According to a recent study published in the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal earlier this week, almost two-thirds of low-income women have reported that they can’t afford pads, tampons, or other menstrual hygiene products.
Even though the study was relatively small and only women in the St. Louis area participated in it, the numbers are likely to be similar across the country.
Anne Sebert Kuhlmann, the author of the study said that this issue has received an increased amount of attention, particularly in developing countries around the world. However, the director of the master of public health program at St. Louis University added that there wasn’t much even when they looked at more developed countries, like the United States, and the magnitude was definitely a surprise. The fact that almost two-thirds of the low-income women had been in this situation surprised everyone.
This issue is sometimes called “period poverty”, and the research used three different sources of information in order to better measure how many women are affected by it. They first surveyed 180 women who were recruited at community organizations for low-income individuals, and they conducted three smaller focus groups. Around 1 in 5 women have said that they have struggled to buy pads or tampons every single month.
These women said that they had to use toilet paper, rags, or even their children’s diapers without any pads and tampons, and others have ducked into public restrooms to take some paper towels. Kuhlman said that these women had to go to the emergency room only to get a pad and the postpartum underwear they provide, because many of them didn’t even have underwear.
Pads and tampons are a subject to sales tax in most countries across the U.S., and they are not classified as products for basic, essential needs. The “tampon tax” have only been abolished by a few states. These women are also unable to use the food assistance funding like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for menstrual products, and there is a pressing need to make these hygiene products more accessible to all women!
Community health centers and nonprofits have tried to step in in the lack of national programs to help women afford these hygiene products, and this study will have to be replicated in other states in order to come up with national estimates for this huge problem.