Periods During the Pandemic

Dhanya Sivakumar

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw the rapid panic-buying that swept nations and led to toilet paper shortages everywhere. But toilet paper wasn’t the only essential product that experienced a shortage. Essential period products like tampons and pads also suffered an unfortunate shortage during the pandemic. As we know, periods don’t stop for pandemics! So how has the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated period poverty and menstruation-related challenges?

Woman holding Ruth Pads

“Each day, an estimated 300 million women and girls menstruate. Being able to manage menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence, and with dignity is critical for their health, education, human rights, economic development, and overall gender equality. Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, more than 500 million women worldwide did not have what they needed to manage their menstruation.” — Menstrual Hygiene Day Organization

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a number of menstruation-related challenges. One of the ways the pandemic has affected menstrual health and hygiene is through global shortages of period products. Like many other essential goods, disruptions in the supply chain have driven the cost of tampons and pads up. Period poverty has become further exacerbated by the pandemic, as COVID-19 has had a detrimental economic impact on many households. Affordable access to period products has become a challenge, with many people who menstruate have to forgo safe menstrual hygiene products in order to afford other basic necessities. In addition, the closure of schools and other public buildings during the pandemic means that many places offering free period products have suspended these services. The closure of public buildings and healthcare facilities also means limited access to safe water, sanitation, and handwashing facilities for people who menstruate. Reductions in routine health services during the pandemic also mean reductions in menstruation-related healthcare, making it more difficult for people who menstruate to access menstruation-related healthcare services during the pandemic.

Another way the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted menstrual health and hygiene is through the closure of schools, community centers, and other educational facilities. The closure of these places means disruptions to menstrual health and hygiene education programs. Limited access to menstrual education resources coupled with lockdowns can further perpetuate menstrual stigmas and taboos. According to the Menstrual Hygiene Day Organization, “lockdowns intensify the impact of household-level taboos and stigmas on [people who menstruate] and make it more difficult to manage menstruation, without shame and discomfort in often confined spaces”.

Ruth Pads

According to the Menstrual Hygiene Day Organization, one of the ways we can combat menstruation-related challenges is to “continue efforts to ensure access to menstrual products and safe water, soap and period-friendly sanitation facilities at home and in health centers, so [people who menstruate] can manage their periods safely, hygienically and with dignity – wherever they are. This includes designating menstrual products as essential commodities to minimize barriers to manufacturing and supply. If distribution of menstrual products is done, ensure it is well managed to protect [people who menstruate] from COVID-19”.
Another way we can promote menstrual product accessibility is to discourage panic-buying and hoarding of period products. During the pandemic, we’ve seen large-scale supply chain disruptions affecting the production of essential goods. Panic-buying and hoarding exacerbate this problem, leading to harmful shortages that make period products inaccessible and unaffordable. A good rule of thumb is to buy only what you need!
Another way we can tackle menstrual stigmas and taboos during the pandemic is to continue having period conversations online! Many in-person events and education services have been canceled during the pandemic. So it’s important that we keep sharing information and resources online about menstrual health and hygiene education. For more information and resources on menstrual health education visit https://menstrualhygieneday.org/, read up on our previous blog posts, and connect with us on social media!

What’s Next?

We want to continue normalizing period conversations and building a supportive network for people who menstruate. For more information and resources on menstrual health and education contact us at hello@getruth.ca, subscribe to our newsletter, or connect with us on social media! If you love sustainable menstrual pads you can sign up HERE to pre-order your very own Ruth pads! Thank you for reading! Don’t forget to wear your masks, wash your hands, and stay safe!

- Ruth

Sources: Menstrual Hygiene Day & WASH United