how do I ask for monthly time off to deal with my period?

Two letters, similar topic. Here’s the first:

I’m currently searching for a new job, partly because my company has been fully remote for the past two years due to Covid and this doesn’t align with my career goals (there is a hands-on component to my work that I want to focus on developing). However, one thing that’s been a blessing with WFH is not having to be at work when I’m PMSing. The pain, the irritability, the exhaustion are all so much more manageable when I’m in my own space. The hiring managers I’m talking to all say they are flexible about letting their employees WFH about one day per week. But I’m not sure how specifically ask if that can include 3-5 days of menstrual strife per month.

Assuming I’m lucky enough to get an offer, I’d like to feel this out with my future boss. Do I just … ask if I can stay home when I’m having bad menstrual symptoms, matter-of-fact and proud? Do I arrange this as a medical accomodation with HR? For what it’s worth, I suspect that the level of period-flu misery I deal with is not normal, but my doctor’s advice hasn’t helped much and I don’t have any formal diagnosis. From talking to people at the places I’ve interviewed with, the actual WFH and flexibility aspect won’t be a big deal. But my field is heavily male-dominated and I just feel so weird about the whole thing.

And the second:

I have a health condition that appropriate medication has been wonderful at treating. Unfortunately, the new drugs react to estrogen and each month I have a day or two when I’m effectively not medicated at all. My productivity goes down the toilet; I’m distracted, lethargic, and in pain. I’m working with my doctor to fine-tune my treatment, but it will be trial and error for a while; in the meantime I just need a day or half-day of rest. The rest of the time, I’m a high-performing senior specialist in my field.

How do I explain this without essentially sending my boss/es a Special Red Letter every time I’m on my period? Do I need to avoid any specifics if I’m asked about my sick leave? I can say “it’s related to treatment of a health issue that is otherwise under control; taking a day or half day regularly helps minimize any disruption” but surely the monthly pattern is a giant clue as to what’s happening.

I’m not ashamed of needing medical treatment. My managers value me and my work gets done. I hope the pandemic has made people a little more comfortable acknowledging their colleagues have flesh-and-bone bodies. But periods and hormones are so fraught and taboo — especially at work — that I genuinely don’t know if it’s better to be matter-of-fact about it or literally never mention it. What do?

The answer to both of these: “I have a health condition that flares up about once a month.”

For the first letter-writer: “I have a health condition that flares up about once a month for three to five days. I can work through it, but it’s much easier to manage if I can work from home those days. You mentioned people often work from home once a week. Would you prefer I save my work-from-home days up to use them all that week, or would it be okay to do a weekly remote day, plus the three to five days a month this comes up?” … and then possibly, “Would it make sense for me to do this as a formal accommodation with HR so there’s a record of it in case anyone has questions in the future?”

For the second letter-writer: “I have a health condition that flares up about once a month and I typically need a day or half-day of rest when it happens. What’s the best way to handle that?”

To be clear, not specifying that it’s menstrual isn’t about periods being shameful or taboo. It’s that you never owe your manager personal details about your health. You also wouldn’t need to specify that you were getting chemo, or infusions for Crohn’s, or any other recurring medical need. You just explain it’s medical and ask for the accommodation you need.

If your employer wants to do it as a formal ADA accommodation, they can ask for reasonable documentation about the condition and how it affects you — but even then, they’re not entitled to lots of details, just documentation from your health care provider that you have a covered disability, its functional limitations, and the sort of accommodations required. In most cases that should go through HR, not your direct manager.

And sure, the monthly pattern could be a clue about what’s happening. But lots of other things can happen on a similar pattern (like if you had a monthly medical treatment that you then needed to recover from) … and ultimately it doesn’t really matter if your manager figures it might be period-related. The specifics of what you’re dealing with medically don’t need to enter into the discussion.

can I keep mentioning my period at work?

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. Eldritch Office Worker*

    For what it’s worth, OPs, I get migraines once or twice a month that aren’t menstrual related. WFH I’ve been able to work around them, but in-office I usually miss about one day a month. Never been an issue.

    Back when I managed hourly employees I had one employee with such bad cramps I’d let her curl up on my office floor for 20 minutes when they got bad because she couldn’t afford to take the day off. I would have MUCH preferred I could have gotten her better accommodations (I could not, in that situation, I tried). If you told me you had a medical condition and I later found out it was PMS I would not pass any judgment, and I’d be glad you were taking care of yourself. I know that’s not universal, but it should be and I’d hate you to carry any undue guilt or shame around it.

    1. Rayray*

      You sound like a great boss! Personally I think when jobs have to be done in office, flexible accommodations like letting someone take a quick rest if needed would end up being more effective than making someone power through it. If someone just needs 20 minutes to shut their eyes or lay down, they can probably come
      Back ready to get back to work vs if they’re “powering through” they’ll be operating at a lesser charge. I get that we have mandated breaks and it may not seem fair to others, but I just don’t think it’s a bad thing to allow some flexibility and bending the rules if it helps someone.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I agree, I’m a big proponent of equity over equality. People are different and have different needs. In general I think a culture of flexibility just benefits everyone.

        1. Red 5*

          Same. In the end, I feel like a lot more places need to say “what are we actually trying to accomplish. Okay, what do we actually literally have to have to do that? The rest can just be flexibility so that all of our employees can do their best job and be their best selves” etc.

          That’s everything from schedules to communication styles to letting people take longer breaks when necessary. Most of the rigid This Is How We Work stuff is just tradition and has no real meaning in the end. If you have a phone that has to be manned from 9-5, then by all means, you need somebody at the desk from 9-5, but how you accomplish that can get really creative if it helps move the rest of the business along.

    2. PT*

      I had an employee almost black out on the job due to menstrual cramps and get sent home, it became a whole Big Deal because we had to report every employee sent home due to illness or injury.

    3. LCH*

      i used to manage an employee who got hives about once a month. i didn’t know that at first, she would just call out sort of regularly. then one day i saw her at the office after she had already called out (they had cleared up suddently so she came in) and she told me what was going on. there are all sorts of regular flare-up conditions.

      1. LittleMarshmallow*

        That happens to me also! In my case it’s likely hormone related (although we haven’t figured it out for sure yet). I’m usually able to just go in kinda itchy, but I’ve had days where my whole face puffed up and then Benadryl has to get involved and then I’m just useless (even if I can manage to get stuff done on Benedryl it makes me a little ball of firey rage so it’s still best if I’m at home). My managers are nice about it. Nobody wants a ragey marshmallow at work.

    4. Anon for This*

      Very much this. I have monthly, non menstrual related days where I feel so sick it’s hard to function… because it’s stress related and we have a monthly recurring problem filled task to handle, and the aftermath of handling that makes me sick. Detail on what the medical condition is is not needed, and there are enough monthly problems that aren’t menstrual related that there’s no reason for anyone to assume that.

    5. Sloan Kittering*

      My experience is that it doesn’t shake out to once a month anyway. Some of them fall on weekends or days I’m on other leave, sometimes it’s bad towards the end of the day and I might leave a little early but it’s not particularly disruptive. Hopefully OPs won’t end up needing 3-5 days consistently every month.

      1. kitryan*

        Yes, I have bad cramps and it doesn’t hit a workday every month. Sometimes it’s over the weekend or on a holiday or previously scheduled vacation. Or I might get a ‘light’ month here or there. It ends up being more like 2 out of every 3 months maybe? Which isn’t as much or as obvious.
        I also will call in as working from home when it does hit.
        Covid has actually made this harder, since in the before times there were lots of low stakes things that fell under the ‘not feeling well’ umbrella that didn’t require reporting and quarantine and testing and so forth- like allergies and eating something that disagreed with you, but now, if you are non specific people are legitimately concerned with your health and their health and workplace safety policies. So now I don’t get into the nitty gritty about how it’s messing with my digestion and I’m also needing to be near the bathroom and everything, but I will say it’s a chronic issue, or it’s cramps and/or it’s that monthly thing, or jokingly ‘lady issues’ or something like that (but I know that we have a pretty casual department and my other team member has a related issue and my supervisor has a different chronic condition so there’s a bit of a bodies can suck, what are you going to do vibe already).
        But yeah, for me it’s only 2 days that are really bad and they can be all or part weekend days a decent chunk of the time- like this go round it was Saturday and Sunday that were bad and Friday and today were not fabulous but basically fine.

        1. Zweisatz*

          I circumvent the Covid issue by simply stating “it’s not infectious” or “it’s not Covid”. This way I don’t have to go into much more detail.

    6. Red 5*

      Same here! I get frequent migraines, among other health problems, most of which can be managed enough to be productive in a WFH situation (with the job I have now, not all jobs) but are incredibly difficult to manage if I was commuting in. And sometimes they’re so bad that WFH doesn’t help either. A good boss doesn’t need to know and probably doesn’t care as long as you’re aware of your deadlines and you meet your metrics, etc. Once a month is really not that often, even if it’s for two days! I also have had a period of time where I had regular doctor’s appointments about once a month that I needed to leave early for, nobody asked, I just said I had an appointment.

      This isn’t true of every job and every boss, naturally, but that’s all you should feel like you have to do, if they ask for more or are rude about it, that’s -their problem and not yours-. You don’t have to comply with their demands.

  2. the cat's ass*

    I’m happy to see this and glad folks are speaking up re accommodation. At the beginning of ADA and FMLA i battled with my nurse manager about this and finally won ‘preferred’ scheduling’ in that i was off for 1-2 days monthly for the same issues. And it made a HUGE difference my my ability to be effective at work and overall more comfortable healthwise. What smart manager wouldn’t want that for their employees?

