Getting Your Period Sucks: A Cost Comparison Of Menstrual Products That's Good For You, And The Environment
 
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Getting Your Period Sucks: A Cost Comparison Of Menstrual Products That's Good For You, And The Environment

Rachel Yeo
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For most girls, we will be introduced to our first menstrual product at the age of 12. At $5-$8 a pack, disposable pads are expensive, but with it being our first, introductory menstrual product, most of us stick to it as a matter of convenience and familiarity.

period
Source: Giphy

With the emergence of new alternatives to disposable pads and tampons, the average modern-day girl now has a wider range of products to choose from. With our society evolving to be more environmentally conscious, there have also been more innovative, and environmentally friendly ways in which girls can deal with their periods.

So how much does it actually cost if you were to use disposable pads for the rest of your life? How much would you save if you choose to switch to a more environmentally friendly product?

TL;DR: A Cross Comparison On Menstrual Products And How Much It Costs

period products women girl life menstruation disposable pads tampons menstruation cup

  • Cost of pads: $12.42 a month, $149.04 a year and $5,961.60 (puberty-menopause)
  • Cost of tampons:  $22.78 per month,  $273.36 a year, and $10,934.40 (puberty-menopause)
     Reusable Pads (Cloth)Flex (Disposable Menstrual Disk)Period Panties Menstrual Cups
    Average Cost $10-$20 per piece. $15/box$24.90-$45/piece $33-$54.90/piece
    Estimated Quantity Needed For Each Period 6 (3 a day, wash and dry on second day)1 box a month 6 (2-3 a day, wash and dry on alternate days)1
    Shelf LifeCloth liners for daily use tend to last about 18 months to 2 yearsDisposable Period panties can last from 6 months to 2 years. Medical grade silicon. Each menstrual cup can last up to 10 years.
    How Often Do You Have To Change It? Assume every 2 years, you change all reusable pads Every month Assume you change all 6 panties once in 2 years: Assume you change a cup once every 5 years
    N.o Of Times Changed In 40 Years 20 480 20 8
    Per Item Cost Used As Reference For Calculation $15$15$35$45
    Total Cost In A Lifetime $1,800$7,200 $4,200$360

How Much You Will Be Spending On Disposable Pads & Tampons, From Puberty To Menopause:

Disposable Pads

As a girl, you will probably be using pads from the age of 12-14, till you hit menopause- where a dip in hormones will stop you from having your period- between the age of 45 to 55.

Of course, the length of which each girl bleeds during her menstrual cycle greatly differs from one person to another, so let us focus on the following assumptions while calculating the costs:

  • An average woman has her period for 40 years (12- 52 years old) of her life.
  • The average woman has her period regularly every month.
  • The process of menstruation lasts for a total of 7 days: 3 days of heavy flow, 4 days of light flow.
  • The average cost of a pack of pads are as follows:
    • $6.50 for 1 pack, 16 pcs normal-heavy flow- ($0.40/pc)
    • $5 for 1 pack, 16 pcs normal-light flow- ($0.30/pc)
    • $2.80, 1 pack, 40 pcs: For residual stains, etc. – ($0.07/pc)
  • Every month, the average girl changes her pad 6 times a day for ‘heavy flow’ days, and 4 times a day during ‘lighter flow’ days.
    After her period, she decides to put panty liners for the next  2 days to prevent stain. She will be incurring the following cost every month:
 How many pads? Cost Per Pad Cost
Day 1 (Heavy Flow)6$0.40$2.40
Day 2 (Heavy Flow)6$0.40$2.40
Day 3 (Heavy Flow)6$0.40$2.40
Day 4 (Light Flow)4$0.30$1.20
Day 5 (Light Flow)4$0.30$1.20
Day 6 (Light Flow)4$0.30$1.20
Day 7 (Light Flow)4$0.30$1.20
Day 8 (Stains)3$0.07$0.21
Day 9 (Stains)3$0.07$0.21
TOTAL40 -$12.42

In total, the average girl spends a total of $12.42 per month just on disposable pads.

$12.42 X 12 = $149.04 (1 YEAR)

In 40 years, she would have spent about $5,961.60 on disposable pads.

Disposable Tampons

For tampons, assuming you are changing just as regularly as stated above, here’s a breakdown on the cost:

  • The average price of tampons is at $12/pack (18 pcs)- ($0.67/pc)
  • Assume the above conditions.
 How Many Tampons? Cost Per Tampon Cost
Day 1 (Heavy Flow)6$0.67$4.02
Day 2 (Heavy Flow)6$0.67$4.02
Day 3 (Heavy Flow)6$0.67$4.02
Day 4 (Light Flow)4$0.67$2.68
Day 5 (Light Flow)4$0.67$2.68
Day 6 (Light Flow)4$0.67$2.68
Day 7 (Light Flow)4$0.67$2.68
TOTAL 34-$22.78

For those who use disposable tampons, you will be spending $22.78 per month. This amount adds to $273.36 a year, and subsequently $10,934.40 from puberty to menopause (40 years), if you were consistently using tampons since young.

Hidden Environmental Costs Of Pads & Tampons

environment sea save the earth
Source: Giphy

Other than the upfront costs of disposable pads and tampons, using these products entail numerous environmental costs as well:

Source: Friends Of The Earth UK and Women’s Environmental Network | Website

Widespread use of these disposable products comes with an environmental cost at end of use. It has been estimated that a regular non-organic pad can take 500–800 years to break down and as plastic makes up such a large amount of these products, they will never truly biodegrade.

Tampons are significantly quicker to biodegrade at around six months, as they are mostly made from natural materials such as cotton. However, many brands of tampons contain plastics withing them and are wrapped with plastics.

