Filipino women shared their personal experiences and hardships during their respective monthly periods in response to opposing comments against the proposed two-day menstrual leave bill filed in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Arlene Brosas of the Gabriela Party-list previously filed House Bill 7758 or the “Menstrual Leave Act” which grants female workers a maximum of two paid leaves as they deal with symptoms associated with menstruation.
Citing some studies, the lawmaker said that the bill would “provide women with the flexibility and support they need to manage their reproductive health without the fear of negative consequences” like losing pay or falling behind in work.
“Menstruation-related symptoms (MRSs) are diverse and widespread among women,” Brosas said.
Citing a study from the United States’ National Library of Medicine, the solon said that between 45 and 95% of menstruating women suffer from primary dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation.
“MRS patients are also found to have lower scores in several domains of quality of life during their periods, such as general health, physical, mental, social, and occupational functioning,” part of the solon’s explanatory note in the bill reads.
Brosas also cited a study from the British Medical Journal that indicated how menstruation affects a woman’s productivity at work.
“This survey-based study showed that menstruation-related absenteeism and, to a greater extent, presenteeism are widespread in the general female population,” part of it reads.
“The annual productivity loss due to presenteeism was seven-fold times more than the annual productivity loss due to absenteeism, and women younger than 21 years experience the largest burden. Symptom severity scores showed significant and strong associations with both absenteeism and presenteeism,” it added.
Brosas also shared that other neighboring countries of the Philippines such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia have menstrual leaves.
While some Pinays welcomed the bill, it did not assure some personalities like former senator Ping Lacson who thought that the menstrual leave might “cause layoffs, shops closing, [and] joblessness leading to economic, political and social instability.”
“Maternity leave, paternity leave, and now, menstrual leave — all with pay. Next time, a legislative measure will be filed mandating menopause and andropause allowances to increase the testosterone levels of workers,” he tweeted on March 24.
Lacson also shared a quote that reads: “As for doctors, there are also problems, because it’s difficult to evaluate the degree of menstrual pain an individual woman might suffer.”
Several Filipinos then defended the need for menstrual leave.
Some shared how a monthly period affects women’s daily lives, especially during their working days.
“I’ve had menstrual cramps so bad, it feels like someone was constantly punching me. Then there are stabbing pains [and] I’d have to hunch over or even crawl just to move around. Naiiyak ako sa sakit. ‘Di ka talaga makakatrabaho sa mga araw na ganyan. It’s why we want menstrual leaves,” The Straits Times Philippine correspondent Mara Cepeda tweeted.
“I had a teacher in high school who passed out right in front of the whole class because of dysmenorrhea. My cousin gets so pale because of her cramps you literally can see her lips become white or purple,” another Twitter user said.
“I get migraine [and] my mom gets sick as PMS [premenstrual syndrome], I know people who experience severe pain in their lower back to their hips during menstrual period. I used to cry myself to sleep due to severe cramps,” wrote a different Pinay.
“Shut up. As someone who is currently curled up in bed right now, fighting a god-awful case of dysmenorrhea… I am typing this with my middle finger,” another Twitter user said in response to Lacson.
“It should be as simple as recognizing the differences between the physical body of a man and a woman. We, women, experience this excruciating shedding of endometrium moment every 28 days (for regular cycle), and yet are still expected to function the same? Isn’t that very cruel?” wrote a different Filipina.
“My periods are debilitating. There are days when I have to use diapers from heavy flow or have prolonged menses (I’m talking weeks) and you’re crying over a 2-day leave monthly allocation for menstrual leave?” commented another Twitter user to Lacson.
Some Filipino men also shared their observations about their female colleagues during the latter’s monthly periods.
“I worked in the corp [corporate] setting before and handled people, and most of them are women. I would observe some of them [are] not functioning well even if they try to and when I ask them why, they would say that it’s their monthly period and dysmenorrhea [was] getting the best of them,” a male Twitter user said.
“I would then advise them to go to the clinic, take some meds if needed, and rest for a while,” he added.
“Ilang office mates ko na noon ang nakikita kong hirap na itawid ang araw nila ‘pag unang bugso. As in, in pain. Yes, puwedeng i-VL [vacation leave] pero iba kasi ang purpose nun e,” another online user wrote.
“Puwede rin i-SL [sick leave] kaso ilang beses ko na silang nakitang mahusgahan ng mga lalaking boss namin noon tuwing mag-SL ‘coz [’cause] of menstrual pain. So para klaro, go sa menstrual leave,” the Twitter user added.
Menstruation is a monthly cycle of the female reproductive system where the lining of the uterus is shed. It begins during their puberty and then continuously happens every month throughout their life.
If a woman does not get pregnant or if there is no fertilization, the lining of the uterus, along with blood and mucus from the vagina and cervix, gets discharged through a menstrual flow.
She will also experience other symptoms such as breast swelling and tenderness, bloating, abdominal cramps, crampings of the legs, back, or stomach, acne breakouts, and symptoms related to PMS like insomnia, dizziness, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, rapid mood changes, and social withdrawal.
Other females have a more complicated experience. Some have amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, and/or abnormal uterine bleeding.
Periods usually last between three and seven days and the amount of blood loss can vary. It can range in severity from mild, moderate, and heavy.
For Jessica Barnack-Tavalaris, an associate professor of psychology at The College of New Jersey, menstrual leaves can potentially “improve the health and well-being of menstruators, particularly those with illnesses related to the menstrual cycle.”
Reproductive endocrinologist Eve Feinberg also believes that menstrual leaves can destigmatize periods by bringing them into the everyday discourse.
“It normalizes something that happens to women every month from age 13 to age 50,” she said before. “That’s the biggest pro; it starts the conversation.”