  3. Gnome*

    I have started having migraines and I’ve learned that for many women, their cycle can be a trigger (different parts can trigger different women, apparently). So, in case it makes it easier for anyone, even monthly cycle related things aren’t necessarily during your period.

    1. Mirily*

      Please PLEASE check with your doctor about this! I switched gynos and my new one informed me that having migranes with an aura means I can’t take hormonal birth control due to an increased risk of it causing a stroke.

      My old gyno never caught that. Also it turns out my hormonal bc was what was causing my migranes. Haven’t had a single one in the two years since I’ve stopped using it.

      1. Rainy*

        Most menstruating people who get migraines with specific types of aura can take progestin-only birth control. I’m aware that may not be the case for you, but for most people, it’s the estrogen specifically, not the hormones in general, that cause the increased risk of stroke.

        (I am a person with migraines and have taken a couple of forms of progestin-only birth control including POPs and the Mirena IUD, very safely.)

        1. PotsPansTeapots*

          +1. I can’t take estrogen BC, but because progesterone is processed differently, I’ve been on it in the past.

      2. Mianaai*

        I don’t mean to derail, but this prompted me to do some quick literature review, since I have a number of friends/acquaintances who are on hormonal birth control specifically to control their migraines. A few things that came up in the papers I found (in particular, Sheikh et al published a literature review and meta-analysis in 2018 on the topic): 1) Risk has been evaluated for hormonal bc containing estrogen; other forms of hormonal bc that are progesterone-only may not increase stroke risk beyond the nominal risk associated with migraines 2) the data published thus far are primarily small studies and don’t tell a particularly coherent picture. In particular dose effects haven’t been thoroughly evaluated. 3) the data published thus far also suggests that the increased risk is additive, i.e. estrogen-containing bc increases your risk by x%, migraines increase your risk by y%, and in combination they increase your risk by x+y%, not z% where z is larger than x+y. It’s absolutely something to discuss with a physician if there’s a concern, but it may not be as cut-and-dried as your gyno indicated.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Surely there is an important distinction between people who already had migraines and take BC to control them, and people who never had migraines before taking BC, and whose migraines disappeared after stopping?

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yall please discuss this with your doctors if it impacts you. Discussing it in this forum is going to get you a million contradictory anecdotes and very little helpful information.

            1. KRM*

              Yes please talk to your doctor if any of this resonates with you! Mine recommended a Mirena, which actually stopped me having “annoying to debilitating” migraines right before my period started, which vastly improved my quality of life. Point being, you don’t have to accept it as a natural consequence, you may be able to treat it!

      3. Not your typical admin*

        I so agree with this!!!!! Please see a doctor who will listen. There were so many things I accepted as my “normal” until I saw a doctor who actually ran tests and helped me. She said she sees so many women who just accept their symptoms and push through. I didn’t realize how bad I felt until after she got everything regulated.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          Good advice in general. I got diagnosed with an autoimmune condition in my late 20s, and suddenly a wide variety of annoying-but-tolerable symptoms a) made total sense, and b) WENT AWAY. (I was very lucky.) I’d tried complaining about it when I was a kid, doctors couldn’t find anything wrong and told my parents it was “growing pains” and/or all in my head, so eventually I just accepted that my body was sourced from the shallow end of the gene pool and didn’t work right. Okay, that’s true – but in my case, it’s mostly treatable, thank you science.

          Might take patience. I can assure you that mine wasn’t fixed on the first try. Or the thirty-first. But it’s your life, and life is better when your body is working correctly, so it’s worth poking at even low-grade health problems until you’ve genuinely exhausted the options.

          1. Anonym*

            Not to derail, but IF you’re comfortable doing so, would you be willing to share your diagnosis?

            (The bit you shared sounds like me, but I haven’t gotten answers beyond “not sure what’s us now, but you might develop an immune disorder in the future, maybe” which was less than heartening.)

            1. Cedrus Libani*

              Gluten intolerance. Turns out that, while most people have cross-reactivity to the gut protein TG2 (your standard celiac), some people take the hit to the related skin protein TG3, or the neuron protein TG6. I got the brain version. Yay me.

              I went on a keto diet – incidentally gluten free – age 28. This was strictly an attempt to control the late-20s desk job spread; I had no further expectations, and was thoroughly startled by what happened next. I’m also a PhD in a biology-adjacent discipline; clearly the universe has a sense of humor, it sent me the most bogus-sounding thing it could find, just to watch me be mad about it. Yeah, it’s straight from the bowels of YouTube, I wouldn’t believe me either. Sigh.

              I have (had?) OCD, diagnosed age 5 but symptomatic before that. After four days of keto, it. was. gone. Tried a bowl of rice, no effect. A few days later, a sandwich. Had OCD from roughly 12-24 hours post-bread, also destroyed the toilet. (Fortunately, I’ve never had contamination OCD, I’m the symmetry type…) Checked the literature, apparently this is a known thing?! Went to doctor, demanded bloodwork for celiac. Negative. But I do have a family history and a copy of the high-risk HLA type.

              I also had mild ataxia, and as an adult, I developed extremely low sleep latency. As in, from my mid teens to age 28, I don’t think I made it through a single one-hour class or meeting without at least one microsleep. The moment my mind wandered, boom. Even when I was well-rested. When tired, I was known to fall asleep while walking. I never learned to drive; seemed like a bad idea. This slowly resolved over 1-2 months.

              I’d had some gut pain, along with joint and muscle pain, in primary school. This got better. In my 20s, I developed a strange eating pattern – I would be vaguely nauseous and uninterested in food one day, then the next day I’d be starving and would eat two days’ worth and then some, and then I’d go back off my food until another day had passed and I was suddenly starving again. This was also gluten-specific. I’ve gone full Tasmanian Devil at a gluten-free holiday feast, carbs be darned, such that I’ve been uncomfortably stuffed and also very thirsty, but even that doesn’t take a day to clear out of my system.

              For the first year, I could tell when I’d been glutened. It’s kind of existentially unsettling to watch your OCD switch on and your sense of balance fuzz out. But it’s been several years; I don’t react anymore. I’ve messed up bad, and realized it, and expected to have issues – nope. I still don’t knowingly eat the stuff, because I really, REALLY do not want to progress to full-on gluten ataxia, and nobody’s ever died of a gluten deficiency. But I don’t take celiac-level precautions anymore. Pass the soy sauce.

              As much as it pains my alternative-medicine-side-eyeing soul to admit it, elimination diets do work sometimes and are fairly low risk. If something’s not right and you’ve been through the standard workup with no results, might be worth a shot.

      4. JSPA*

        My auras, in contrast, didn’t cut in until after i’d been off hormonal BC for 6 years. They also have not ended with menopause.

        Basically, estrogen-inclusive BC brings a small additional risk of blood clots (while lowering the risk of some other diseases, as well as, obviously, the health and mortality risks of pregnancy). And migraines (with or without aura) and possibly also aura (with or without migraine) are a tip-off that some of the blood vessels in your brain can constrict.

        Passing an object through a constricted passage is more of a challenge than passing same object through an unconstricted passage.

        Which is to say, if we were able to (read: if we chose to fund the studies and to develop the tests), we could probably distinguish between those who don’t (in any case) form clots while on HBC, vs those who do. And then those who don’t form clots could stop worrying, and those who do form clots could better judge their risks, as well.

      5. Salymander*

        This happened to me. I have hemiplegic migraines, I had several episodes that were indistinguishable from a stroke, and I have lasting problems because of them. I had migraines for years before that, sometimes with auras. No one told me until after my first stroke that I shouldn’t take birth control or almost any other non narcotic prescription migraine medication, and that those meds would probably not be very effective for me anyway. Would have been nice to know before landing in the hospital and having months of physical and occupational therapy. I’m ok now, mostly, but it was still really aggravating and scary.

        OP, I am sorry that you are having such a difficult time. I hope that you are able to get the days off and anything else you need.

    2. Cold and Tired*

      Seconded on the migraines as a part of your monthly cycle. I had them almost every month like clockwork for years, and they only stopped when I got an IUD put in – apparently the constant progestin stream has evened my hormones out enough to mostly stop them. No one ever questioned my frequent time off or assumed they were PMS related (at least that they said to me) which was awesome.

    3. many bells down*

      Yeah I used to get one like clockwork on day 2 of my period. Every month without fail. Then I guess my hormones changed and they just…stopped!

    4. Gnome*

      Thanks all, but I do NOT have cycle-related migraines. I had to look into that though when they first started.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      I weirdly started having “menstrual migraines” when I was 30 but only for like a year. I didn’t even realize until I started tracking when they occurred so I could be really detailed with the doctor and then by the time my doctor’s appointment arrived I had enough data that the timing became pretty clear and they basically just prescribed me extremely strong aleve to take on my period.

      I’m grateful they seem to have stopped just as randomly as they started because they were really pretty debilitating when I had them but very unpredictable.

  4. Brandine*

    I am a person who menstruates and I’m oblivious enough that I would never put together that a monthly issue was menstruation-related. I think it’s safe to assume others are just as oblivious in the aggregate.

    1. Masked Bandit*

      Yeah, I don’t even make the connection between my own monthly symptoms and my period. Every month I wonder why I’m so tired and then it hits me. I’d never make the connection with someone else WFH for a few days.

      1. JLP*

        Same. Every month I get cranky and weepy. I wonder why I’m so annoyed at everyone. Then all of a sudden, it starts and I’m like…oh yeah…that makes sense. I very likely wouldn’t make the connection for anyone else either.

