A new UVA Health survey reveals that 45.2 percent of American women report their menstrual symptoms require them to take days off work.
A digital app can help women better manager their symptoms, improve productivity and reduce days they are absent from work.
According to the survey, significant majorities of women reported moderate to severe effects of menstrual symptoms affecting their work.
Researchers with the survey are from the UVA School of Medicine, Flo Health, University College London, Technische Universitaet Berlin and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Of the women surveyed, 89.3 percent reported their energy level is affected by their menstrual cycle, 86.9 percent said their mood, 77.2 percent said their concentration and 71.6 percent said their interest in work is affected. Women take off an average of 5.8 days of work.
“This study demonstrates that menstrual symptoms have a significant effect on women’s lives,” Dr. Jennifer L. Payne, the study’s senior author and director of the Reproductive Psychiatry Research Program at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, said. “I think these results demonstrate just how resilient women are — they are able to continue to work and be productive despite the significant impact that menstrual symptoms have.”
The researchers analyzed responses from 1,867 women ages 18 and older who use the Flo app, which takes menstrual cycle, mood and physical symptoms during and after pregnancy. The most reported menstrual symptoms are cramps at 91 percent, fatigue at 85 percent and 81 percent of women surveyed reported bloating.
Many of the women reported they do not feel supported by their workplace when dealing with symptoms. In fact, 49.7 percent did not feel they could talk freely about issues related to their menstrual cycle with their manager, and 48.4 percent said they did not receive support from their manager. No benefit or wellness program is in place for 94.6 percent of the women surveyed.
Researchers discovered that digital health interventions helped more than half of the women surveyed to prepare for and be aware of their body’s signals, feel supported, improve how they manage symptoms, and be more open with others about how their symptoms make them feel. App users were 18 to 25 percent less likely to report that their menstrual symptoms affected their work productivity.
“Organizations would do well to pay attention to this study and promote environments where women can feel comfortable in addressing their needs surrounding the menstrual cycle.” Payne said. “Women are already doing the hard work of coping with menstrual symptoms on a monthly basis. Digital interventions geared toward minimizing women’s symptoms and maximizing coping skills are one way organizations can support their women employees.”
The survey’s findings are published in Digital Health. The latest medical research news from UVA is available through the Making of Medicine blog.