Women at Work: How Periods Affect Our Productivity

Women at Work:

How Periods Affect Our Productivity

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While we’d hate ever to admit something like our monthly cycle can impact our ability to do our jobs, the truth is this is sometimes very much the case.

In general terms, the menstrual cycle is divided into various phases. Depending on the phase of the cycle, hormonal influences can have profound impact on daily influences in a woman’s life.

“In relation to the work/productivity aspect of a woman’s monthly, the best time or the most “feeling good time” for a woman during her cycle, would be during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle — this begins on the initiation of your period and lasts approximately 10-14 days. Hormonally speaking, FSH ( or follicle stimulating hormone) is being secreted–which causes follicular stimulation to be created in the ovaries,” says Dr. Kecia Gaither – double board-certified OBGYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine physician.

It’s during this point in the cycle that women are energetic, minds are clear, and perhaps if there is some project that needs to be taken care of– this is the time of the month to make it happen.

Now, let’s discuss the luteal phase of the cycle…this is when the hormone progesterone begins to rise, causing the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation for menses. “The progesterone also influences the production of another hormone, cortisol– which can cause irritability. In the latter part of the cycle, women can experience mood swings, insomnia, breast tenderness, bloating, and decreased concentration. 

This is also the point in the cycle where those salt/sugar cravings present themselves,” says Dr. Gaither. In relation to work life balance – the latter part of a woman’s cycle may not be the best time to undertake any project that requires substantial due diligence to bring it to fruition.

Now, if in the workplace there tends to be a majority of women in close proximity to each other- there can be a “menstrual synchrony”. “Simply, women working together can have their cycles occur roughly at the same time each month. While the scientific data is inconclusive as to whether this really exists, anecdotally speaking, most women working together can attest to its existence,” says Dr. Gaither.

So, if a big work related event is happening and everyone’s input is needed, and it’s predominantly women– perhaps waiting until the latter half of everyone’s cycle may be a prudent move.

 Yes, women are affected by the changing hormone levels of our menstrual cycles, but different women are affected in different ways, so it’s really not possible to say that a certain time of month is more or less productive. “For most women, these changes are subtle rather than dramatic. And most importantly, while an individual woman may be able to discern certain patterns about herself based on where she is in her cycle, those patterns tend to be individual rather than universal. I.e., high progesterone levels during your luteal phase may cause you to feel really down in the dumps, but for someone else, that same hormonal change causes her to feel relaxed and well-rested,” says Lea von Bidder, co-founder of Ava – a cycle-tracking sensor bracelet that uses new technology to precisely detect a woman’s fertile window in real time.

There isn’t really strong evidence that women’s cycles sync.  One more thing to keep in mind: many women are on hormonal birth control, and NONE of this stuff holds true when that is the case. “You don’t have a real cycle with hormonal birth control, meaning you would not experience any of the changes throughout the month that occur with a natural cycle,” says von Bidder.

There are uncommon cases where periods affect productivity. “Some women experience extreme pain, discomfort, and other physical symptoms around their period. This is not very common, it’s a disorder, and it can usually be resolved by taking hormonal birth control,” says von Bidder.

Aly Walansky

Aly Walansky is a freelance lifestyles writer based in New York City, who contributes regularly to iVillage, SheKnows.com, xoJane, Huffington Post, and The Fashion Spot as well as many other print and web outlets.

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