(Good Medical Health) – A survey of low-income women in a major US city found that nearly two-thirds could not afford menstrual hygiene products such as tampons or sanitary napkins during the year former.

More than one in five women reported having this problem every month, reported researchers in obstetrics and gynecology.

Instead, the women said they were coping with rags, rags, facial tissues, toilet paper and sometimes even diapers or paper towels from public bathrooms.

Nearly half of the women said that there had been moments during the last year where they could not afford to buy both food and health products. 39; era.

"It's not a luxury," said Anne Sebert Kuhlmann, associate professor at the College for Public Health and Social Justice at the University of St. Louis. "It is a need. This affects a woman's sense of self, her sense of dignity and her ability to participate in life. "

It turns out that the products of the time are not covered by government grocery support programs such as WIC and SNAP, said Sebert Kuhlmann. "And in (some states), they are taxed at the highest rate," she added.

For many women, the cost of transporting to stores selling these products in bulk at lower prices is even worse, Sebert Kuhlmann said.

For the study, Sebert Kuhlmann and her colleagues recruited 183 women with the help of 10 community-based non-profit organizations serving low-income residents of St. Louis, Missouri. "These are service organizations that provide food, shelter, vocational training and child care to low-income women," she said. "We were interviewing women who already had some type of service. So this could be an underestimate of the real need of women in the St. Louis area. "

Between July 2017 and March 2018, interviewers conducted surveys and conducted focus groups with interested women. The researchers found that 64% of women could not afford to buy menstrual products in the previous year and that 21% of them had this problem every month. Nearly half had moments during the last year where they had to choose between food products and products of the time.

While some of the community-based organizations provide products of the time, "these organizations rely on donations, which makes them an inconsistent system," Sebert Kuhlmann said.

The results surprised Dr. Leena Nathan, Clinical Assistant Professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California at Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study. "You hear about this in third world countries, but it is amazing to realize that this is happening in our country," Nathan said. "This is a very important study that can help us understand the needs of these women."

The findings point to "another example of discrimination and inequality that we see not only in developing countries, but even in affluent societies," said Dr. Mary Rosser, director of Integrated Women's Health at New York Irving Medical Center / Presbyterian / Columbia University in New York. City. "I was really struck by these results. I have been practicing for over 20 years, mainly in urban hospitals and patients, especially those who work and live from one paycheck to the other, hear about it. "

This is particularly difficult for mothers, said Rosser, who also did not participate in the new research. "They will put everything on themselves on the back burner to take care of their children."

It's really a basic human need for women, Rosser added. "But sometimes it's the last thing to pay."

The study team points out that there are health and policy initiatives to treat menstrual hygiene products as well as other basic public health and hygiene needs. such as toilet paper. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has recently started providing these products free of charge to women prisoners, as well as some state prisons. California and New York City are already providing free products in schools and some states that apply a sales tax have exempted these tax products, the authors note.

New reusable products could "be more profitable for women who do not have access to disposables," Nathan said. "It's just a matter of putting them in the hands of the women who need them. This can have a huge impact on a woman's work and family life. "

SOURCE: bit.ly/2TEo2Rl Obstetrics & Gynecology, online January 10, 2019.