1st Day Of Period Leaves – To Be OR Not To Be!!!

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A lot has been said about the ‘First Day of Period’ leave. Some good, some bad. Women who have braved their way through the hardships of working through their periods until now in the big bad world have especially raised their voices against the said leave policy.

We live in a country with two extremes one extreme where women are openly talking about periods and the taboo attached to it while openly discussing whether or not they would like to take leave on their first day. The other extreme being that of women who are living the taboos attached to periods and are bereft of even the basic of the hygiene that they require for keeping themselves clean and healthy. I have had the privilege of being born and brought up in an educated and liberal family where I was made to feel comfortable of something as natural as having periods. I have personally suffered from severely painful periods since the day I had my first period along with symptoms like nausea, severe lower back cramps, hip joint locking, legs cramping and sometimes migraines. So basically, I lay immobile during periods unless it is absolutely necessary for me to step out for work.

For me personally a first day period leave would be a boon. I have let women in my organization take leave for their first day of periods since the beginning. I have been open about it and have followed such a rule since I had people reporting into me even before I started my own business. Having said that, I do understand the stand of women who oppose it. One point of the argument is that any privilege, like this one, can be misused. However, that would not mean we could penalize the women who require these leaves for perfectly genuine reason to not have the comfort of a leave when they really need one. The second point of argument is that of feminism, our fight for equality. That when we are fighting for equal status with men in the workforce, a first day period leave would only give more reason of inequality and undue advantage for women over men. Although I personally believe that it is a biological process and some women are rendered physically unable to operate on that day, this should in no way dampen our capability as an equal human being.

To add insult to injury, a very famous fitness expert who is revered by many, commented that period pain is not normal and she implies that it can be cured with a proper fitness routine. Just when we are trying to fight one battle here comes another that would create more confusion than awareness about menstruation.

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Having been affected by periods, that create hindrance in my regular life, I needed some expert opinion on the first day leave and clarification on period pain. I spoke to a few doctors and posed them these questions. On the first day of period leave Dr. Munjaal V. Kapadia from Namaha Superspecialty Hospital for Women, Mumbai and Ramaben Hospital, Navsari said, “Allowing women to take a day off during their first day of period is fine with me. The only concern would be the potential to misuse that freedom and the possible judging of women who do take leave by those that don’t. Also, why would women want everyone to know when they were in their first day of period anyway? It’s hard to come up with a universal policy on something that isn’t universal. Some girls have a hard time during their first day and some don’t.” He further says that instead of a specific first day period leave, “Maybe it’s best to increase the overall number of personal days off that one can take by 10-12 a year and let women take them off as per their convenience.”

text box for period painDr. Sulbha Arora, Clinical Director, Nova IVI Fertility (Andheri), is in sync with what a lot of women are saying about the first day of period leave, “Pain that is severe enough to disrupt routine activities and cause incapacitation is actually seen in a very small percentage of women, and therefore in my opinion offering period leave to all women seems superfluous.” Contrary to this view, Dr. Radhika Tonsey, MD (Homeopathy), asserts that, “If a woman has any underlying condition causing this pain, I think it is legitimate reason to take a leave. Although like any other sick leave the premise or authenticity of it can be questioned. And it’s a personal prerogative too. Some may need a leave, some may not. But I don’t see a reason why someone who doesn’t need a leave should demean or belittle someone who does and call it feminism. Everything seems to resound back to feminism. I don’t think my personal menstrual suffering has anything to do with feminism in general and by not taking a leave I am being a feminist. It is ridiculous. Women in my family have had horrible menstrual histories. I am sure they would have appreciated one day off from work so their functioning and health can be better. Same rules work even for female domestic help.” This is one view that I can personally agree with.

I also spoke with Dr Parikshit Tank, MD DNB FCPS DGO DFP MNAMS MICOG MRCOG, a Consultant OBGYN and fertility specialist at Ashwini Maternity and Surgical Hospital, Jupiter Hospital. About the first day of period leave he believes that, “If a period is painful enough for a woman to avoid work or break her routine, it should be evaluated and treated. Whether she needs leave and whether she is provided that particularly is something between her and the employer. Those who get this leave should consider it a plus factor. It is not mandatory to provide this at present.” The doctors believe that if you have painful periods, have yourself checked, it may be something that can be treated if it is a underlying pathological condition. Also, leaves are something that is personal and based on individual physical state.

My second question for the experts involved clarification on period pain. We all know it exists, for some it’s severe and for some it is non-existent. Dr Radhika Tonsey says, “Personally, I am suffering from endometriosis since a few years and have always had a terrible history of pain during periods including syncopal or fainting because of the severe pain. I have still had to work through those days taking painkillers. Some women experience other debilitating symptoms like nausea vomiting and diarrhoea during periods. I have also treated numerous women with severe dysmenorrhea.” Being a fitness enthusiast and a runner herself she particularly points out that, “everyone may or may not be able to up their fitness quotient. I have been a long distance runner and a fairly active person all my life, although it helps with reducing intensity of pain – I cannot say which cycle can be painful or not.”

Dr. Sulbha Arora further clarifies, “Fitness regimes have little or no impact on period pain. Period pain is indeed real. If it is severe enough to make work impossible, the woman should consult a gynecologist to rule out an underlying pathology, which if treated, may help alleviate the pain to a great extent. In some cases, however, no underlying cause may be found, and treatment remains symptomatic.” Continuing on similar lines Dr. Munjaal Kapadia elucidates, “Period pain can vary, from mild to debilitating. And sometimes, there is an underlying pathology, which requires treatment. If there are underlying causes for debilitating period pain such as fibroids or endometriosis, no amount of exercise of fitness is going to alleviate that. Its best to consult a gynecologist to help you rule out underlying disorders.”

Dr. Parikshit Tank concludes by saying, ”Period pain is real. It usually doesn’t resolve by lifting weights and “proper” fitness. Being fit is an integral part of well being. But not necessarily a solution for period pain.”

In finality we know that period pain exists and in some cases it may render the woman physically incapacitated for a day or two. Whether we all agree or disagree on a blanket first day period leave for women who are working in organizations, let us first understand what women go through physically and try to mitigate the taboos (and misconceptions) attached to something as natural and commonly occurring biological phenomenon as periods.

 

Image courtesy – http://www.thedebrief.co.uk

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