From Sick Pets, to Dodgy Prawns, to Freak Gym Accidents – The Excuses Women Use to Explain Absences Due to Period Pains

  • Sick pets, dodgy prawns, faulty plumbing and freak gym accidents (Translation: I have debilitating period pain)
  • According to new research, 25% of women fave felt it necessary to explain their absences from work due to their period with made up excuses.
  • INTIMINA, an intimate wellbeing brand, has launched ‘Useless Spanish Lessons’: a parody language tutorial that seeks to highlight the common phrases that people who menstruate will never need in Spain.
  • Joining Japan, South Korea and Zambia, Spain has just become the fourth country in the world to offer leave for period pain.
  • Ahead of Menstrual Hygeine Day, this campaign was launched to help break the stigma around talking about periods in the workplace, and features some of the most common excuses used when calling in sick due to their period. 
  • INTIMINA has partnered with WASH United, an advocacy and education group, to campaign for a world where no one is limited due to menstruation.

From dodgy prawns, sick pets, gym accidents and faulty plumbing to mystery viruses, new research from INTIMINA reveals the common excuses that one in four (24%) working women feel the need to use to explain their absence from work due to period pain.

But that’s no longer the case in Spain, which has just become the first country in the western world to allow women to call in sick due to ‘incapacitating menstruation’. To highlight the ongoing stigma around time off for menstruation,  INTIMINA has launched Useless Spanish Lessons, featuring the now redundant excuses that working people in Spain don’t need to use to get time off from work due to period pain.

Including six of the most common phrases used by people when calling in sick due to menstrual pain and discomfort, such as “I have a mystery virus” (28%) and “I have food poisoning due to a dodgy prawn” (20%), the parody video teaches viewers how to say these phrases in Spanish – even though they would never need to. INTIMINA’s Useless Spanish Lessons can be viewed at

The campaign, which launches ahead of Menstrual Hygiene Day (28th May), parodies the style of an online Spanish language tutorial, and aims to help break the taboo and stigma felt by women around the world discussing period discomfort in the workplace. As of February 2023, Spain has become only the fourth country to offer paid period leave, along with Japan, South Korea and Zambia.

According to INTIMINA’s research of British working women, almost two thirds (63%) would support paid period leave in the UK and half (49%) of those surveyed would have felt the need to use it.

Just one in ten (10%) said their employers have been open to giving them time-off due to extreme period symptoms, with half (49%) saying they have experienced a lack of sympathy discussing menstrual pain with their employers or managers.

Consequently, many people experiencing pain feel obliged to continue working and suffering in silence, with one in five (20%) reporting that it has had an impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

To help campaign further for universal paid menstrual leave and a world where no one is held back by menstruation, INTIMINA has partnered with advocacy and education group WASH United this Menstrual Hygiene Day.

Dunja Kokotovic, Intimina Global Brand Manager at INTIMINA comments: “It’s sad that in 2023, so many women in Britain and all over the world feel forced to contrive reasons why they’re not well enough to work when suffering from menstrual pain. From food poisoning and exercise injuries to sick pets and relatives and domestic disasters, these essential excuses are now useless in Spain and that’s something to celebrate.

At INTIMINA, we believe that everyone who menstruates should be entitled to paid menstrual leave if they need it, without guilt or judgement, and they certainly shouldn’t need to make up far-fetched excuses to get it.

This Menstrual Hygiene Day, we hope that ‘ Useless Spanish Lessons’ helps raise awareness of the need for open and honest discussions about menstruation in the workplace and brings us closer to a world where paid menstrual leave is guaranteed.”

Gynaecology Specialist for INTIMINA, Dr Susanna Unsworth, adds: “Menstruation affects everybody differently and for some their period can come with severe physical and mental symptoms. Not being able to take time off due to discomfort or having to lie to an employer can create stress and anxiety which can cause health to deteriorate even further.

With INTIMINA’s research showing more than a third (34%) of women would use menstrual leave if it was an option and they were experiencing excruciating pain, it’s clear more needs to be done in making sure people are able to take the necessary time off due to period symptoms.”

Thorsten Kiefer, CEO at WASH United, the initiators of MH Day, says: “No one should be stigmatised, excluded, or discriminated against just because they menstruate. Severe menstrual symptoms should be treated like any other health issue. Women who suffer from debilitating menstrual symptoms should have access to paid leave. In every country. Period.”

For more information on how to talk about periods in the workplace visit –

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