Anecdotal evidence indicates that low-income women in developed countries have difficulty affording menstrual products. Lack of access to menstrual products has been linked to truancy and negative psychosocial effects in school age-females and poor menstrual hygiene practices can increase risk of urogenital infections. This study aims to assess if the expense of menstrual products is a burden for low-income women.
In a cross-sectional study at two outpatient women's health practices at Yale-New Haven Hospital, patients were given an anonymous 21-question questionnaire to complete during their clinic visit. The study protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Board of record at Yale University and informed consent was obtained from all participants. Adult English and Spanish-speaking women of reproductive age were eligible for the study. Access and affordability of menstrual products was assessed on a four-point Likert scale.
One hundred seventy patients were invited to participate, 155 completed the survey. Participants reported having difficulty affording menstrual products: most of the time 3%, sometimes 19%, rarely 19%, never 59%; 50% of patients reporting menstrual hygiene insecurity (lacking access most of the time or sometimes) had annual family incomes below $20,000. Sixty-seven percent of respondents could not recall any discussions with healthcare professionals about menstrual products.
Menstrual hygiene insecurity is a common issue among women who are low-income and especially those living below the federal poverty level. Healthcare providers serving these populations should ask patients about menstrual product use and affordability to assess need.