AbstractsWomens Studies

Women’s health and the workplace: the impact of the menstrual cycle

by Kimberly Fitzgerald

Institution: RCAAP
Year: 2015
Keywords: menstrual cycle; the workplace; women's health; mixed methods
Record ID: 1321620
Full text PDF: http://rcaap.pt/detail.jsp?id=oai:repositorio.ual.pt:11144/721


The primary aim of this research was to explore women’s personal experiences of difficult menstrual cycle symptoms and how these symptoms may have an impact on functioning while at work. The methodology used was the exploratory sequential mixed methods model. Qualitative interviews were conducted (N = 19) and allowed access to the subjective experiences of women’s menstrual cycle symptoms and described, for example, how intrusive symptoms had an impact on their lives, and how the menstrual cycle is potentially stigmatizing for women in the workplace. Moreover, quantitative instruments (N = 63) measured somatoform, anxiety, depression, health and behavioral variables, as well as occupational stress. Problems were identified for future psychological interventions. Qualitative results identified the main theme of "Being different due to imposing symptoms” related to the symptoms they experience, coping with symptoms, looking for answers, experiencing symptoms at work, and issues of gender discrimination. "Masking symptoms” emerged as a category, and this can be understood as a social response related to fear of reprisals. A "Menstrual Symptom Intervention Loop" was developed through analysis of qualitative coding. The use of descriptive statistics identified that abdominal pain (69.8 %), fatigue (61.9 %), general discomfort (58.7 %), bloating (49.2 %), back pain (47.6 %), mood swings (47.6 %), psychological fatigue (46.0 %), difficulty concentrating (42.9 %), persistent irritability (38.1 %), and a feeling of being overwhelmed (38.1 %) were the top ten reported symptoms that have an impact on functioning during the employment relationship. Significant correlations were identified between somatoform symptoms, anxiety, symptoms of depression, stress and strain, although it was not possible to determine any causality. Negative correlations between personal resources and somatoform symptoms, anxiety and depression suggest that personal resources are important variables for consideration. A multiple regression analysis identified that higher levels of depression are significantly associated with occupational roles (β = 0.43, p < 0.01), higher levels of anxiety are associated with a lower level of personal resources (β = - 0 .35, p <. 01) and higher levels of depression are associated with higher levels of personal strain (β = 0.54, p <0.01). The results indicate that women who suffer with severe menstrual cycle symptoms may experience an impact on functioning while at work. Women want equality and do not want to be seen as different in the workplace. Further, issues of the menstrual cycle may be associated with stigma and gender discrimination. Providing women with specialized forms of intervention would increase the ability to analyze symptoms and obtain appropriate treatment.