Updated: Oct 3, 2022
By Clara Schattschneider
Menstrual health is often overlooked, which is a head-scratcher since a woman spends about 3,500 days on her period during her lifetime. However, the current tampon shortage and rising prices provide an opportunity to raise awareness about the issue – especially considering that a woman will use over 10,000 period products during her lifetime.
The Tampon Shortage
Tampons are missing from store shelves leaving women with limited options for period products. There are cotton supply chain issues caused by everything from droughts in Texas, India, and China to the war in Ukraine. This shortage is further complicated by COVID-related worker shortages at tampon production facilities, and because tampons are Class II medical devices, companies can’t just hire anyone to work the assembly lines. And if that’s not enough, a European tampon company reported that the price to ship their product to the United States is up 300% from last year.
Once tampons hit the shelves, women still have to find the money to purchase the product. People already spend around $1,770 on tampons in a year and had to watch as prices increased by 10% this year.
People should not have to choose between buying tampons and paying the bills. But they do. Period poverty – the lack of access to menstrual products – can affect women’s education, social, and work life. For example, students suffering from period poverty may stay home from school while on their periods. Some schools don’t offer pads and tampons, and these girls don’t want to risk bleeding through their clothes and being made fun of. Who can blame them? More than 4 in 5 students (84%) in the US have either missed class time or know someone who missed class time because they did not have access to period products.
Like other reproductive health issues, period-related conversations are considered taboo. This means those who struggle with period poverty may be reluctant to ask for help, and it makes addressing issues such as rising prices more difficult to address. Around half the Earth’s population have periods, so why the stigma? It’s time to address the disparities.
The Good News!
Right now, menstrual products are still taxed in Texas. And while legislation that would repeal the “pink tax” (make period products tax-free) has repeatedly failed to become law, Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Comptroller Glen Hegar, and State Sen. Joan Huffman publicly announced last week that they would support such efforts next session. A great first step.
Clara Schattschneider is adolescent health communications consultant with Prosper Waco.