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Teen poverty

‘Period poverty’: AAP endorses statement on improving access to menstrual products

March 27, 2023

The AAP has endorsed a position statement on eliminating “period poverty” — a term that describes when financial circumstances or inadequate education hinders access to menstrual hygiene products.

About 500 million people worldwide, or a fourth of all those who menstruate, are thought to experience period poverty. Statistics on North America are scarce.

Proper menstrual hygiene is a basic global need, but the issue garners little attention, according to the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology (NASPAG), which authored NASPAG Position Statement: Eliminating Period Poverty in Adolescents and Young Adults Living in North America.

Every month, millions of adolescents and young adults spend about $9 or more on disposable hygiene products, including pads or tampons.

In most states, government programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children do not cover these supplies.

The high cost of products and lack of access to them can lead some individuals to use proxy materials or unsafe measures with potentially serious health consequences, including toxic shock syndrome, lower reproductive tract infections and outer skin infections.

Social and academic life — as well as mental health and self-esteem — all can be affected when teens and young adults miss school, activities or work because they have limited access to products.

One report showed that 20% of U.S. girls missed or left school early due to lack of access to the products.

Some states have abolished taxes on menstrual products, while selected local and municipal governments have passed bills to require free menstrual products in school restrooms.

While momentum to improve product availability is growing, most states continue to tax menstrual products as a luxury or nonessential item, which some call a form of sex-based discrimination. In addition, the topic continues to be stigmatized.

“Despite menstruation being a normal, healthy bodily function for billions of individuals around the globe, menstruation is still a source of deep gender and health inequities,” the statement reads.

Health care providers and educators are urged to discuss menstruation as a natural, normal and biological event, and not a source of gender shame and burden. They can:

  • Understand that menses is a vital sign, so anything that impacts menstrual health should be important to medical providers.
  • Ask patients about menstrual products and if they have any barriers to obtaining them.
  • Educate on the topic, and collaborate with youths, their families and community members to help negate menstrual stigma.
  • Encourage more comprehensive, peer-reviewed studies on period poverty, elevating diverse young voices and their experiences.


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