When it comes to that time of the month, it’s important to have access to all the tools and resources you need to manage your period. However, not all period products were designed with accessibility in mind. Disabilities, chronic illnesses, and financial barriers can affect how we experience our periods.
It’s time to have a conversation about accessibility and menstrual health.
Physical disabilities and chronic illnesses can make managing your period difficult.
Today, there are many different period products to choose from: pads, tampons, menstrual cups, menstrual disks, period underwear, and more. However, there is not one product that works for everybody. People with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or even injuries from an accident may find specific products difficult or impossible to use, especially if their condition limits their mobility.
For example, people with rheumatoid arthritis may find it difficult to insert a tampon due to pain limiting their dexterity. There are also dynamic disabilities where symptoms worsen during your period, and chronic illnesses such as endometriosis and PCOS have a direct relationship with the menstrual cycle (1).
If your disability presents challenges with using period products, consider an assistive device like TINA, the tampon insertion aid. Biomedical engineering experts designed TINA to make tampon insertion easier, created in collaboration with people with different disabilities, injuries, and experiences who were looking for a period product that worked for their needs.
“It can be a really hard thing to be burdened by a natural process that your body undergoes every month,” said Ali Kight, Founder of TINA Healthcare. “With TINA, people have told us that they have a better relationship with their body during that time of the month because they're able to work with it, have independence and control, and a sense of empowerment.”
Cognitive disabilities can also affect how you manage menstruation.
In addition to physical disabilities, we should also consider how cognitive disabilities impact one’s ability to manage their period. Intellectual disabilities can present challenges with learning skills or understanding concepts, navigating social situations, and managing personal care (2). Each of these cognitive tasks plays an essential role in our ability to manage our periods.
For example, if a young girl with autism experiences her period for the first time at school, she may find it challenging to understand why menstrual bleeding occurs (3). She may also experience difficulty managing the social and sensory issues that come with getting her period unexpectedly while at school.
However, with the right preparation and support, many people with cognitive disabilities can independently manage their personal hygiene and menstruation. As a parent, prepare your child before beginning menstruation by educating them about the changes that will happen to their body, using language they can understand.
You can also research which period products offer your child an easier way to manage their menstruation and which products suit their individual needs. Assistive devices like TINA can be an excellent tool for parents who help manage their child’s menstruation. TINA can also empower people, regardless of their disability, to manage their period independently by making tampon insertion more accessible and comfortable.
Financial barriers also make period products inaccessible for many.
When we talk about accessibility, we need to address financial accessibility, too. Millions of menstruating people globally experience “period poverty” or a lack of access to pads, tampons, and other period products (4).
According to a calculator built by medical student Dominika Miszewska in Warsaw, the average person spends $9 a month on period products. While that may not seem like much for some, that adds up to over $100 a year and thousands over the course of your lifetime. The total cost is even higher if you have multiple people in your household who menstruate and require different period products due to having varying flows and needs.
Thanks to advocates' hard work and dedication, policymakers are making changes to increase access to period products. For example, in the United States, six states have mandated period products to be available in schools and 13 states require that incarcerated people have access to free menstrual products (4). While more change is necessary, it’s great to see steps towards greater access for those who need it most.
It’s time to create better, more accessible period products for all.
Here at TINA Healthcare, we believe that everyone deserves options for managing their period. Period products should be accessible to people of all ages, body types, lifestyles, and backgrounds. Our goal is to lead the menstrual health space in inclusivity by leaning into universal design principles that cater to every individual’s unique needs.
“Usually, when you think about including everyone, it makes products that are better for the majority, which is the idea of universal design,” Kight says. “So I hope that TINA can reshape the menstrual health space to look more inclusive, more user-friendly, and more individualized.”
- Brooks, Laken. Forbes. Disabled People Menstruate, Too. Which Reusable Products Might Work For You? 25 May 2021. [cited 30 September 2022.] Accessed from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lakenbrooks/2021/03/25/disabled-people-menstruate-too-which-reusable-products-might-work-for-you/?sh=73cd03df1241
- Tracy J, Grover S, Macgibbon S. Menstrual issues for women with intellectual disability. Australian Prescriber 39(2):54-7. 1 April 2016. [cited 1 October 2022.] Accessed from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4917628/
- Hopkins, Casey S. NP Women’s Healthcare. Menstrual suppression in an adolescent with intellectual disability. 2020. [cited 1 October 2022.] Accessed from: https://www.npwomenshealthcare.com/menstrual-suppression-in-an-adolescent-with-intellectual-disability/
- Goldberg, Emma. The New York Times. Many Lack Access to Pads and Tampons. What Are Lawmakers Doing About It? 13 January 2021. [cited 30 September 2022.] Accessed from: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/13/us/tampons-pads-period.html