Heavy periods cost the UK millions a year in lost work days

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A new survey has revealed the devastating impact that heavy periods have on women’s wellbeing, and the economy.

The condition, menorrhagia, affects one in five women, which translates to over 4 million people in the UK alone.

Those who experience heavy periods take 5,581,186 days off work every year, with an estimated cost to the economy of over £531 million.

Despite the fact that so many women are affected by menorrhagia, almost two thirds are unaware that heavy periods are a common medical condition.

Almost half of those who haven’t spoken to their GP simply believe it to be “just part of being a woman”.

Menorrhagia can be defined in a number of ways including bleeding that lasts more than seven days per cycle, bleeding so severe that a sanitary pad or tampon must be changed every hour for several hours in a row, or a heavy flow that keeps you from your normal activities, or even stops you from working.

Despite it being a medical condition, 73% of women surveyed said they lied about their reasons for taking time off work, with almost half preferring to cite diarrhoea as the cause.

Heavy periods have a significant impact on physical and mental health, with 74% of women experiencing anxiety, 69% depression, and almost half reporting anaemia.

Broadcaster and blogger Katy Hill, 46, has been living with heavy periods since having children.

“This research rang so true for me,” she said. “I’ve never fully understood the apparent taboo over discussing periods and indeed heavy periods.

“Like most of the one in five, I’ve always just accepted heavy periods as something that happens and just got on with my busy life.”

She continued, “But we don’t just have to struggle on, missing days off work or time with our family and friends.

“Look for more information about heavy periods and talk to your GP. You owe it to yourself and to future generations of females.

“Let’s get this conversation out there and break the ridiculous taboo.”

The research among women with heavy periods also demonstrated how the condition affects well-being and quality of life.

Of the survey respondents, 58% said their heavy periods meant they felt unable to carry out their daily routine, 86% stated having bled through their clothes, and 85% through their bedding.

Almost half (45%) said they feel that their relationship with their partner is affected and over two thirds have missed out on romantic experiences.

Almost a third of women have stopped playing a sport or a hobby for the duration of their period, and many are missing out on social events such as meals with friends, family gatherings, and weekends away or holidays.

Media medic Dr. Dawn Harper said: “Heavy periods do seem to be underreported – women don’t realise that it’s a medical condition and often don’t feel comfortable talking about it.

“Whilst there are a number of potential causes of heavy periods, with an informed conversation GPs can help diagnose and, where relevant, talk through treatment options.

“Educating yourself and providing GPs with as much information about your cycle and symptoms will help to address the issue as quickly as possible.”

The research, which comes from heavy periods information site Wear White Again, marks the launch of the new Am I number 5? Campaign, which aims to raise awareness and provide information on heavy periods, helping women understand whether they are ‘1 in 5’ affected and encouraging them to see their GP for help.

Wear White Again is working with Endometriosis UK and Wellbeing of Women to launch the campaign.

As part of Am I number 5?, people are being encouraged to paint one nail a different colour to the others and share a picture of their nails on social media, using the hashtag #aminumber5.

The campaign hopes to put a spotlight on heavy periods, helping millions of women across the UK, while raising money for Wellbeing of Women and Endometriosis UK: for each picture shared, a £1 donation will be made by Wear White Again, up to £10,000.

Tina Weaver, CEO of Wellbeing of Women, said: “Too many women suffer in silence with what are regarded as taboo issues.

“As Wellbeing of Women funds research to develop preventions, cures and treatments to help women and their babies, I am pleased to back a campaign highlighting a condition which affects one in five women, but is so rarely discussed.”

Imogen Robinson

Deputy Editor, The Femedic

Imogen joined The Femedic after working as a news reporter. Becoming frustrated with the neverending clickbait, she jumped at the chance to work for a site whose ethos revolves around honesty and empathy. From reading articles by doctors to researching her own, and discussing health with a huge variety of women, she is fascinated by just how little we are told about our own bodies and women-specific health issues, and is excited to be working on a site which will dispel myths and taboos, and hopefully help a lot of women.

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