Public Release: 

Heavy menstrual periods associated with economic loss

University of Alberta

Heavy menstrual periods have significant economic implications for women in the workplace, according to a study compiled by a University of Alberta researcher. Heavy or otherwise abnormal menstrual bleeding is a common problem among women in the reproductive-age range. Until now, there is no evidence of its effect on absences from work.

Dr. David Cumming, a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Alberta, and his colleagues examined data from a national United States survey that included about 2800 women who had had a period within the previous 12 months. The women also had not taken medication containing estrogen (except past use of oral contraceptives), and had never been told they had reproductive cancer.

The research team found the heavy-flow group were less likely to have worked during the previous week--over a year, it is estimated these women worked 3.6 fewer weeks out of the year than did women with light or normal bleeding. Economically, women who miss work because of heavy periods lose about $1692 a year, the researchers found.

"We were not surprised by the findings," said Cumming. "I think that the problem has been underrated and probably underreported by patients to their employers. But to those women who have heavy, painful periods, it's not a small issue."

Women with heavy periods also had a dimmer view of their overall health--with 55 per cent rating their health as "excellent" or "very good" compared to 70% of women with low or normal flow. Characteristically, of the women in the study, those with heavier flow were younger, less likely to be white, less educated, more likely to be single and more likely to be in a family of more than two individuals.

Measured estimates of heavy periods are in the 10-15 per cent range and it is one of the four most common reasons to see a family physician, said Cumming.

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The study appears in the October issues of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The U of A in Edmonton, Alberta is one of Canada's premier teaching and research universities serving more than 30,000 students with 6,000 faculty and staff. It continues to lead the country with the most 3M Teaching Fellows, Canada's only national award recognizing teaching excellence.

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