        1. Shoebox*

          I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I don’t really get periods due to my IUD, but I still get cramps and the emotional symptoms (lucky me). So that makes it a little harder to make the connection…but even when I got periods, I was still somehow surprised every month.

          Fun fact I learned last night – your cycle can change every 5 years! So once you’ve got it figured out, your body does a bamboozle on ya.

          1. Storm in a teacup*

            I have the same issue! I still get some PMS symptoms after getting an IUD (although it had significantly helped with others) and each month I’m caught out by it. You would think after decades of this I would be used to it!

          2. metadata minion*

            Same here! No cramps luckily, but I end up going “why am I so cranky and why do my breasts hurt and ohhhh, right, this happened last month”.

        2. KLS*

          Oh, this is so me. I wonder to myself why I hate everybody, and then two days later I’m like…”oh.”

        3. Felis alwayshungryis*

          Same! I get irritable and when my husband politely suggests it might be That Time, I get angry, accuse him of being sexist because women can have emotions that aren’t period-related, then within a week…BAM. It’s sort of a running joke now.

        4. LittleMarshmallow*

          Yep! Same here too… I don’t know why I want to bite everyone’s head off all of a sudden… then a couple days later… oh yeah… cuz of that. You’d think after nearly 30 years of it I’d catch on! I’ll have the menopause before I finally figure it out and then who knows what will happen!

          1. LittleMarshmallow*

            Oh… and I get the sore boobs about a week ahead of time and for some reason still don’t put together the crabby with it…

        5. Cherith Ponsonby*

          My cycle is quite regular (just under five weeks) and it still sneaks up on me! It’s particularly bad in the current climate, because I get flu-like symptoms for about 24 hours and I start thinking “oh no, do I break out the rapid antigen tests” before realising what it is.

          I might make the connection for other people at work, if only because I do the weekly scheduling and I tend to notice patterns – but my work persona only needs (or wants) to know to the extent that it would affect the schedule. If I’m scheduling someone who has a good reason to expect that they’ll be thoroughly miserable every fourth Wednesday for the foreseeable future, just let me know so I can work around it.

        6. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          Hilariously, after reading all of this, my period started this morning a week late and I had not realised it was due.

          My housemate and I call this “being the worst werewolf.”

      2. Burger Bob*

        Yep. I will either get exhausted for a couple days or perhaps have a migraine and just wonder why on earth I feel so lousy. Then it hits and I’m like, “….Oh. Well I guess it all makes sense now.” If you’re not paying very close attention, it can be hard to make the connection. If a coworker is out on a roughly monthly basis for feeling bad, I may not even realize it’s roughly monthly. I will probably notice that they seem to take sick days more often than others or whatever, but I will assume they just have A Health Thing of Unknown Nature and never really make any other assumptions beyond that.

    2. Butters*

      I would assume they’re getting an infusion of some sort. Sometimes those drugs can make you feel bad for a day or two after.

    3. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I’m definitely one of these oblivious people. I have several coworkers who are dealing with things that flare up occasionally, and I couldn’t tell you if they’re out every 1 month or every 4 months, let alone which days of the month they take off.

    4. PotsPansTeapots*

      Came here to say just this. I can’t even stay on top of my own cycle, let alone that of someone I work with. “Jfc, why do I have a migraine; I already lost my free time yesterday to crying.” *goes to bathroom* “Ohh!”

      Also, as Alison notes, many medications are delivered on a monthly basis; co-workers (especially men) are as likely to privately speculate that’s the case, if they even speculate at all.

    5. OhNo*

      Same here. My department has a fairly open culture around periods, since all of us menstruate. Even so, it’s not like we track each other’s cycles or anything, and I am always a bit surprised when someone mentions cramps or PMS or other symptoms. Mostly, my reaction is just a sympathetic wince and an offer to cover whatever I can so they can take a day or two to ride it out.

      The likelihood of anyone tracking your days out, calculating their exact frequency, and putting that together with your menstrual cycle is pretty slim. And I can say, as a man (even a man who menstruates), it’s probably even less likely for a guy to put together that math, so chances are you won’t have to worry.

    6. Esmae*

      Especially since something that happens monthly in the sense of “approximately every four weeks” doesn’t necessarily happen monthly in the sense of “approximately the same day each month”. Unless someone is specifically paying attention to the length of time between sick days, it’s easy to miss.

    7. Starbuck*

      Haha, yes. I am whatever the opposite is of Hermione in the Prisoner of Azkaban. I’d never figure out the monthly pattern.

    8. Jacey*

      Just another voice agreeing with this sentiment! I notice lots of patterns in my own life, but almost never in other people’s lives unless it’s a pattern that affects me. And even if the pattern does affect me, like if I had a coworker who stored up WFH days and then took them all in 1 week so I didn’t see them 1 week a month, I’d never guess menstruation was why.

    9. This is a name, I guess*

      Also, months are not the same length, and periods often aren’t either. So, the days the OP takes off won’t be that transparent.

  5. Michelle Smith*

    Alison, as always, is spot on here. I recently went through the accommodation process at my job to continue working from home full time despite the office going back to not allowing any working from home. It was an annoying process that included an application for accommodations and then a letter from my doctor, multiple phone calls about proposed accommodations other than what I asked for and that would not work for me, and then finally a letter approving my accommodations through the first half of the year.

    Things to keep in mind:
    (1) You do NOT need a specific diagnosis. I actually had my doctor remove some of the diagnosis information from his proposed letter because it was TMI.
    (2) All the information should be treated with extreme confidentiality. I shared what was going on with me with a couple of people I really trust, but that was my choice and not a requirement.
    (3) Double check your office procedures before requesting an accommodation. Usually the information is in a handbook somewhere. For my job, the request did not actually go through HR but through a sequestered part of the General Counsel’s office.
    (4) There are some things that do not qualify as disabilities or perceived disabilities and some employers that are not required to provide accommodations even if you meet all other requirements. Be careful about where you choose to work and try to choose larger employers that have to meet the legal requirements of the ADA. And also make sure you know what does and does not count under the law so that your doctor can craft a letter that doesn’t talk you into an exclusion inadvertently (for a random example, obesity does not qualify as a disability. So if you were a person with mobility issues that are largely caused by or exacerbated by weight, your doctor should be focusing on your mobility limitations in the letter and not bring up BMI or weight).
    (5) I was entitled to continue working from home throughout the two months it took for them to consider my accommodations. Check and see what your rights are if you are asking for a new accommodation from a current employer.
    (6) Be open to all discussions. Accommodations have to be reasonable. They might be able to let you work from home 3 days in a row a month at some jobs but not others. And while this may be a reasonable accommodation, asking them to build you a private nap room for the days you’re feeling icky may not be. Again, my job asked me to consider a bunch of other options, such as having a car service bring me into the office 2x a month. I had to entertain the conversations and explain why each option would not be an acceptable accommodation for me and that was just a necessary part of the process.

    1. Sea Anemone*

      Yes to point 6. Employers have to provide reasonable accommodations, but it doesn’t have to be the specific accommodation that you ask for.

    2. Avril Ludgateau*

      When I requested an accommodation at my decently large employer (in the 1000 employee range, counting all departments/offices), they demanded what I considered an inappropriate amount of personal health information. I had to submit a HIPAA waiver to my doctor to release detailed records of my care to them. Honestly, I felt violated, and the whole process made my (mental AND physical) health decline for months. Which I very much doubt they cared about, until it started “affecting productivity”.

      They were also terribly uncommunicative and opaque throughout the entire process. They ignored my numerous and frequent attempts at contact to the point I gave up trying to reach them, at my supervisor’s suggestion. Then they would go to my supervisor and claim I hadn’t summitted this form or that, when I did. And I had receipts. I hate to be “that person” but I eventually insinuated legal action. That seemed to get a response.

  6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    I’m racking up quite an interesting number of days where I cannot go to the office due to the bad workings of my uterine organs. When the pain is at a ‘I’m throwing up it hurts so much’, my migraines go into overdrive and it’s happening twice a month at the moment…

    And as far as my boss knows I have a ‘medical condition that flares and I’m currently trying to find treatment for’ (diagnostic operation on the NHS has to wait till they’re not overloaded with covid)

    I don’t trust her with the full details. She’s always struck me as a ‘oh periods aren’t THAT bad! Wait till you have a baby!’ type.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      re: your boss and “wait til you have a baby”

      Laughing in “didn’t realize I was in active labor due to it not being near as awful as my cramps are every month”.

      Seriously, does she not grasp that everyone’s bodily experiences are identical?!?!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        She’s one that I do not want to try and convince of the fact that I truly do NOT want children – she’s got, shall we say, a lot of opinions about it as well as ‘cramps are minor’ stuff.

        1. AthenaC*

          Deliriously painful cramps unfortunately run in my family, but they seem to dissipate after the first pregnancy. My younger daughter has been unfortunate in that department, and she’s also the one that currently does not plan on ever having children. I hope for her sake (and everyone else’s) that they’re able to figure out something to do for that other than “take ibuprofin and quit whining” or “take birth control pills that you otherwise wouldn’t want and quit whining.”

          1. Anonym*

            Strong recommendation for hormonal IUD for your daughter. Mirena changed my life. My cramps (and associated digestive horrors and frequent loss of consciousness from pain) were severe enough that I passed out and had a fender bender once, and injured myself from falls multiple times, not to mention missed work and other important life stuff. All of it disappeared when I got the IUD. And it had zero of the unpleasant side effects of birth control pills (it’s a lower dose that acts locally, not systemically).

            If she hasn’t considered it, I hope she checks it out and good luck to her! We shouldn’t have to live like that.

