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Create Your Own Feminine Hygiene Products

Empowering Women’s Health: Addressing Period Poverty and Menstrual Hygiene

Since 1988, March has been celebrated as Women’s History Month, a time dedicated to reflecting on the trials and triumphs of women throughout history. One common experience shared by most women is the monthly menstrual cycle, which necessitates access to reliable hygiene products to stay clean and comfortable.

The Evolution of Menstrual Products

The female hygiene industry has evolved significantly over the years. While traditional pads and tampons remain staples, innovations such as absorbent underwear from brands like Thinx and Knix have emerged. However, at prices upwards of $25 per pair, these products are often unaffordable for many women. Despite this, the global market for feminine hygiene products was valued at nearly $22 billion in 2020.

Menstrual Products in the U.S.

In the United States, there is an abundance of menstrual products available in various forms, including pads, tampons, and even menstrual cups. These products can be found in diverse settings, from gas station vending machines to supermarkets. However, affordability remains an issue for some, compounded by cultural taboos surrounding menstruation.

Financial Strain and Period Poverty

On average, an American woman spends about $6,360 on menstrual products over her lifetime (from ages 12 to 52). A study by OnePoll revealed that 79% of 2,000 surveyed menstruating women have made financial sacrifices to afford these essentials, highlighting the prevalence of period poverty. Four in five respondents believe that period poverty is a significant issue.

Global Impact of Period Poverty

Period poverty extends beyond financial strain; it impacts health, self-esteem, and overall well-being. Advocacy groups such as the Alliance for Period Supplies and Helping Women Period focus on raising awareness and providing support. Danela Žagar, brand manager for Intimate, emphasized that period poverty leads to stress, health problems, and lower self-esteem.

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DIY Solutions for Menstrual Products

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted access to free or low-cost menstrual products typically available in schools, workplaces, and public health facilities. As a result, many have turned to DIY solutions, such as creating washable, reusable pads. Here’s a simple guide to making your own reusable pads:

Materials Needed:

  • ¼ yard each of flannel and fleece (or repurpose old clothing or towels)
  • Sewing needle or machine
  • Thread
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Closure (e.g., snaps or Velcro dots)
  • Pattern (trace a commercial pad or use free online patterns)


  1. Stack and iron the fabrics to make them stick together.
  2. Cut the fabrics using your pattern.
  3. Sew the absorbent insert to the wrong side of the top layer.
  4. Sew the top and bottom layers together with the wrong sides facing, leaving a 2-inch gap.
  5. Turn the pad inside out through the gap, so the right sides are facing out.
  6. Iron the pad flat and sew around the edges to secure it.
  7. Attach closures to the wings of the pad.

Accessing Free Menstrual Products

For those who prefer not to DIY, there are various ways to access free menstrual products. Jennifer Gaines of the Alliance for Period Supplies and Lysne Tait of Helping Women Period suggest seeking help from local assistance programs, food pantries, and faith-based organizations. The 211 hotline and 211.org can also connect individuals with resources in their area.

Fighting Gender Bias and Period Stigma

Ending period poverty is not only about providing products but also about challenging the stigma and systemic gender bias associated with menstruation. As Tait notes, societal attitudes and lack of education perpetuate misconceptions and silence around menstrual health. Advocacy and education are crucial in addressing these issues.


Combating period poverty requires a multifaceted approach, including providing access to products, raising awareness, and dismantling stigmas. Through advocacy, education, and support, we can work towards a future where every woman has the resources and confidence to manage her menstrual health with dignity.

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