Should companies have a period policy?

Should companies have a period policy?Is a “period policy” a good thing?

A Bristol company has a created a “period policy”. On the face of it, this has got to be a good thing, right? But actually, I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it.

A period policy that is put in place simply to enable women to take a few days off because they are doubled over in pain, concerns me. And here’s the reason. I’m going to let you into one of the biggest secrets and surprises ever – periods should not be painful. That’s such earth-shattering information, I’m going to repeat it, lest you didn’t believe me first time. Periods. Should. Not. Hurt.

I know! We’ve been brought up to believe that menstrual pain is normal, our lot, something we have to put up with. Just look at the slang names for periods, the worst of which must be “the curse”. But period pain is simply the womb’s way of telling you that she’s not well, not healthy and asking you to please, please, please, do something about it. And cycle after cycle, we ignore her calls to us.

Menstrual pain is usually one of the signs of a tilted womb (see this post for others), where the acid build up and lack of oxygen make it impossible for her to perform her monthly cleansing efficiently. Instead of the gentle waves flushing the menstrual fluids gently and painlessly, she is forced to work harder and harder, cramping more and more in an effort to perform her role.

Women have periods. But periods are really only the visible part of a monthly hormonal cycle, and as with any cycle there are high points, and low points; times when we feel vital and full of energy, and times when we would much prefer to curl up on the settee with a good book, or whatever your preferred method of mental and physical withdrawal may be.

Just as a year has differing energies in each season, so too does the menstrual cycle. Let’s start with spring. Spring is the beginning of life, full of energy and vital life force. It is temperamentally warm and wet – the two things without which there is no life (think sun and water). In the cycle of life, spring is childhood, the time of exponential growing. It is the time of sowing seeds as the cold diminishes and the warmer, rainy days take over from the cold of winter. It is vibrant – take a walk in the woods in spring and you can feel the increasing energy rising from the previously dormant winter earth, the sap rising through the trees, the tiny buds just sprouting with the tips of green….

In the menstrual cycle, spring is pre-ovulation. The eggs in the ovaries begin to ripen, the lining of the womb begins to thicken, the cervical fluids begin to appear. Everything is building up to the release of the ripest egg.

After spring comes summer, when everything is at its most lush. Because summer has dried out the dampness of spring, it is warm and dry – fire! We are vital. We are powerful; full of life and vitality, we are at our peak. In menstrual cycle terms, this is ovulation. Women feel full of themselves: this is the time we could take on the world – and win! The egg is ripe and bursts from the ovary to start its journey down the fallopian tube and into the womb, hoping to meet a sperm that will fertilise it, to commence another life cycle.

While summer is often a high energy point in a woman’s cycle, by autumn the energy is beginning to recede and we are coming to harvest. Autumn is the time to reap the rewards of spring and summer, it can be a great time of reflection. In yearly terms, this is middle age, when our thoughts turn to previous years and wonder how they passed so quickly. The danger with autumn is that we may have filled our diaries in spring and summer when our energy levels were high, and now we are regretting some of those promises and dates made. When we go against our natural inclinations, are forced to using energy we need to preserve, we can get a little cranky. The trick here is to honour as much as possible our need to begin withdrawing, and each time we are called to use more energy that we would like, make sure there’s a pay off in some form of self-nourishment and self-nurturing, to replenish lost energy.

If the egg that was released in summer isn’t fertilised, then we will begin our menstruation. This is the winter of the cycle. What do you want to do in winter? Go out partying? Occasionally maybe, but mostly winter is about keeping warm, hot chocolate, good books (or trashy magazines), quilts, blankets and duvets, early nights and nourishing food. Think about the trees, their strength lying dormant, waiting for spring to come once more when they will once again burst forth with life and energy. Winter is a time of patience, of waiting, of self preservation and self love.

A “period policy” that is put in place to honour this energy cycle, I am all for. Absolutely. And if women are allowed to work with their cycles they will be much more productive, and creative, and vibrant and all that we want to be. We need this positive view of women’s menstrual cycle to bring us out of the dark ages of shame and silence.

But I fear that the period policy may be adopted based on negativity, those images of women doubled over in pain, which will simply reinforce the mistaken view of women being unreliable, unstable, hormonal, less employable and generally second class in the workplace.