            1. AthenaC*

              Fellow Mirena fan here. :)

              Thanks for the suggestion – she actually tried it already. Without going into too much detail, it helped but also didn’t work long-term for other reasons. That being said, even just the few months she had it seemed to “reset” things, so we’re mostly good for now but keeping an eye.

          2. kitryan*

            I thought I was literally actually dying when I was a teenager and the cramps started. If she doesn’t know already, please tell your daughter to be cautious with pain meds, as I was put on them when I was quite young (maybe 15) and wasn’t clearly told that they could cause ulcers, so I wasn’t always careful about taking them with food (and got an ulcer).
            I ended up on birth control that I took continuously (without the break week) and had no period and no pain and it was wonderful once I went through a couple different types. It’s not necessarily for everyone but it worked really well for me for about 18 years. I only stopped when weight issues made the dosage not work right anymore.

      2. Nope, not today*

        Yes! My daughter is home from school with cramps today. My boyfriend doesnt always get it – its normal for a lot of women, she should go to school. And I remind him that for me, being in labor was LESS painful than the cramps I used to have when I was younger, the ones that were debilitating to the point where I couldn’t move, much less get to school….

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I’ve never had kids and never will, but I have broken my spine in the past and that pain was not as bad as what this feels like when your uterus is trying to implode.

        2. Irish girl*

          you sound like my mom. She didnt realize how far into labor she was with me because her pains were mild compared to her periods. Thankfully, she understood mine being bad as well. I dont think i ever missed school because of them, but she always made sure i had pain killers or let the nurse give me them without question.

        3. Storm in a teacup*

          So cool to see you sticking up for and believing your daughter. My mum never had bad periods and mine were awful. I always had to go to school and would sometimes end up throwing up from the pain. Luckily it was an all girls school so students were very open with each other and I knew a number of other girls with the same or worse issue and some sympathetic teachers meant I could lie down if needed

      3. Rainy*

        My mother is like this. She apparently had a cramp once and it wasn’t that bad. Meanwhile, when I was younger my bad cramps could and did make me unable to walk, and frequently were so painful I’d actually start exhibiting shock symptoms (blue lips and nail bed, wowing noise in ears, tunnel vision, shallow panting, sudden cold sweat, sense of impending doom).

      4. Kate, short for Bob*

        Joining in with “awake endometrial ablation was easier then some months’ mittelschmerz”

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          They’re actually thinking of scheduling me for that, the ablation anyway not the awake part. I’m actually glad to hear someone’s experience with it, so thank you for putting my mind to rest.

          (They’re also doing biopsy, some laser stuff and whatnot while in there but I’ll be under a general anaesthetic)

          1. Kate, short for Bob*

            Obviously everyone’s experience is different but my ablation was fine. Bit sore after, bit of a bleed, but the next month, and the ones after that, were just heaven by comparison.

            Having said that a couple of times mittelschmerz had me on the floor for 20 minutes so I’m not saying ablation is nothing..

            And yes doctor, I can tell which side I ovulate from each month, no matter what your textbook said

          2. the cat's ass*

            YES. Fractured back was not nearly as bad as menstrual cramping. Both were bad enough. i was SO glad to have an early menopause, tho i would have jumped on an ablation if a heartbeat, otherwise. Wishing you he best with the procedure!

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          I am sad to also get mittelschmerz quite noticeably these days – some months it’s as bad as my period (because my period is sometimes not so bad). As if feeling crappy every 28 days wasn’t bad enough!

      5. Hamburke*

        Also didn’t realize I was in active labor b/c it was mild compared to monthly cramps… but after I had babies, everything about my cycle changed, mostly for the better, and I wish that on everybody! Hopefully, that’s what the boss meant!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I’ve had the same ‘it’ll cure your cycle once you have a baby’ thing from doctors too and it’s quite probably what she means at heart.

          It’s still a wretched thing to say to someone who doesn’t want kids! So I’m not gonna give her the opportunity. (Also it’s not true. Mum suffered way worse after having me)

          1. J.B.*

            And sometimes it goes the other way. I hope you are able to find and schedule effective treatment soon.

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Agreeing that this was me as well. My migraines lessened in severity but the cramping worsened and for the first time in my life I’m now dealing with mood swings….

            All bodies are different – and all can also be very unpredictable as well.

          3. This is a name, I guess*

            I started going to a lesbian OB/GYN who has trained in trans healthcare. (I’m queer and cis.) It’s so much better. She doesn’t try to solve my reproductive problems by putting me on the birth control pill (THEY ALL DO THIS! BECAUSE THEY ASSUME WE ALL NEED CONTRACEPTION ANYWAY…FALSE!) She doesn’t assume I want children. She understands that choosing to have a baby a person in a queer relationship is a complicated and difficult choice. It’s like she’s able to turn off the part of her brain that’s an OB and just be a person-centered GYN. I’ve struggled to find OB/GYNs that provide this kind of care outside of, say, Planned Parenthood. But, I can’t use PP with my insurance and I need more comprehensive services than contraceptive care. Never going back. :)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Thankfully no, because she DID learn to not make comments about my weight/what I eat when I old her I have an eating disorder (she was actually shocked to find out you can be obese AND go through long periods of not eating)

    2. Observer*

      She’s always struck me as a ‘oh periods aren’t THAT bad! Wait till you have a baby!’ type.

      “And then the problems will stop.”

      What a ridiculous thing to say! It’s bad enough coming from someone who has no medical knowledge (though you are smart not to share with her!) It’s even worse when you hear this from doctors!

      Please, I don’t want to hear “well it will get better once you have a baby” OR “it’s NOTHING compared to actually having a baby.” Just figure out what the problem is and how it can be solved or controlled!

      As you can see, this sets me off. Sorry your boss is like that.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’ve heard the same from enough doctors in my long quest to get some treatment. A battle I’ve had now for over 25 years.

    3. anonymath*

      Yeah — Alison’s answer is right on but this is why I wouldn’t share the details, because everyone gets all “well my wife doesn’t have it that bad/you should try a B complex vitamin!/if you weren’t vegan maybe you wouldn’t…./try exercise, it really helps me/etc”. People overextrapolate from their one seat in the world and it’s not useful.

  7. EngineeringFun*

    After suffering for 2 decades in silence, 2 years ago I met a woman who flat out told her boss she had PMS and needed time off. We are both engineers and I was blown away by her honesty/bravery in our field!!! I’ve been a bit more straightforward with my boss as a result. It’s possible.

    1. Generic Name*

      Chiming in to echo that norms are slowly changing. I’m in a male-dominated field, but my company is more than half women. I’m not saying that we all sit around and discuss our periods all the time, but a former manager said to me that she’s realized that there’s one day in her cycle where it’s just better for everyone if she works from home on that day. She had that day marked as “work from home” (in pre-Covid times). My company is very work from home flexible, so it’s not a huge deal.

      To the OP, I think it would be wise to screen companies based on how flexible they are on schedules and how much they accept work from home. Frankly, these days, touting “one day a week WFH” isn’t all that flexible, in my opinion.

      1. This is a name, I guess*

        1 day/week WFH seems like a crap concession that a crap employer is making because they know that people want WFH and they know they need it to be competitive. (Assuming the job can be WFH home; some jobs can’t be.)

  8. anonlibrarian*

    LW1- see another doctor; perhaps a Reproductive Endocrinologist. I always had rough periods and when I was trying to conceive, I finally received my stage 4 endometriosis diagnosis. These people are specialist when it comes to period issues.

  9. Mirily*

    I truly wish we’d stop referring to mentrsual pain as “cramps” … this isn’t like a charley horse that’ll get better if I walk through it a bit.

    They’re contractions! We’re having small contractions. The muscles of our uterus are contracting JUST like they do in labor! THAT is pain.

    It seriously feels like the whole “cramps” designation is a conspiracy to minimize the pain to people who’ve never experienced it. Everyone knows contractions are painful, but cramps are usually seen as little annoyances that go away within minutes or hours.

    1. Butters*

      I used to get mild cramps and it was still like being kicked in the lower abdomen over and over! I can’t imagine what severe cramps feel like.

      1. Bugalugs*

        A co-worker and I were talking the other week about how it’s interesting that we don’t actually know what’s severe or not. You describe yours as mild but to other people they might be really bad or vice versa they could be basically non existent. Because it happens in our own bodies we don’t really have any comparison to see if they really are mild or severe or somewhere in the middle.
        Totally not saying yours are or aren’t I just found it an interesting thought that nobody really knows how it is or isn’t for anyone else. I think mine are quite mild mostly but other people might find them very harsh.

        1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

          When I describe my cramps as so bad that they make me vomit repeatedly, people usually get the right idea of how bad they are.

    2. DrSalty*

      All muscle cramps are painful, involuntary contractions of the muscle. That’s the definition of a cramp.

    3. Loulou*

      What? No, the term “cramps” isn’t a conspiracy — just like many other symptoms, they can range in severity but still called cramps. You can similarly have a cramp in your leg or back that goes away when you walk on it or a cramp that’s so bad you can’t move all day.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. I get cramps in my leg if I do some ballet exercises before I’ve stretched properly and I get cramps in my abdomen when I’m about to have my period. It’s the same sort of feeling but just in a different body part and with similar treatments (heat, ibuprofen).

    4. RagingADHD*

      As someone who has had non-menstrual muscle cramps that were as painful as labor, I do not think the word cramp is inherently minimizing.

    5. TheAnxiousManager*

      I have menstrual issues since I was a teenager, to the point if I don’t manage my periods with birth control and constant ibuprofen, I pass out. I take zero offense to the word cramp. It fits the medical definition of cramps, which is a “painful involuntary contraction of a muscle or muscles.” Some cramps are more painful than others.