According to a study, under the presence of light, plastics can be broken down into smaller fragments before becoming microplastics, which can pose a serious threat to marine systems and human health.

Figures from the Marine Conservation Society reveal that on average, 4.8 pieces of menstrual waste are found per 100 metres of beach cleaned. For every 100m of beach, that amounts to 4 pads, panty-liners and backing strips, along with at least one tampon and applicator.

As we try cutting disposables out of our everyday lives, perhaps taking the extra effort of changing out disposable pads for reusable, eco-friendly products is truly a step we as women can take in making our earth more inhabitable.

Other Alternatives You Can Try

1. Reusable Pads

disposable pads
Source: ThePeriodCo | Website

If you’re most comfortable with using pads, disposable pads are a comfortable, sustainable and cheaper alternative. To ensure that the pad doesn’t move around, you can secure the clips of the wings. Most reusable pads are made with a breathable, cotton material so that it is comfortable.

Do note, however, that the pads do not have a ‘sticky’ adhesive bottom layer, so you may want to use a tighter pair of panties to make sure it doesn’t move around as much.

Places To Buy: HannahPad (starting from S$9.95), Eco Femme Reusable Cloth Pads (starting from S$13.90)

2. Flex (Disposable Menstrual Disk)

FLEX menstrual cup disposable
Source: Flex | Website

Acting just like a menstrual cup, Flex is a disposable menstrual disc that can last up to 12 hours without leaks. Unlike the menstrual cup, flex boasts a thinner, softer cup that sits comfortably in your body when inserted. Each disc holds as much as 5 tampons, and don’t have to be changed as regularly as pads or tampons.

While this product is more convenient as compared to menstrual cups, it may not be as cost-saving as getting a menstrual cup.

Places To Buy: Flex (S$15)

3. Period Panties

menstrual panties
Source: Shethinx | Instagram

Period panties allow you to bleed freely without worrying about leaks. Each panty is made out of 4 micro-layers of absorbent material that keeps the underwear dry and free from bacteria.

Places To Buy: Thinx (~S$45), Modi Bodi (~S$35), or The Period Co. (starting from S$24.90).

4. Menstrual Cups

menstrual cup
Source: Freedom Cups | Website

Menstrual cups burst into popularity a few years back, though there are still many who are hesitant in trying it. Designed for various sizes, these cups are designed to collect period blood instead of absorbing them and is folded and inserted into the vagina.

Each cup can hold up to 12 hours of period flow and can be used for up to five to ten years before it’s replaced.

You can refer below for the different pros and cons of each product.

Places To Buy: Freedom Cups (from $33), The Period Co. (from $44.90).

A Cross Comparison On The Cost Of Alternative Menstrual Products

For those  who’d like to give these alternative menstrual products a try, here’s a breakdown on the cost, and how much you will be spending if you were to stick to this product in the long run:

 Reusable Pads (Cloth)Flex (Disposable Menstrual Disk)Period Panties Menstrual Cups
Average Cost $10-$20 per piece. $15/box$24.90-$45/piece $33-$54.90/piece
Estimated Quantity Needed For Each Period 6 (3 a day, wash and dry on second day)1 box a month 6 (2-3 a day, wash and dry on alternate days)1
Shelf LifeCloth liners for daily use tend to last about 18 months to 2 yearsDisposable Period panties can last from 6 months to 2 years. Medical grade silicon. Each menstrual cup can last up to 10 years.
How Often Do You Have To Change It? Assume every 2 years, you change all reusable pads Every month Assume you change all 6 panties once in 2 years: Assume you change a cup once every 5 years
N.o Of Times Changed In 40 Years 20 480 20 8
Per Item Cost Used As Reference For Calculation $15$15$35$45
Total Cost In A Lifetime $1,800$7,200 $4,200$360

Advantages and Disadvantages Of Each Product

Being more environmentally friendly sometimes comes with its costs and inconveniences. Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages for your consideration, if you decide to make a switch!

 Reusable Pads (Cloth)Flex (Disposable Menstrual Disk)Period Panties Menstrual Cups
Advantages Eco-friendly, reusable for 2-3 years, cost effective and comfortable Comfortable for wearing, still more eco-friendly than disposable pads

Flexibility of having intercourse while on your period.
No need to wear a pad or tampon with the panties.

Convenient, and allows you to be discreet (don't have to bring pads around)
- Comfortable wear
- Cost saving and eco-friendly
- When inserted properly, you will not feel it while wearing.

- More time between changes: Can be used for 12 hours each time before emptying.
Disadvantages Takes time to wash and dry, bulkier than 'ultra-thin' disposable pads.

Not easily available in supermarkets.

Cloth pads may stain

Can shift around more than stick on pads.
Difficult to remove. Not reusable, and quite costly in the long run. - washing out period flow
-inconvenient when changing it in public areas.

- Upfront cost is expensive, but cheaper in the long run.
- Upfront cost is expensive, but cheaper in the long run.
- It may hurt a little when you try putting the cup in and taking it out for the first few times.

- Messy when emptying cup, cleaning in public bathroom a hassle.

Environmental Sustainability VS Cost VS Convenience

Most of the time, when it comes to our periods, comfort and convenience usually takes precedence over longer-term goals such as cost-savings and environmental consciousness. Yet, with continued innovation, more companies are pushing out products that are clean, effective, and affordable.

Using eco-friendly menstrual products such as menstrual cups may seem like a hassle, especially when there’s a steep learning curve for it. Yet, after some time and getting used to, it may be worth the short term hassle and trouble, especially if you can save a few bucks and the environment!

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