Tampons are in short supply, and here's why

Mary Ramsey
The Charlotte Observer (TNS)

The latest product shortage reported in the U.S. is leaving many people who menstruate in the lurch as they try to stock up for their period.

Shortages of multiple types of tampons from major brands have left many having to search for the period products they need and taking to social media to express frustration, with some even making allegations of price gouging.

The shortage also has some looking for alternative hygiene products beyond the traditional disposable tampons and pads.

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Here’s what to know about the tampon shortage and alternatives period products to help anyone who menstruates get through their cycle.

Why is there a shortage of tampons?

Manufacturers have attributed the tampon shortage to shortages of the raw materials used to make them, including cotton and plastic, CNN reported, as well as supply chain issues.

In addition to bare shelves, some have also questioned the high price of the menstrual products they can find, with a Bloomberg analysis finding tampon prices are up by almost 10% in the last year.

The shortage and rising prices have drawn the attention of government leaders.

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., sent a letter Monday to the leaders of major manufacturers, including Procter & Gamble, Edgewell Personal Care, Johnson and Johnson and Kimberly-Clark, asking what their companies’ plans are to address the shortage, The 19th reported.

Boxes of tampons are displayed in a pharmacy in New York. (Richard B. Levine/Newscom/Zuma Press/TNS)

Is there a shortage of other types of period products?

In addition to tampons, some have also reported shortages of and rising prices for disposable period pads.

Pads are made from some of the same raw materials as tampons and sometimes by the same manufacturers. Always pads, for example, are made by the same company, Procter & Gamble, as Tampax tampons.

Alternatives to tampons

Not being able to find the tampons or pads that typically work for your body can be a major stressor when preparing for your period, but there are alternatives you can try, such as:

  • Menstrual cups, sometimes called “Diva Cups.” They’re flexible cups usually made of silicone or rubber that can be inserted into your vagina to collect your flow. Instead of absorbing menstrual blood like a pad or tampon, you remove and clean the cup then reuse it.
  • Period underwear, which are designed to be worn like regular underwear but absorb menstrual blood. The underwear can be washed and reused.
  • Reusable pads, which are similar to disposable pads but are made of cloth that can be washed and reused.

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