    6. J.B.*

      In anything gynecologic they always insist on saying “pressure not pain”. Then what the what is pain?!

      1. Texan in exile on her phone*

        Erectile dysfunction, maybe, as that’s what gets the research funding instead of women’s issues?

    7. Anonym*

      Truly! I get migraines as well, and the pain (for me at least) is equally debilitating if untreated. It takes more painkillers to get the cramps under control, in fact!

    8. Gimble*

      Depends on the individual. I’m always baffled to see people talk about walking off a charleyhorse–when I get them there’s no possibility of that: for one thing my calf is so contracted I’d fall over immediately, and for another I’m spending all my energy to focus on not screaming. My period cramps and sickness can be awful and sometimes incapacitate me for hours at a time, but they’re not even close to my charleyhorses in intensity. For others, it’s the other way around. Huge variety of experience.

    9. Burger Bob*

      I don’t think it’s particularly minimizing, mostly because I don’t think other types of cramps are minor things you can just walk off. Sometimes they are, and sometimes they pass quickly. But some cramps are pretty painful spasms that just won’t quit. I’ve had some pretty bad ones where I’m desperately trying to stretch the muscle to get it to relax already. I had one where my foot was painfully stuck in contracting position until I was able to finally force it to stretch out. Cramps are no joke. Ultimately, a cramp is just a painful, involuntary contraction, regardless of what body part it’s in, and some are worse than others.

      The minimizing comes into play only because many people (roughly half of people) have experienced periods and the associated cramping, but all of those people have very different experiences. Some have mild cramps that can be treated with a low dose of ibuprofen and just going on your merry way. Others have severe cramps that are completely debilitating and can even cause vomiting or passing out. The people in the first camp can make the mistake of forgetting the second camp exists and will be completely baffled that you can’t (or, they think, won’t) just work through your cramps. Calling them a different name doesn’t change this.

  10. Rusty Shackelford*

    Just from seeing pharmaceutical ads on TV, I have the general impression there are medications that are infused or injected once a month. People aren’t automatically going to assume it’s your period. And if someone does say “oh, is it your period?” you can truthfully reply “I wish! It would be nice if it was that simple. But it’s not, and I’d prefer not to get into it.” Because it’s not really “just” your period.

    1. I'm just here for the cats.*

      yeah, except for those wackos that track peoples time off (I’ve been there) most people are not going to pay attention that you were out monthly. And for the first letter it sounds like not everyone is in the office on the same day, so many people might not realize you’re taking 3 days in a row instead of spreading it out. And there could be many reasons for that.

    2. Purely Allegorical*

      But strike the “I wish it were that simple” language. Periods are not simple, and it’s not helpful to keep using language that suggests that they are. That creates a situation where if someone does have period complications and feels comfortable being open about it, it should just be a ‘simple’ thing to deal with… and it’s just… not.

      “Oh, is it your period?”
      “Not exactly/It’s a mish-mash of things/I’d prefer not to get into it”

      1. ecnaseener*

        1. Or just “No” because again, it’s not just your period and you don’t owe anyone more detail than that

        2. The medically typical period *is* simple after puberty, and I for one would much rather people understand that than spread the faulty assumption that it’s normal to live with pain or other debilitating symptoms their whole life. If your period isn’t simple, get thee to a doctor!

        1. Beth*

          Agreed that it’s good to check with a doctor when periods are painful/symptom-heavy/making life difficult, but speaking as someone who has a really obnoxious period, there’s not always an obvious medical solution to that. My doctors have only been able to offer “well, maybe this might help?” level trial-and-error when it comes to treatment, and so far, none of the options we’ve tried have really made a dent. There are just two days out of the month where it’s best for everyone that I stay close to my bathroom and my hot water bottle and my ibuprofen supply, and also maybe only talk to people who understand if I’m moody and snappish. I keep checking in about it, just in case something new has come up as an option, but this also is my normal and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Yes, and you have all my sympathy because it’s NOT normal and I hate to see poorly-understood chronic illnesses blown off like that.

          2. Observer*

            You have all my sympathy, because I know that it’s really hard.

            Have your doctors done any actual TESTING? There are absolutely things you can be looking for that can be highly related to the problem, but are not going to show up with a “maybe try this” trial an error approach. For instance, if you are dealing with a thyroid issue, you need blood work and then probably medication. For IBS, probably diet and possibly medication. To take two of the most common examples.

            If they have actually done the testing and have had to fall back to the trial an error, I have another set of sympathy.

            1. Beth*

              Yep. No obvious underlying issues–my body just apparently prefers to yeet the almost entire period in the first 48 hours, and that comes with some intense side effects.

              My point is, though, that what’s ‘normal’ comes in a huge range. Some people have periods that are a total non-issue. Some have periods that are disruptive due to a medical issue, which may or may not be easy to control. Some have periods that are disruptive just because they are. I want to see us normalizing workplaces accommodating what their workers tell them they need, not us normalizing “if your period/body thing doesn’t work in exactly the way I expect, then a doctor can and should fix it.”

              1. Observer*

                I want to see us normalizing workplaces accommodating what their workers tell them they need, not us normalizing “if your period/body thing doesn’t work in exactly the way I expect, then a doctor can and should fix it.”

                I hear that. But the thing is that this is true of almost every bodily function. When someone’s period is really disruptive, there is some underlying problem we just don’t always know what it is. And that’s true of a lot of other things. The fact that we have an official name for it and a clinical name for it doesn’t change it. Take migraines – we still don’t know what causes them, and we don’t even always know what triggers them. But, I think we could agree that employers should just accept that the employee knows what they need for accommodation and also not insist that “if your body does this the doctor can and should fix it.” IBS is another one – no one really understands what causes it, and while it can be controlled for a lot of people, that’s not even universally the case. So, again, employers need to not insist that the “doctor can and should fix it.”

                I do think that it would be very helpful for everyone if we started treating employees like adults who know what their physical / medical conditions are, and what options the doctors have been able to come up with to deal with those issues when they are somewhat disruptive. And that we should most definitely treat menstruation the same way.

                For some people periods are no big deal. For others, they are a big deal. If they are a big deal for someone, do NOT tell them that “it can’t be that bad” because my wife / daughter / neice / neighbor’s kitty is JUST FINE. And also don’t tell them that “your doctoring wrong”. Because while too many doctors really won’t do the testing that they should, sometimes we just don’t have good answers. Which stinks. But that’s life and the best way to support someone who has to deal with that is to not insist that they “just haven’t looked right”.

              2. ecnaseener*

                To clarify my own comment, I wasn’t saying a doctor can necessarily fix it. Heaven knows menstrual-related disorders, along with many other chronic illnesses, are poorly understood and under-researched. That doesn’t mean it’s not a disorder though, you know? Even if there’s no name for it.

                I want people to understand that 1) if they have debilitating menstrual symptoms, they should see a doctor because it’s not “just a normal period” and it MIGHT be treatable, and 2) the lack of medical understanding is an unsolved problem that could be solved by research funding etc.

      2. Observer*

        But strike the “I wish it were that simple” language. Periods are not simple

        Actually, in healthy people who don’t have complicating factors, periods ARE simple. It’s the refusal to recognize this, that leads to so many people – especially doctors – refusing to deal with the situations where it is NOT simple. Because “all” women have this complicated problem and they just “deal with it”. So, when someone comes along who actually does have a problem what they get is “Why are YOU a special snowflake? Why don’t you just deal with it like all other women?”

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Right. That’s part of the point. Most periods are “just periods.” Unpleasant, but not debilitating. It’s helpful IMHO to embrace the fact that some people do have debilitating periods. Otherwise, it’s too easy to think “my periods/my wife’s periods/my daughter’s periods aren’t that bad, so Jane is just a whiner.” And the other part is LW#2 is having more than just period issues – it’s a period complicating another medical issue. So it’s not “just” a period, in which “just” means “solely.” And neither LW is dealing with “just” a period, in which “just” means “no big deal.”

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      Back before I had my hist I would bleed like a stuck pig for two days, plus cramping, every 24 days. I couldn’t WFH, so I ended up spending much more time in the bathroom dealing with the mess plus being doubled over in pain. I work in mostly male fields, so I didn’t talk about it.

      I’ve also worked with folks that had monthly medical appointments, etc, so there’s nothing unusual about that. Some infusion schedules are every four weeks, so there’s no way to really know why someone needs to be out, and that’s a good thing.

  11. Sea Anemone*

    Just a note — there is no such thing as a “covered disability.” The ADA covers reasonable accommodations for physical or mental impairments that substantially limit a major life activity. Documentation from your care provider does not need to include medical details or a diagnosis; it only needs to include the necessity of the requested accommodation.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure there is. I think what you mean is that the ADA doesn’t include a list of specific disabilities it covers (except HIV/AIDS), but it sets out a definition for what rises to the level of coverage. An employer is allowed to request documentation affirming that an employee’s disability is indeed covered under that definition.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        The terminology is “ADA disability,” and before anyone gets on me about nitpicking, remember that the ADA is a law, so getting your terminology ducks in a row is important.

        1. Anon all day*

          This is pretty nitpicking. The question is whether or not a disability would be covered under the ADA, therefore “covered disability” is a perfectly fine colloquialism.

          Unless OP is bringing an EEOC complaint/other lawsuit, I don’t see how this is relevant.

          (I’m a lawyer, and fortunately unless one is drafting a specific legal pleading, lawyers/everyone can understand non-terms of art just as well as anyone else.)

