Many women who menstruate have experienced it: You go about your day until you suddenly realize that your period has arrived. You feel anxious, vulnerable and exposed after the ungainly search for a bathroom and the desperate prayer that you have packed a menstrual item.
The stigmatization of menstruation, or any other topic involving a uterus, is a major factor in this situation. A taboo overs these conversations.
If you’re one of the 22 million American women who live in poverty, period poverty is a serious problem. A study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that 64% reported having ever had difficulty paying for menstrual products such as pads, tampons or reusable products such as menstrual cups. 21% said they couldn’t afford the products each month. Particularly vulnerable are those who are homeless and incarcerated.
What makes period products considered a luxury?
It is an essential part of human existence to have menstrual cycles. Menstrual hygiene products should be considered necessities and not luxury items. Food stamps and subsidies provided by the WIC (women and infants and children) program do not cover menstrual hygiene products.
Patients have told me they prefer to use paper towels or toilet paper over pads and tampons. Patients who have heavy periods and need to change their products frequently face financial difficulties. They must purchase more pads or tampons that the average person.
They can cause vulvar irritation and discomfort if they try to prolong the product’s life by using it for longer periods of time. They could also be more at risk for toxic shock syndrome (a potentially life-threatening infection).
Why is it important that we talk about stigmatization during periods?
To understand and solve the problems people have with accessing menstrual hygiene products, we need to tackle stigmatization. Period poverty is real. Period equity must be realized, too. While stigmatization and embarrassment may keep people from speaking up for themselves, it is possible to remove that stigma or have a conversation about these issues.
We can all move forward as a society to address the needs half of our population. Equity is not possible when half of the population suffers financial and/or physical hardships as a result of the reproductive cycle necessary to ensure human survival.