The True Costs of Periods

set of menstrual hygiene products

If someone were to ask you how much a period costs, you’d say it costs the price of a pack of tampons or pads. However, managing a period goes well beyond the costs of period products, and the costs involved can all contribute to period poverty, an issue that is affecting increasing numbers of people. Does your workplace cater to the needs of those who are menstruating? Is your washroom an inclusive space that supports menstrual equity? Our comprehensive guide looks at the true costs of periods, diving into the nitty gritty of how much it really costs to manage a menstrual cycle.

The Costs Involved in Managing Your Period

Period products can vary hugely in price, ranging anywhere from 79p for a pack of 14 sanitary towels to £4.70 for a branded alternative. With the average cycle requiring approximately 12-16 pads, this can equate to more than £55 for a year’s worth of supplies, and often more for those who experience a heavier flow or longer cycles.

However, the costs involved in managing a period in day-to-day life, go well beyond that of sanitary pads or menstrual cups. Here are just some of the things that you do, often without even realising, that can add up to the cost of periods.

Pain Medication

One study showed that on average, 55% of women require medication for menstrual pain. For some individuals, the requirement for pain medication can be even higher, due to conditions such as endometriosis often causing extreme period pain and heavy bleeds. The average cost of a 16 pack of paracetamol is around 30p, making a year’s worth of medication for period pain alone amount to almost £5, without considering any additional pain medication, such as ibuprofen or heat pads to minimise cramping.

Hormonal Eating

Ever craved chocolate on your period? You’re not alone. Research shows that after ovulation begins, your body adapts and goes through the usual cycle of shedding its uterine lining and related toxins. From there, levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin drop, while insulin levels go up. This combination leaves you reaching for mood-boosting foods like chocolate. One survey highlighted that respondents put aside an average of £8.50 a month for chocolate, sweets and crisps during their period – totalling at £102 a year. Therefore, whilst you may not have considered the reason behind the extra tub of ice cream in your shopping cart, the chances are, you are spending a few extra pounds on period related eating each month.

Time Off Work

Spain has recently announced that it is looking at reforms allowing women to take up to three days of paid menstrual leave per month. Should the United Kingdom follow suit?

Many women in the UK are forced to use up sick days or take unpaid leave due to uncomfortable menstruation, with many women claiming they feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when they must discuss the matter with line managers and bosses. As such, the cost of a period is impacted by the money lost due to time off work, with women losing up to hundreds of pounds annually due to period pain.

Breaking taboos and educating staff in the workplace is vital for helping to normalise conversation around periods. This is a way of opening a dialogue around menstruation, and how as a workforce, you could better support menstruators during their time of the month. After all, menstruation is something that affects more than 50% of the workforce.

Travel to Buy Products

Whether you have your groceries delivered or you pop out to your local supermarket for the intention of picking up some menstrual products, there are shipping, and travel costs involved. Unforeseen trips may need to be taken, for it’s not uncommon to be unexpectedly caught short during your time of the month, particularly for those who experience irregular cycles. In today’s market, with the cost of fuel on the rise, these hidden costs can quickly add up.  In 2023, the average cost per mile to run a car is 47p. Therefore, a 20-minute round trip to the supermarket, travelling approximately 5 miles either way, would total at £4.70. Annually, this would add up to more than £50 for menstruation related petrol costs alone.

Gym Membership

With the average cost of a gym membership in the UK £40 a month, many men and women aim to utilise this expense by going to the gym at any free opportunity. However, it’s no secret that working out during your period can be tough, with factors such as bleeding, emotional ailments and cramping coming in to play. As a result, it’s common for women to end up missing a week of their gym membership each month, due to their period. This averages out at £120 worth of gym membership lost each year to periods.

Pink Tax

Pink tax refers to the tendency for products marketed towards the average woman to be more expensive than those marketed towards men. Despite the removal of tampon tax several years ago, a new snapshot for the last 12 months shows prices have risen again, in many cases by more than the 10% rate of inflation, charging women significantly more for sanitary products than back in 2022. Statistics show that a pack of 20 supermarket own-label tampons is now £1.16, up from 91p a year ago. This works out as a 27% increase based on the average price across supermarkets. This suggests that pink tax still comes into play when it comes to feminine hygiene products, and the savings haven’t been passed on by retailers, despite the campaign hoping to make period products more accessible to those in need.

Environmental Costs

Where workspaces and schools fail to provide safe sanitary disposal bins in their washrooms, tampons are often disposed of incorrectly, with over half of UK women flushing tampons down the toilet. This has a detrimental impact on the UK’s drains and sewers, whilst causing thousands of sea creatures to die each year from ingesting plastic. Continuous blockages in your plumbing system can be expensive, and can lead to large maintenance and repair costs.

How the Price You Pay Can Lead to Period Poverty

As you can see, the cost of a period goes far beyond that of just sanitary products, and can add up to hundreds and thousands of pounds a year, particularly for low-income families that may have multiple female children at menstruating age. As such, these costings can ultimately lead to period poverty, a global health crisis defined as a lack of access to menstrual products and facilities, most often experienced by low incomes families who cannot afford them.

Cost of Living

The cost-of-living crisis has been exacerbated by short term factors such as the pandemic, and this has forced families to drastically cut back on their spending. As a result, many people have been left choosing between necessities such as food and heating their homes or buying essential period products.

Period Poverty Globally

Period poverty is a global crisis, affecting people across the world, often in particular geographical areas such as developing countries. According to the Borgen Project, a staggering 500 million people who menstruate experience period poverty every month, with period poverty at its highest in Kenya and India.

Why Should Your Business Care?

So, when it comes to period poverty, why should your business care and help to provide for women in the workplace?

Our research found that 71% of women in the UK would choose to spend money with businesses that provide free period products over ones that don’t. Businesses can help ease menstruators’ anxiety and ensure they can continue to participate in daily life by making period products accessible to their washroom users. Just think, you could be losing customers by not providing free period products in your washroom. Likewise, 82% of women said they would feel more valued as customers if a business provided free period products. Not only would giving people period dignity attract more customers but it would allow individuals to view your business more positively.

Furthermore, providing your workforce with free access to period products could also help improve staff retention rates. After all, going above and beyond for your employees will help to show them that they are valued as individuals in your business.

How Your Business Can Help

It’s never been easier for businesses to play their part in helping to end period poverty. And, whilst as an employer you can’t eradicate period poverty on your own, there are things you can do to contribute.

You can support your employees and visitors by giving them access to free period products. Our Aunt Flow Menstrual Hygiene Products Vendor is the ideal solution for this, offering organic pads and tampons free to washroom visitors, helping you to support period dignity, care for your visitors and for the planet.

Get in Touch with Citron Hygiene

Offering free period products in your business to help reduce the monthly stresses of the costs associated with menstruation is the right thing to do. Get in touch today to find out how you can join the growing movement to create healthier, safer, and more inclusive washrooms.

Find out how we can help elevate your washroom experience. Talk to us.

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