    2. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Unfortunately this is not true everywhere, I work for a very large employer and our ADA office demands to know specific details of a person’s health diagnosis (and states the health provider letter must also list diagnoses) before they’ll consider an ADA accommodation request. It’s really frustrating and scary to have to give those personal health details that you don’t know where end up, getting spread around to different people…

      1. Napkin Thief*

        Yikes! And what do they say to people who are seeking diagnosis but whose doctors don’t yet know what exactly is causing their health problems? “Sorry, I understand that your rare disease has stumped your doctors so far, and you’re already several years into figuring out the cause of your well-documented, clearly impairing symptoms, but until they give it a fancy Latin name it doesn’t exist. So you’ll just have to suffer/be threatened with PIPs until you get an official diagnosis”?

  12. Scintillating water*

    Yeah, speaking as someone with endometriosis, “I’m having a flare-up” works remarkably well. Most people don’t actually track these things, so they’re not likely to notice, and if they do notice they’re not going to want to ask “is this just your period?” I did have a professor (in a five day a week class with very strict attendance rules) who said to me “I noticed that you’re absent a couple days out of every month. I assume that’s a medical condition, so as long as you keep doing good work I’ll make an exception to the attendance policy.” He had a teenage daughter, and I’ve always wondered if maybe he guessed why I was absent, but it didn’t matter.

  13. Julia*

    I have endometriosis and it’s ROUGH. I do end up working from home at least 2 days/month, or taking a sick day. I often can’t always control the dates of my client meetings, so my doctor has prescribed me intense pain killers and I use the stick on heat patches. I have just vaguely told my boss that I have a chronic health condition that flares, and she has told me to just manage my time as needed. I get migraines as well associated with my cycle, so people have seen my “I’m in pain” face and sometimes I’ll leave the office mid day if I can’t handle it. For me being able to lay on my heating pad while sending emails seriously make a HUGE difference. The only pushback I’ve ever gotten is when I over explained at my first summer corporate job out of high school. My boss told me that I didn’t need to justify or go into detail. If I wasn’t feeling well, I should go home.

  14. Ozzie*

    As someone who gets periods, I still can’t imagine a world where I noticed a pattern of when someone was regularly out of the office at a particular time of the month. I -might- notice they were out monthly, maybe, if it occurred around the same deadline every month and I needed to get in contact with them. But I still wouldn’t think periods. I imagine I’m not the only one who is lucky to remember a coworker is out when they are, let alone keeping track of when it occurs. Unless you have a particularly nosey busybody in the office, I don’t think people will casually make the connection.

    1. JustaTech*

      I’ve only ever had one coworker where I was aware of her periods, and that was because hers were terrible, but she would still come in to work (I don’t know if it was lack of sick time or something else) and she would cope by curling up in a tiny ball under her desk and taking a nap.
      “Hey, where’s Sally?” “Under her desk. “Again? Man, that sucks.”

      I’m sure if we’d had laptops then she would have WFH.

  15. Just my 4 cents*

    All of this can be way more complicated than it should be. One watch out if you are still in the interview stage is not to say something that may make them think that you have an expensive medical condition. Yes, it know it is illegal for them to consider this, but I’m sure it crosses people’s mind with the crazy price increases in medical and prescription costs. You could ask by either saying it’s menstrual related, or throw out another example that might require a similar accommodation like – would it be possible for me to work remotely 1-2 days a month if I need to provide light care for my mom. Not saying you need to do this, but just something to think about.

    1. Chriama*

      Eh, I think it would be enough to ask about their policy on WFH and how often people usually do it, at least until the offer stage. Allison has previously advised not bringing that stuff up until the offer stage because then they can’t pull it without looking like they’re illegal discriminating.

      Also, as important as I think it is to normalize menstruation, I wouldn’t do it in the workplace in the context of asking for accommodations. You’re not going to change anyone’s preconceived notions on that context, just confirm their prejudice. I’m all for things like making sure there are sanitary products in the bathrooms or not going out of your way to hide that stuff out of shame, but when societal perceptions are all about the inconvenience of “women’s issues” I wouldn’t be drawing attention to that stuff in a situation that could be considered inconvenient.

    2. All Het Up About It*

      That was my thought as well. A question asking about unplanned work from home for example, when an individual might find themselves unwell, and doesn’t want to come in, but could still work. This sort of question seems even more germane in the light of Covid. Please keep your possible Covid germs at home, especially if you have WFH capability. If someone asked me that during an interview, I would happily tell them that our hybrid schedule can easily be flexed for health related issues.

  16. Jeff*

    Can I just say, as a dude, it makes me so sad that so many of us guys have so little understanding and appreciation for such an integral part of how our species reproduces?

    This is a legit health need that will have an impact on so many colleagues or subordinates that anyone supervising/managing humans should have the skills and training to address common-sense and humane accommodations.

    1. Sea Anemone*

      Sadly, a number of women and other menstruating people also have little understanding of the health needs that can be involved.

    2. 2 Cents*

      My friend’s mom never had morning sickness while she was pregnant with her two kids and still thinks that anyone complaining of it is just “weak.” I offered to throw up in her shoes during one of my many “weak” moments. Not all women are great at support.

  17. marketing automation guru*

    Another vote for just saying a medical condition that flares monthly.

    There are so many reasons for monthly medical appointments, which are not feminine needs. Nobody will think about monthly periods being the cause unless that’s somehow brought up.

    I had a (male) coworker who needed monthly time off, and nobody cared because he was a high performer.

    He wasn’t overly sharing with others about his specific diagnosis, but he was in a lot of pain when we were taking a walk somewhere one day, and he shared with me that he needed his doctor to administer injections for a degenerative arthritis condition. He was in a lot of pain, and the monthly injections would wipe him out for a couple of days.

    He usually tried to align the injections with Fridays so he would be out over weekends, but seriously nobody thought twice about him being out for a medical thing once per month, or occasionally needing days off for unspecified medical needs.

  18. Oofandouch*

    This is all great, but please please please be prepared to talk to a doctor and provide some kind of documentation for this! It doesn’t need to be specific but it will help you immeasurably.

    I (a female) and going through this now with one of my direct reports. I am not able to approve unlimited sick time or PTO. I am able to make medical accommodation. I have told her repeatedly what she needs to do per our policies and how to get this on record as a medical accommodation. I’ve told her that I don’t need to know all the details, that I’m happy to help or that she can work directly with HR if that makes her more comfortable, and that I don’t want to see her eat all her PTO on this issue, but without a request for medical accommodation my hands are tied.

    1. Rananculus*

      This is a good point. Where I work, one or two sick days per month would quickly use up an employee’s paid sick leave. Then we’d be into unpaid FMLA territory and require documentation.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Where I work I only get 15 days “PTO” a year. Having to use up my PTO on medical stuff one or two days a month would mean I never got any actual vacation, and would end up in trouble for excess use of PTO to the point where I ran out mid-year.

      2. Oofandouch*

        And this is especially important for new hires as FMLA doesn’t kick until you’ve been someplace a year! Also you have no capital at a new company, people don’t know your work or your work ethic. So while with a more senior person I may be able to say “hey let’s figure out a way to make this work so that you’re not missing pay/using PTO, even if we have to bend some rules” it’s much harder to do with a new person.

  19. Caroline Bowman*

    This makes me think of my late mum, who came of age in the late 50’s- 60’s and relatively unusually, was quite career-focused. She A/ struggled with severe, severe period pain and desperately heavy bleeding 1-2 days each cycle and B/ was deathly allergic to aspirin. Paracetamol as a painkiller only hit the market in the very late 60’s, so.

    She essentially had to miss a couple of days work some months, depending how the days fell. She said she was mortified about it and obviously could never even hint at anything amiss to her (generally very nice, but definitely all very much older male) managers.

    I say just ask for the accomodations without explaining details and see where that gets you. It is a real, debilitating issue and there is no reason why you should suffer in misery when you could just work from home.

  20. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    If you have not already done so, you might also explore options such as IUDs which can decrease or even eliminate menstruation and related symptoms. Medical science does have solutions for some of these issues and I would hate to see you stuck with walk-it-off doctors who aren’t willing to explore them.

    1. TheAnxiousManager*

      Medical science is not one-size-fits all. IUDs definitely are not for everyone and I don’t think it’s appropriate to recommend unsolicited medical advice on these forums.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Thin Mints was recommending that OP1 look into the option, not saying that she *should* get one. Their main point seems to be ‘Don’t settle for a GP/OBGYN who doesn’t take your health issues seriously.’

  21. pricessecond*

    2 things:

    All the people saying someone will not track it I cannot believe. If I was jealous a co-worker was out 3-5 days a month and it magically happened during a cycle time, I’d for sure notice. I also know of catty reports I had before who would definitely notice as well and complain. And see the second one below because honestly, even as a woman, if a report told me she needs to work from home for her period with no medical diagnosis, Id internally eye roll sooo hard while asking number 2 below:

    You need medical diagnosis for any sort of ADA accommodation usually. Or some sort of note that explains the need of the accommodation in my experience. All because someone got a fancy office chair for sciatica which cost around $500 and then EVERYONE else wanted one.

    1. Sea Anemone*

      Employers can ask for documentation from a care provider that you need the accommodation, but you are not required to provide a diagnosis or any medical details. The documentation would cover the extent of the impairment, meaning, “can’t stand on a hard surface for long periods of time” type of thing, not “severe sciatica.”

      And why would you roll your eyes at someone needing to WFH or take time off due to their period? It sounds like you have some misconceptions about the degree of pain that some women and menstruating people experience.

