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“I stretch them out as long as possible:” U.S. women’s experiences of menstrual product insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic

Schmitt, Margaret, Dimond, Katie, Maroko, Andrew, Phillips-Howard, Penelope ORCID:, Gruer, Caitlin, Berry, Amanda, Nash, Denis, Kochhar, Shivani and Sommer, Marni (2023) '“I stretch them out as long as possible:” U.S. women’s experiences of menstrual product insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic'. BMC Women's Health, Vol 23, Issue 1, e179.

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A growing body of evidence highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated gender inequalities in the US. This resulted in women being more vulnerable to economic insecurity and decreases in their overall well-being. One relevant issue that has been less explored is that of women’s menstrual health experiences, including how inconsistent access to menstrual products may negatively impact their daily lives.

This qualitative study, conducted from March through May 2021, utilized in-depth interviews that were nested within a national prospective cohort study. The interviews (n = 25) were conducted with a sub-sample of cis-gender women living across the US who had reported challenges accessing products during the first year of the pandemic. The interviews sought to understand the barriers that contributed to experiencing menstrual product insecurity, and related coping mechanisms. Malterud’s ‘systematic text condensation’, an inductive thematic analysis method, was utilized to analyze the qualitative transcripts.

Respondents came from 17 different states across the U.S. Three key themes were identified: financial and physical barriers existed to consistent menstrual product access; a range of coping strategies in response to menstrual product insecurity, including dependence on makeshift and poorer quality materials; and heightened experiences of menstrual-related anxiety and shame, especially regarding the disclosure of their menstruating status to others as a result of inadequate menstrual leak protection.

Addressing menstrual product insecurity is a critical step for ensuring that all people who menstruate can attain their most basic menstrual health needs. Key recommendations for mitigating the impact of menstrual product insecurity require national and state-level policy reform, such as the inclusion of menstrual products in existing safety net basic needs programs, and the reframing of menstrual products as essential items. Improved education and advocacy are needed to combat menstrual stigma.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: WA Public Health > WA 30 Socioeconomic factors in public health (General)
WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 309 Women's health
WC Communicable Diseases > Virus Diseases > Viral Respiratory Tract Infections. Respirovirus Infections > WC 506 COVID-19
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > Clinical Sciences Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
SWORD Depositor: JISC Pubrouter
Depositing User: JISC Pubrouter
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2023 09:18
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2023 09:18


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