Menstrual products are almost as essential to women’s wellbeing as food. It’s hard to imagine life before disposable pads, and we’ll always be indebted to the inventor - or inventors, as history has it.
The downside of the convenience that these products bring is that they come at a cost. A recent report by Stellenbosch University shows that 30% of school children miss their classes because they cannot afford to buy sanitary products.
A survey recently conducted by JustMoney.co.za found that, on average, women spend R100 a month on menstrual products. 72% of them prefer to use pads to deal with their period while 28% use tampons. The most popular brands were Always and Kotex for the comfort they provide.
Even though the majority of respondents said their product and brand of choice was not influenced by price, 46 % of them felt they were paying an unreasonable amount as these products should be free.
Despite the measures taken by the government to issue free pads to school children in need, and removing tax on women’s sanitary products, these are still expensive for many. So, we sought to find out whether there is a more cost-effective way to help women manage their periods.
Tip: Use our budget calculator to manage your spending.
Stacey Vermeulen, spokesperson for Biddy Kins SA, an online store for babies and new mothers, says, “Reusable pads are a once-off expense. You buy a set of pads that will last up to five years if cared for properly.”
Gin McLellan, brand manager for Woman’s Warehouse, agrees. “A woman menstruates on average for 40 years, spending an average of R36,000 on tampons and pads in her lifetime. This is an average spend of R75 per month.
“If this same woman made the switch to a reusable, washable pad, her spend would be R11,33 per month,” explains McLellan.
According to Vermeulen, reusable pads are also a much more workable option. Disposable items generally contain harmful chemicals and perfumes that often cause irritation to women.
“A lot of ladies comment that they have a much better menstrual experience with reusable sanitary options, which also tend to absorb better,” Vermeulen says.
What about menstrual cups?
“The initial cost of a menstrual cup is much higher than a disposable product, but it lasts for many years which means huge savings, making this a great investment,” says Cara Lugibihl, a spokesperson for MyownCup.
She illustrates this by comparing the initial cost of MyownCup menstrual cup with what you would save over a 5-year, and 10-year lifespan.
Cost per month over 5 years
(60 menstrual cycles)
Cost per month over 10 years
(120 menstrual cycles)
‘’If you compare the price of R 4.17 per month over 5 years to a traditional pad, such as Kotex Designer Maxi Pads 20's at R33.95, used at average rate of 20 pads per cycle, the cup is paid within 7 months, with 140 pads saved from landfill,” says Lugibihl.
READ MORE: Pads vs. tampons: Which is costing you more?
She points out that menstrual cups have no bleaches, chemicals, BPA’s, toxins, or dyes. They can be worn during all sporting activities including swimming as they create a barrier and collect menstrual fluid.
“Menstrual cups can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time and collect up to three times as much as a regular pad does, before they are emptied, rinsed, and reused,” she says.
You don’t have to worry about the absorption of menstrual fluids or any other natural secretions that help keep the vagina’s delicate balance.
“As the cup sits inside the vagina, it is discrete with no strings attached, and also has no odour even on the hottest days,” says Lugibihl.
Where can you find these reusable products?
“Reusable options are becoming more and more popular. We sell on our online shop and courier countrywide. But a few mainstream shops are now also starting to stock reusable options, as they are realising the benefits,” says Vermeulen.
McLellan adds that the more women talk about reusable menstrual products and share their experiences, the more likely others are to get out of their comfort zone and change their sanitary products.
“At Woman’s Warehouse we are firm believers in being authentic in our approach to period poverty. We have tried both the menstrual cup and reusable pads, and the impact was so great we have now stopped buying disposable sanitary products,” she says.
Your financial health is as important as your reproductive health. Make sure you register on CreditSav to monitor yours.
For more on how to save on menstrual products, watch this video.