      1. Anon all day*

        Where are you getting that one isn’t required “to provide a diagnosis or any medical details”? From the EEOC’s own website:

        May an employer ask an individual for documentation when the individual requests reasonable accommodation?

        Yes. When the disability and/or the need for accommodation is not obvious, the employer may ask the individual for reasonable documentation about his/her disability and functional limitations. (27) The employer is entitled to know that the individual has a covered disability for which s/he needs a reasonable accommodation.

        Reasonable documentation means that the employer may require only the documentation that is needed to establish that a person has an ADA disability, and that the disability necessitates a reasonable accommodation. Thus, an employer, in response to a request for reasonable accommodation, cannot ask for documentation that is unrelated to determining the existence of a disability and the necessity for an accommodation. This means that in most situations an employer cannot request a person’s complete medical records because they are likely to contain information unrelated to the disability at issue and the need for accommodation. If an individual has more than one disability, an employer can request information pertaining only to the disability that requires a reasonable accommodation.

        An employer may require that the documentation about the disability and the functional limitations come from an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional. The appropriate professional in any particular situation will depend on the disability and the type of functional limitation it imposes. Appropriate professionals include, but are not limited to, doctors (including psychiatrists), psychologists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, vocational rehabilitation specialists, and licensed mental health professionals.

        1. ecnaseener*

          The length of what you quoted might lead you to believe that it’s saying a lot IS required, but if you actually read it, it’s largely emphasizing that details are NOT required. “only the documentation that is needed to establish that a person has an ADA disability” — just true/false. No specific diagnosis required, no details other than a doctor confirming the person has a disability that needs accommodations.

    2. Chriama*

      > You need medical diagnosis for any sort of ADA accommodation usually

      No you don’t. You may need medical *documentation* but that is limited to information about what you can/can’t do and what accommodations you may need. No details about the medical condition or even much about concrete symptoms.

      You sound like you may have worked in some pretty toxic places, and I’m sorry to hear that. I think your point about catty/jealous people looking for a “gotcha” and noticing the monthly pattern is possible, but people like that wouldn’t back off even if it really was another medical condition, so the best course of action would likely be to get your documentation in order and practice deflecting/disengaging.

    3. Oryx*

      I mean, you sound like one of those catty people if you’d internally roll your eyes “sooo hard” at the idea that someone requesting to WFH during their period. It’s almost as if everyone’s body responds to menstruation differently.

      What if I told you there are companies out there who give mentstrual leave? Not even just the option to WFH, but people who menstruate get time off during their period.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “honestly, even as a woman, if a report told me she needs to work from home for her period with no medical diagnosis, Id internally eye roll sooo hard”

      Please work on this. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman, it doesn’t matter what your personal experience has been. Everyone’s situation is different and the cultural dismissal of menstruation is deeply rooted in cutting women down and minimizing their experiences.

    5. Esmae*

      There’s really no need to roll your eyes at other people’s reports of their pain, even internally. Maybe trust that they know their own experiences? Their period could be medically “normal,” i.e. no medical diagnosis forthcoming, and still debilitating enough that they can’t work through it.

    6. Observer*

      If I was jealous a co-worker was out 3-5 days a month and it magically happened during a cycle time, I’d for sure notice.

      You mean that you would for sure track someone’s time so closely that you would notice how many WFH days they are taking? And even notice how the pattern falls out? And then COMPLAIN about it? And you have management that routinely entertains complaints about other people’s schedules, rather than telling them that other people’s scheduled are none of their business?

      That’s just incredibly nosy and dysfunctional.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, I can’t think many people would actually track and notice when someone was off. I mean I know generally which days people in my team are working from home and which they’re in the office in general because most people have a regular pattern but I don’t particularly know or care why or link it to their monthly cycles.

    7. RagingADHD*

      None of this speaks well of you, and I think you should think about the fact that on a blog that self-selects for people who have terrible boss/coworker issues, the majority of commenters still see your attitude as a rare exception.

    8. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

      That’s an odd and uncompassionate reaction to a woman having very difficult periods and no diagnosis. I am blessed with 3-day periods every 5 weeks, and cramps for a few hours on the first day that respond well to medication. But I know plenty of people who really suffer from their periods, and it is usually very difficult to get diagnosed with things like endometriosis and other gynecological issues.

      1. Observer*

        That’s an odd and uncompassionate reaction to a woman having very difficult periods and no diagnosis.

        It’s also a very weird response to all of those “other” people who supposedly lost their minds that someone got a special chair for their sciatica.

    9. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      So, given your comment that “because honestly, even as a woman, if a report told me she needs to work from home for her period with no medical diagnosis, Id internally eye roll sooo hard,” I have to assume that you are lucky enough to not suffer from severe endometrioses or any of the other conditions/medical issues that can make a period truly debilitating for women. But some women do have truly debilitating periods. Internal aggravation and disbelief over someone asking for reasonable accommodations (and after all, WFH is still WORK) isn’t the greatest initial response regardless, it would probably be best to give people the benefit of the doubt where medical issues are concerned.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. Sometimes also it’s better to work from home and be able to work rather than drag yourself into the office in pain and not do a very good job. In the before times a lot of people in my company worked from home with a cold rather than commute and feel ill, struggle through work and commute home. I would view this as the same sort of accommodation that a sensible boss would make.

    10. Rusty Shackelford*

      You need medical diagnosis for any sort of ADA accommodation usually.

      Nope. An accommodation request doesn’t require a diagnosis, just a doctor’s statement of what you cannot do. If, for example, you can’t lift heavy boxes, your employer doesn’t need (get) to know if it’s because you’re pregnant, you have a hernia, you have back problems, or you have a broken arm. All they need to know is that a doctor said you cannot lift heavy boxes. Your job is not to say how come? Your job is to help figure out how the job can be done considering that restriction.

    11. Spooncake*

      I can only assume that you’re unaware of how long it takes to get officially diagnosed with endometriosis. Eight years is a long time to wait while your coworkers roll their eyes at you.

  22. Observer*

    #1 – What you are describing is NOT normal. If your doctor shrugs it off, or maybe does you a “favor” and takes a test or two, please find someone else who will take this seriously. It’s not always so easy to diagnose or treat. But it doesn’t even sound like your doctor has even done some significant diagnostics.

    1. Observer*

      This might have some good information for starting the medical research:

      It’s worth noting that a number of sites that discuss this mention issues that “mimic” PMS /PMDD, and those issues don’t show up when looking for the “cause”. But effectively, it doesn’t really matter. If, for example, you have IBS that “mimics” PMS, you still have to deal with the IBS. Same for thyroid issues, etc. Which is to say, that your doctor should be looking at both formal causes and things that “mimic” PMS.

  23. Ashley*

    For the LW searching for a new job, I believe is it South Korea that gives time off for once a month for period related issues. You might have luck with a larger internationally focused organization as a result if your fields line up.

    1. Mameshiba*

      Japan also, though I’m not sure how many people actually use this leave. And it doesn’t extend to other countries in our company, it’s just limited to people in the relevant region.

  24. Chriama*

    A month is a really long time. Long enough for people to stop paying attention to you and to fail to notice a pattern of recurring events unless it’s pointed out to them. I’m not American so it might be a difference in work culture, but I don’t think I’d necessarily even notice if someone was regularly out sick one day a month. Presumably some of those days would overlap with statutory holidays, which also take place roughly once a month, so that makes it even less likely that I’d notice someone taking a sick day vs. just being off for some reason.

    For the person who needs to take 3-5 days, that’s enough time that I would notice it, but again I think your worry over people guessing it’s period-related has more to do with stigma about women and menstruation than anything else. “Chronic health condition that flares up once a month” could be anything from kidney dialysis to IBS to autoimmune disorder. There are certainly some people who will judge you for it, because there are people out there who will judge others for any and all reasons, but I wouldn’t plan my life around people like that.

    If you’d feel more comfortable with a cover story and decide to choose a different condition, that’s ok too. It really doesn’t matter what condition you have, just how it affects your work and if it can be accommodated by your employer.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yeah, I think unless you’re in a field that also has a monthly cycle of activity (like how car dealerships are super-fixated on selling cars by the end of the month due to weird quota incentives) AND your menstrual cycle happened to line up with that cycle so you kept needing to WFH during the ultra-busy time, no one would notice. I have a coworker who’s been out a significant amount this year here and there, in a way that does impact me, but I couldn’t tell you at all if there’s been any pattern whatsoever to *when* they were out, just that it’s been more than an average coworker. And if it were someone whose absence didn’t directly impact me I 100% wouldn’t notice.

      (To be clear, I don’t at all mind them being out! Many coworkers have covered for me countless times in the past when my health or family needs have impacted my own work schedule. It’s what we do at my workplace and one reason I like working here.)

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        If you’re on hormonal birth control (and sometimes even if you’re not), your cycle will be 28 days, not 30/31. So it wouldn’t even align with a calendar month, and no one would ever notice that Jane is always out on the 1st or the 15th or the 31st because Jane’s pattern wouldn’t be nearly that predictable.

        1. allathian*

          True, but people might notice if someone was always out on the first Friday every month, except December when they’d be out the first and last Friday of the month (the week, but not the day, would change the following year). Or that they’d always be out on the day of the full moon, or something. At least they might notice if the absence happened to coincide with the busiest day of the week.

