What is best kept secret, even though half the population lives with it for about 40 years. Despite the successes, it is the social order that continues to put pressure on the government and everything that surrounds it. The Department of Equality’s idea to specifically regulate menstrual loss in a future reform of the abortion law has begun to break the taboo against the severe pain some women experience during their period. The measure is still being discussed within the government, but the idea has already led to evidence that is beginning to shed light on what it means for some to go to work and work in such conditions.
The injections, severe pain radiating down the legs and back, dizziness, vomiting, cold sweats… This is what Genar, a 30-year-old woman living in Madrid, experiences almost every month during her period. A few years ago, she turned to a gynecologist, who ruled out polycystic ovaries and diagnosed dysmenorrhea, which is characterized by severe pelvic and abdominal pain before and after menstruation. “You start taking ibuprofen, it doesn’t do anything for you, you switch to a lot of other anti-inflammatory drugs. And nothing … The last thing they prescribed me was a muscle pain reliever, from which you just go deaf, ”he says.
These “absolutely disabling” conditions determined Henar’s daily life until a doctor gave him the option of using hormonal contraceptives to reduce them. “I worked in several places, and when I arrived, I warned my bosses that this could happen to me,” he says. But he also admits that he came to normalize the pain: “You can’t perform like this and you’d be better off staying at home, but you’re going to work because you’re asking yourself how am I going to call now to tell them that I should stay because of my period?” points out.
This is a question and a question that many of these women have been asking. The experience of physical conditions associated with menstruation is often accompanied by a sense of shame or downplaying of harm, which Mary, who prefers not to give her real name, knows very well. “It’s torture, it’s actually a relief that I get my period on weekends because of work,” says this 32-year-old woman who works in an office and suffers from “very bad pain” for several days most of the months . spreading through the back, great fatigue, dizziness and constant cloudiness.
For most of those who experience this type of menstruation, the pain is exacerbated by guilt and over-demanding of themselves when it comes to work time. “You think that you are not doing the job the way you should, as if you are inefficient or productive. Because we require ourselves to continue to do this, as in the rest of the days, ”says Maria. She remembers the day a few years ago — “Now I talk about it more naturally,” she says — she cried “because I didn’t know how to tell my boss that I couldn’t go to work.” Added to the fear was shame “that he would think I was lazy because there are women who get hurt and can go on.” “In the end, I said that I was sick, in general, without naming it,” he recalls.
Genar or Maria issues are two experiences that some women who suffer from painful periods face, but “these women don’t make up the vast majority,” says Isabel Serrano, a gynecologist who specializes in sexual and reproductive rights. Some of these periods are due to conditions such as endometriosis, polyps, fibroids, or ovarian cysts; others remain undiagnosed. “However, those who suffer from unbearable pain that seriously affects their lives are a minority these days,” emphasizes the expert, who recognizes the need “for these women to have protection that they don’t have today.”
The rule that became invisible “historically”
Psychologist and researcher Laura Medina Peruca is one of the coordinators of the Equity and Menstrual Health Study, initiated by the Jordi Gol and Gurin University’s Institute for Primary Care Research (IDIAPJGol). She assures that this type of emotional impact is no exception, because there is a “normalization” of menstrual pain, which is “closely related to gender issues and how women’s pain experience is confirmed,” in addition to the invisibility that “historically” clashed with menstruation. . “It’s something that happens in a social context and we ourselves internalize it, and it also has to do with ignoring the menstrual cycle,” she notes.
For the researcher, invisibility and taboo mean that “this is something that is not talked about and finally it is set up as something that should be hidden.” Something that is “directly related” to what happens in the workplace: “It ends up being that this pain is minimal, that it must be put up with and that you should not notice it.” This same social cover-up, according to Medina, leads to “scarce scientific research on menstruation” and a trend “toward the medicalization” of painful menstruation. “In many cases, this is the first and immediate resource, but more research needs to be done on where this pain comes from,” the psychologist adds.
Tatiana Romero was diagnosed with endometriosis nearly two decades ago when she was a teenager. At 38, she continues to suffer severe and unbearable pain every time she has her period, which literally prevents her from leaving the house many times. However, she had to work hard under such conditions, especially in her more than ten years as a hotel clerk. “It is very difficult to explain to those who have not felt it. It’s like you’ve been split in two. It causes low blood pressure, migraines, dizziness… When I worked at a bar, I was at the bar for a while and occasionally went down to the bathroom to vomit,” says this Mexican.
For Tatiana, the only way out is a cocktail of drugs, which, as far as possible, will alleviate the disabling discomfort that lasts for several days. “I always had to go to work full of drugs, taking painkillers to be able to get up,” he says of his time in the hospitality industry. So, her strategy has been to try and switch shifts with colleagues or get rid of the days she knew she would have her period, which she continues to do, albeit with more ease because she is autonomous and can organize herself.
Measure, still in the air
All voices polled for this report agree that the menstrual health talk is starting to be discussed, which is good news, and they note the fact that women suffering from severe menstrual cramps can be granted special sick leave. “I don’t know to what extent it will change what we can already ask for, but it helps to make it visible and feel recognized and legitimized,” says Maria, looking forward to seeing how this will eventually be formulated and formalized in law. . if this item is finally included. The young woman focuses on the resistance that still exists and that she has seen these days mostly on Twitter, with comments that “minimize our experience and the pain we suffer.”
For now, however, the measure included in the Equality Ministry’s abortion law reform project is up in the air, and several socialist ministers have cooled the possibility of it finally being incorporated into law in recent hours. text.
“You have to be very careful about this, but it’s true that so far, many women have kept silent and haven’t received the employment protection they need,” says Serrano, a member of the State Planned Parenthood Federation (FPFE). It is important for the assessor that this type of workplace intervention be accompanied by other interventions, such as educating healthcare professionals or including menstrual education in the classroom. “There is still a need for much more normalization, more public acceptance, and for the state to create mechanisms to guarantee this,” he concludes.
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