health outcomes. Can we instead empower women and acknowledge their subjective experiences of pain during menstruation?
© PCOS Vitality 2020