How To Handle An Unexpected Period At Work

How to Handle an Unexpected Period at Work

It’s a common fear among working women: you’re walking through the office and notice you’re on the receiving end of a peculiar amount of attention, only to reach a horrific realization: You’ve gotten your period, and you weren’t ready for it. The good news? You’re not alone. Period-related mishaps happen to the best of us. In fact, one survey indicated that up to 86% of American women have gotten their period unexpectedly in public without having the necessary supplies on hand.1 That’s a lot of embarrassing moments. So how do you minimize the unpleasantness of getting your period at the office, especially when it sneaks up on you?

Damage Control

The first thing you’re going to want to do is control the damage, meaning leakage. Priority number one is to find a tampon or pad immediately – ask a coworker if your office doesn’t have female hygiene products available. Unfortunately, spot cleaning is unlikely to remove visibility of a blood stain, so if your period leaked through both your underwear and your pants, check if either you or a female colleague have a jacket or sweater you could tie around your waist. If you work in a casual environment, consider changing into your gym clothes. Chances are somebody in the office will have something to cover up a stain, and though asking may be embarrassing, remember that most women have had a similar experience.

Go with the Flow

After you’ve addressed the immediate stressors of your period’s unexpected arrival, take the time to deal with the less obvious symptoms of menstruation. Are you starting to cramp up? You may want to consider some warm tea or over-the-counter pain relievers. Is there a dark room you can lie down in for a few minutes? The first day or two of menstruation can be exhausting and painful for many women, and starting your period when you’re unprepared can exacerbate feelings of anxiety or discomfort. The bottom line? Just make sure you’re addressing your needs, and talking to your doctor to understand your options.

Don’t be Afraid to Call it

If you’re feeling unwell or uncomfortable for reasons pertaining to your period, don’t be afraid to talk to your manager about any flexible options that may be available. Your period can be a stressful occurrence on its own, without factoring in an unexpected or awkward arrival. If you’re feeling like the events are impacting your ability to focus and do your job, keep the lines of communication open!

An unexpected period at work is never a fun occurrence, but some women have periods so heavy that they are forced to miss work and social engagements regularly. If you feel like you may suffer from heavy periods, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss potential treatment options.



  1. Free The Tampon Foundation. Survey conducted between August 14-16, 2013 by Harris Interactive. Survey was conducted among 1,072 U.S. females ages 18 and older; among which 661 are women ages 18-54 and 574 are women ages 18-54.