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Kate Palmer


HR Advice and Consultancy Director

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Supporting employees struggling with PMDD

With little to no treatment currently available to help combat premenstrual dysphoric disorder, employers may want to consider what measures they can implement to help employees who suffer from this condition.
woman in white gown on desert representing supporting women struggling with PMDD

Around 1 in 20 people who have periods suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). 

Employees with PMDD can often struggle to complete simple tasks for the duration of their menstruation cycle. 

It’s a condition that can often be misdiagnosed or confused with various mental health conditions due to the range and severity of the symptoms that sufferers experience. 

It presents very differently depending on each individual person. Symptoms can be psychological; for example, anxiety, crying spells and lack of concentration. Or physical; such as allergies, backache, dizziness or even gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, nausea or vomiting. Or a combination of the two. All of which can make carrying out work duties difficult.

Typically, symptoms emerge a week before the person’s period is due and cease a few days after the bleeding begins.

Employers need to recognise the difficulty that employees can have

Recognising difficulties

Around 1.6% of women suffer from PMDD but getting a diagnosis is hard. This means many struggle along without a formal diagnosis, often suffering intensely for many years before seeking help.  

So, employers need to recognise the difficulty that employees can have during their periods, with or without a formal diagnosis of PMDD. 

Once someone has been diagnosed with PMDD, there are various treatment options available. These will vary depending on each individual person, the severity of their symptoms and their preferences around treatment. 

This is a serious medical condition, and treatments can include medical, holistic and dietary. 

A case-by-case basis

Some people may change their diet during the time they have their period; for example, by increasing their carbohydrate and protein intake whilst decreasing their sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol intake. 

Others may benefit from stress management techniques such as breathing exercises, regular exercise or mindfulness activities.

In the most severe cases, some people may only start to see benefits following medical intervention, whether this be via anti-inflammatory medicines or taking birth control to lessen the symptoms. 

This is a serious medical condition

Mitigating impact

When an employee is struggling with symptoms of PMDD, their working life can be impacted. 

So, employers should look at offering reasonable accommodations. For example, adjusting deadlines to allow them more time to complete tasks or offering flexible working during this time.

It’s important to talk to employees and find out what will help them. Each person will experience different symptoms and have different needs. 

The same employee may also have different needs from month to month. And if their symptoms are severe enough to be considered a disability, then remember that failure to make reasonable adjustments could leave you at risk of a discrimination claim at tribunal.  

Talk to employees and find out what will help them

Opening up the conversation

Discussing with the employee is key to ensuring that you give each individual a solution that is the most helpful for them. Approach these conversations carefully with an open mind. Remember that it is a subject that many people find hard to talk about.

Education is key where women’s health issues are concerned. Previously, discussions around periods have been considered almost taboo in the workplace. It’s good that these conditions are now being openly spoken about. Understanding each person’s needs and condition is key to a cohesive and helpful conversation. 

Where employees feel safe and protected by management, they are more likely to be open and honest about their struggles. 

Having visible sounding boards across the business such as specially trained managers, mental health first aiders or counsellors, can help foster an inclusive and supportive environment. One in which all employees can thrive and work to their full potential. This will benefit both them and the employer in the long run. 

If you found this article interesting, read: Menstrual leave at work: Is better flexibility enough?

Author Profile Picture
Kate Palmer

HR Advice and Consultancy Director

Read more from Kate Palmer

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