          That said, my cycle’s never been that regular, not even when I was on hormonal BC. Sometimes my period would start on the first day of my break, sometimes on the 4th or even 5th. The one thing I’ve noticed is that when I was in my most fertile years, my cycle varied between 29 and 34 days when I wasn’t on hormonal BC (estrogen pills killed my libido to the point that I became essentially asexual, and that contributed to the end of my then-relationship; when I met my husband I went on the estrogen-free pill for 2 months, and started bleeding 2 weeks in, and continued without stopping until 2 weeks after I stopped taking them, and by that time I was anemic). Now that I’m perimenopausal, it’s a lot shorter, 26 to 29 days.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yeah, but you’d have to be extraordinary irregular/regular to be out on the first Friday of every month, because it would mean that every single cycle was exactly as long as the month in which it occurred.

  25. Sloan Kittering*

    I was just reading an interesting thread to the effect that the commercials for period products make you believe you’re supposed to be out at peak activity levels during your period, running swimming dancing for joy. Lots of us just want (and deserve) to rest!

  26. Chashka*

    This is timely. I just watched an old episode of The Mary Tyler Moore show a couple of days ago relating to a health condition and time off. Mary needed to get her boss to sign some form for days off due to a needed hospital procedure. Except the form he was to sign had the diagnosis spot left blank (purposely, by Mary), so he insisted he needed to know that info before he could sign. So Mary reluctantly told him it was for a tonsillectomy. How times have changed–and for the better. Health info should be kept private.

    **I’m not sure if diagnosis info would have been required for time off years ago. Maybe this was strictly a construct for purposes of an amusing TV episode, maybe not.

  27. Anne of Green Gables*

    I have been thinking about a somewhat similar issue, though not as recurring. I am one of the many women who had a ridiculously heavy period after each Covid vaccine shot. My work place is now 100% on site, though we were remote until spring 2021, and there is a tiny bit of flexibility in extreme circumstances. Assuming regular boosters become a thing, I’ve been wondering if I can request to WFH for the days of my first period after a shot, but I have no idea how I would approach this. (I did end up taking sick time after my booster shot.)

    1. allathian*

      Assuming you have enough sick time saved up, maybe just take it?

      I got my first shot a few days to a week before my period was due (I’m fairly irregular). It was delayed by almost a week, and I had horrible PMS symptoms (nausea, achy and swollen boobs, exhaustion, crankiness) to the point that I nearly bought a pregnancy test, and then my period was much heavier than usual. I got the second shot at the tail end of a period, and it didn’t affect the next one at all. I got my booster in the middle of my cycle, and oddly enough it didn’t affect the next period at all, but I got the shot on a Thursday, and I had to take the Friday off sick. We’re WFH, but I wasn’t fit to work. It’s my only full sick day since the fall of 2019…

  28. Nanani*

    The odds of cis-male colleagues or managers even realizing that its period related are not that high, to be honest. It might seem obvious that monthly, periodic absences are menstrual but 1) other health problems can have a similar pattern and 2) people who’ve never menstruated just aren’t likely to think about periods at all, ever.

  29. Irreverend*

    Anyone , OP1 or otherwise, who are having these kinds of debilitating period symptoms and being dismissed by your GYN: the website Nancy’s Nook has a database of gynecologists, surgeons, pelvic floor PTs, etc. who are vetted as having up-to-date, reliable training and care for endometriosis and adenomyosis ( These folks will be so much less likely to dismiss you, and will help to diagnose and treat effectively. So many doctors are uninformed or misinformed and even undertake treatments that make these conditions and their symptoms worse. Unfortunately, only US-based as far as I can tell.

  30. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    There is research now showing that for many people having periods, menstrual pain can be as bad as or worse than heart attack pain! Throw in endometriosis or scleroderma or IBS or other issues that magnify period pain and it’s a seriously debilitating time each month, sometimes twice a month if also felt during ovulation, that should absolutely qualify one for medical or ADA leave/accommodations. Yes we should normalize talking about it and bosses should feel comfortable allotting time off for it. Now let’s also normalize the same for perimenopause and menopause physical and mental health symptoms and challenges related to workplace duties and scheduling. The health/symptom challenges don’t stop when the periods do, sorry to say.

  31. Big HR Meanie Head*

    Please Please Please always go to HR (if you have it) for medical accommodations, even if you think (or know) your manager will be totally chill about it. You always want to have your bases covered so that should ANYTHING happen, you have the accommodation documented with the PTB. If your manager gets promoted or wins the lottery, you want your new manager to effectively have their hands tied from messing with your accommodation. It’s not 100% foolproof (ADA can always be revisited if a previous accommodation “becomes” unreasonable) but it’s a really good way to protect yourself from the unknown.

    Also Please Please PLEASE don’t disclose your personal medical details if you don’t have to. It’s really helpful for those of us who deal with this all the time to not be fielding managers who know every little detail of their employee’s medical history because that’s just a MINEFIELD.

  32. Lacey*

    I have had multiple coworkers who with chronic pain/illness who are often out for a day or two most months.
    For the most part our bosses and coworkers have been really understanding. One manager did try to write up a coworker for missing time, even though the time had been previously approved, but he was also a terrible jerk whose work misdeeds caught up with him with shortly after.

  33. Violet*

    One caveat, please be clear with your doctor to be vague if you choose to go with a doctor’s note. Especially to the person who actually writes it if it’s not them.

    I went back and forth my doctor over the phone during the mid-pandemic about an accommodation letter I needed. The receptionist wrote it to the doc’s specifications and I was accommodated, but it was more descriptive in four lines than I would have preferred. But after all the back and forth, I felt it was the best I could get.

    Also, I don’t think my doctor felt comfortable being vague and didn’t understand that I didn’t want to give all that detail to my employer.

  34. JM60*

    The title initially threw me off. It primed me to initially read the first letter as wanting to ask for 3-5 days/month (36-60 days/year) off specifically for PMS, rather than merely asking to rearrange WFH days. The former is a huge ask – about 2 months of (paid?) sick time – while the former is eminently reasonable accommodation.

  35. Lady Lynn Waterton of Bellashire*

    I think monthly might be a tip off, which is absolutely fine, but if you don’t want to be obvious, you could always say “every 3-4 weeks” or “every few weeks” or even “once or twice a month”. Ideally we wouldn’t be self-conscious about it, but I also think male managers probably don’t see PMS as serious because for many women it isn’t and for those for which it is, they often push through. Do what you have to do to get the time you need!

  36. Connie-Lynne*

    While I long for the day that people who menstruate can say “I’m having menstrual issues and need to take the rest of the afternoon” as casually as we’d say “I have a headache and need to take the rest of the afternoon,” we’re not there yet as a society.

    BUT the truth of the matter is that even if your health accommodation is monthly, most people won’t put two and two together about it being menstrual, because most people don’t think about other people’s menstrual cycles. Think about how often colleagues forget that others are in different time zones — most folks just aren’t that invested in the details of others’ lives (and it would be weird if they were).

    There’s any number of reasons to want to keep menstrual stuff private at work, from avoiding the weird societal prejudice about “menstruation problems mean you’re weak” to just not wanting work colleagues to be thinking about your body. If you don’t mention it, your colleagues probably won’t think of it.

  37. Ellis Hubris*

    I have endometriosis and later developed IBS so no one ever wants to hear about what’s going on. Matter of fact is best, I have usually just chatted with manager for the least amount of work option for them and always gave HR letters from my doctor. I work in the legal field so most are well versed on what the legal obligations are yet I felt better knowing that I covered the bases. If formal paperwork is needed, they will let you know. Most have been able to accommodate with just my word, as I’m hired at jobs where high levels of trust and autonomy are standard.

    LW#1 – its tough until you get a diagnosis. If MDs aren’t able to help, naturopaths and Chinese doctors are stellar at diagnosis. I’ve not had a successful diagnosis from a MD, but once I got diagnosed by other modalities, MDs were great about helping. Many illnesses/syndromes associated with hormones and periods don’t have tests so it’s an art to identify what’s going on. Good luck, I know that pain and it’s a lot.

  38. Delilah*

    For anyone suffering with bad cramps, with the caveat that of course please talk to a doctor, have a look into TENS machines – they’re generally used for during labour (in the UK) but they can work really well as a drug-free way to help alleviate period pains. I get bad cramps that last about a day and a half and normally need as much ibuprofen and paracetamol as I can safely take plus heat and the TENS machine can really help.

  39. Princess B*

    Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for severe period cramps. Obviously other issues might be causing the problem. I thought this might be helpful for LW1

  40. Alice*

    LW1, I really hope you can find a doctor that can help. I used to have really bad and debilitating cramps and the therapy I’m on has been life changing. So much for my previous doctor who had told me to suck it up!

  41. Suffered Before*

    LW1: If you’re experiencing 5 days of pain, discomfort, irritability, and any of it prevents you from doing what you usually do (like working or going to dinner), please bring up endometriosis if you haven’t done so already. So many doctors still have no idea what a period is actually like and I’ve had both male and female doctors dismiss me as having a heavy period, so I assumed other people were the same. I was incredibly surprised to find out it was more of an annoyance than a life disruption to the other women in my life! After 10 years of being ignored, I finally found a doctor who was willing to dig deeper and we found endometriosis + cysts that needed a surgery to remove, along with a compromised ovary. My quality of life shot way, WAY up afterwards.

  42. saveloy*

    Interestingly, this situation made headlines in New Zealand last week. A woman whose manager criticised her for taking one day off for period-related illness made a complaint to the NZ Human Rights Commission for gender-based discrimination. The employer has settled with her.

    Unfortunately that’s not immediately likely to help these LWs, but hopefully times are changing.

  43. LibraryChick*

    It’s really nice to know I’m not alone here. I have suffered from period related migraines since I was a teenager; about 60% of the time I can take some over the counter meds and power through my day (although I’m totally miserable), but about 40% of the time I’m incapacitated by the level of pain, nausea and light sensitivity that I experience, and I am unable to work at all.

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