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The health impacts of period poverty

by Dr. Jessica Shepherd

Learn about the impact of period poverty on a woman’s health and how you can help support those in need in your community.

Access to the right period products is an important part of managing your cycle and, surprisingly, one we take for granted. Period poverty, or lack of access to period products, in the U.S. affects one in four women, according to research from U by Kotex. Too many women cannot access the products they need to care for their monthly cycle. In my work, I aim to educate people about the impact of period poverty on a woman’s health and offer advice for relieving period poverty in their own communities.

Lack of access to period products can impact your health

The need for period products is significant. Lack of access to period supplies is linked to potentially harmful behaviors like using substitute products, like toilet tissue or socks, or stretching product usage. These products can be detrimental to your health because they cause irritation, which can lead to undesirable conditions like yeast infections. In my experience, some women have shared they’ve coped with lack of access by using substitute products like wash cloths, toilet paper and other products or by using their period products for an extended amount of time. However, using pads for extended periods of time can affect pH balance or even cause bacterial growth; therefore, it’s important to access enough pads that can be changed regularly.

The prevalence of period poverty

One in five low-income women report missing work, school or similar events due to lack of access to period supplies.[1] These instances were linked to reported feelings of embarrassment, disappointment and depression. However, according to a U by Kotex survey, only 4 percent of respondents were aware of a local resource where free or reduced cost period supplies are available. In my experience, sometimes patients express concerns about accessing period products and raise questions about how lack of access affects health. It’s important to talk to your doctor about finding the right period products to improve your health and wellbeing.

How to relieve period poverty in your community

As a founding sponsor of the Alliance for Period Supplies, U by Kotex raises awareness of the consequences that a lack of access to period products can have on the lives of individuals living in poverty, and inspiring individuals and communities to take action. On an ongoing basis, U by Kotex is committed to increasing awareness and getting product into the hands of those in need through its partnership with Alliance for Period Supplies. Together, we’re working towards a world where stigmas around periods can be broken down to provide women access period products to support their health and wellness.

About Dr. Jessica Shepherd: Dr. Jessica Shepherd is an OB/GYN, women's health expert and the founder of Her Viewpoint, an online women's health forum that focuses on addressing taboo topics in a comfortable setting.  She currently practices at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX.

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This is not intended to be medical advice. Everybody is different so please make sure to consult your physician if you're having issues. Do not delay or refrain from seeking professional medical advice from your physician because of something you have read on this site.

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