(Picture: Getty)Period poverty has been a major topic of conversation recently, with hospitals choosing to give free sanitary products to those who need them, following on from the likes of Milton Keynes Council and Celtic Football Club.
Despite the fact that Plan International found that one in ten girls have been unable to afford sanitary wear and a higher number still have had to improvise products due to affordability issues, there are still those that argue period poverty doesn’t exist.
Take, for example, this man (we assume the poster is a man because of the fact they address ‘ladies’ and don’t have periods or know how they work) who has gone viral for a now-deleted comment on a Facebook article.
The man suggested that people were simply overblowing the cost of periods, and that actually only seven tampons were needed per cycle – or ten for those of us with an ‘extra juicy uterine lining’.
He then makes a mathematical leap and suggests that we only have nine periods a year, so 90 tampons a year (at a cost of under £20 a year) would be more than sufficient.
Look at this fucking dweeb pic.twitter.com/2QFqNuqvZz
— ash (@aisghair) March 4, 2019
Screenshots of this claim went far and wide across the internet, with period-havers aghast at the mental gymnastics required to come to that conclusion; not to mention the phrase ‘cut down on your Starbucks venti frapps and stop whining’.
The first thing to get straight is that even if he was correct about this, some people don’t have £20 to spare. That is real life, and isn’t just because they’ve got extra whipped cream and a double caramel shot.
Secondly, let’s address the numbers here. We spoke to Hayley Smith, founder of FlowAid, which provides free sanitary products to homeless women.
She told Metro.co.uk: ‘We were told at school that we lose just a couple of teaspoons each time we flow’.
However, the reality is that, ‘the average amount of blood we use is around 80ml per period. This is based on an average to heavier period’.
According to Hayley ‘there are several factors that can make this greater including how heavy someone’s periods are, the height or weight of a person, whether you have a health issue such as endometriosis or PCOS etc, also how regular periods are.
‘If you have irregular periods, some will be heavier than others and it also makes them harder to track so simply ensuring you have enough products available can be quite impossible’.
In Hayley’s personal experience with endometriosis, for example, she says she can ‘fill a cup with the amount of blood’ she loses each flow, and ‘can get through five to seven towels some days, and change at least once during the night’.
Manjit K. Gill (CEO and founder of Binti International, a period charity working in India, Kenya, Swaziland, the UK, and the US) told us that many of the women she’d worked with weren’t sure the exact amount of blood they lost each cycle, but that the typical amount from those who reported was ‘approximately between three to five tablespoons’.
She told Metro.co.uk that ‘other key factors to consider’ in terms of this issue are ‘what day of her period a female is on, length of cycle, the age of the person, what her normal bleed is, ability to access products, quantity & type of products, and the different absorption of products’.
Products themselves also weren’t factored into this man’s original argument, with him assuming that we simply pop a tampon in and take it out once it’s full.
If a regular tampon holds around 5ml of blood, even if your period is extremely light and only at 35ml a month, you’ll still need to change it every four to six hours as per the recommendations to avoid toxic shock syndrome.
Over four days – and going by the most conservative of numbers once again – that’s 24 tampons. With twelve (not the nine stated before) periods annually that’s a bare minimum of 288 tampons. Once you bear in mind that that’s only the very luckiest light-flowed person, you realise what a financial burden sanitary products can become.
Some people can’t use tampons or cups, and will use pads instead. These have differing levels of absorbency, but will also need to be changed every few hours for comfort and hygiene reasons, and will yield much the same result.
Add to all of that the fact that regardless of whether you’ve worked out how many products you’ll need and bought them in bulk to save cash, you can still get caught short and end up having to pay loads on corner shop products or something from a vending machine.
Period poverty affects everyone differently, but the suggestion that those going without sanitary products are simply doing so because they misjudged how their own bodily functions is laughable. Thankfully we’ve got an armful of facts and plenty of ruined pants to fight back with.
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