Being a woman is expensive. Forget about the optional things that don't always feel optional, like keeping up with Instagram trends or the "pink tax," which means that women pay more than men for the same products (because apparently dyeing a razor pink is pricey), there's also the great expense of being a human with a uterus and a period to deal with.
According to an estimate by the people over at The Huffington Post, the lifetime cost of having a period is more than $18,000. Eighteen. Thousand. Dollars.
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So how did HuffPo arrive at their figure? They tallied up several costs associated with having a period. Naturally, that included tampons and pantyliners, but also birth control, Midol, new underwear, chocolate, and even heating pads.
Jezebel did the math in a broader sense, calculating the overall cost of "owning a vagina." According to Jezebel's calculations, "vaginal maintenance" will cost women a staggering $26,000 in their twenties alone. (Jezebel's comprehensive list took into account birth control, tampons/pads, Midol/other PMS relief, health costs like pelvic exams and pap smears, condoms, Vagisil, UTI meds, the cost of dealing with yeast infections, pubic hair removal, and toilet paper.)
So what's the cost of feminine hygiene products specifically? HuffPo calculated the combined lifetime cost of tampons and pantyliners to be $2,216.66. They based their math on some basic assumptions, averaging the number of tampons women are likely to use in an average-length cycle, using average priced tampons.
Since the HuffPo calculations were done in 2015, it's time for an update. Let's start by working out how long the average woman will need feminine hygiene products. According to womenshealth.gov, the average woman begins her period when she's twelve and will go through menopause and end the uterine lining shedding nonsense for good at around age 50. Obviously, every woman and every body is different, but if you had the most average period of all time, you would be looking at 38 years of menstruation.
The average period lasts 3-5 days, according to womenshealth.gov, so for the sake of argument, let's call the hypothetical, most-average-period-in-the-world four days long. The Period Blog recommends that you change your tampon every 3-5 hours, but you can go as long as 6-8 before changing. Even if we assume that the average woman is pushing it here and changing her tampon every six hours, that means at least four tampons a day for four days, or 16 tampons per cycle. Assuming 12 cycles per year for 38 years, the average woman with the most average period will go through at least 7,296 tampons in her lifetime.
The best-selling tampons on Amazon are Tampax Pearl, specifically the 54-count box, which costs $9.27. You'd need to order 136 boxes for a lifetime supply, which would run you $1,260.72. All this, of course, is assuming that you have a four-day period, that you never spot between cycles or buy pantiliners or pads to supplement, and that you only change your tampon every six hours. If you change tampons more during the heavier parts of your flow, have a longer-than-average period, or started your period younger than twelve or begin menopause when you've older than 50, these costs do nothing but go up.
And this, of course, doesn't account for the extras that both HuffPo and Jezebel included in their very extensive calculations, because things like Midol and replacement underwear are real costs associated with having a bleeding vagina.
So next time you feel fed up with the cost of tampons or the fact that you have to deal with any of the hassles of menstruation to begin with, know that the economics are on your side — it's an expensive burden to bear. So what can you do about it? There are more options than ever before available to women. Do a little experimenting and see what works for you and your wallet.