In addition to toilet paper, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, COVID-19 panic purchasing is causing a shortage of pads and tampons.
Unsurprisingly, this hoarding is disproportionately affecting low-income women and girls, who—even before a global pandemic—cannot afford to purchase adequate supplies like the wealthier can.
Pre-pandemic, some girls and women were able to rely on a steady stream of free menstrual products: At the urging of feminists, several local and state governments—from Massachusetts and New York City, to Illinois to and California—had already begun to address this issue by introducing and passing laws that provide free products for girls and women in homeless shelters, prisons and public schools.
But between corona-related school closures and cancellations, and surging demand causing shipment delays and supply shortages, many of those avenues are no longer available.
“Normally a municipality or small city thinks of food drives or clothing drives, but the menstrual hygiene products are too often neglected,” said Reed Gusciora, the mayor of Trenton. “These products are a right, not a privilege.”
As a result, many women and girls will struggle to find resources they need due to hoarding during the pandemic.
Faced with a shortage of options, here’s an option: Stop your period.
Is it Safe to Stop Your Period?
Stopping your period is a safe option—actually safer than having a monthly period, according to many health experts, like Dr. Sophia Yen, CEO and co-founder of birth control delivery service Pandia Health.
Stopping or skipping your period “decreases your chance of endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancer,” she told Ms.
“Every time you pop out an egg, you risk ovarian cancer,” Yen explained. “Every time you bleed because you had to grow and shed and grow back again that [uterine] lining, you risk endometrial cancer. The fewer times you do that, the less risk of cancer!”
In fact, constant menstruation is a recent construct in human history—as recent as the mid- to late twentieth century.
When the female body hits 22 percent body fat, that sends a signal to the body that it has enough weight and nutrition to be able to sustain a baby, and a woman’s period will begin, Yen explained.
“We used to begin our periods at 15, 16. We are now beginning them at 12,” Yen said. (She attributes the earlier weight gain to better access to nutrition.)
Additionally, motivated by reasons from personal freedom to not being able to afford child-care costs, people in the U.S. are having fewer babies.
“We used to have eight babies in our lives; we are now having two,” Yen said. “We would breastfeed 12 to 18 months; we are now breastfeeding zero, three or six [months].”
Today, the average woman in the U.S. will have have up to 400 periods in her lifetime—four times more than our ancestors did. All that extra building of the lining and shedding of the lining and eggs each month increases risk for gynecological cancers, according to Yen.
In fact, the co-inventor of the Pill admitted the pill was created to have a one-week withdrawal bleed—read: fake period—and that “a cycle of any desired length could presumably be produced.”
Skipping cycles saves money, as periods can cost women thousands of dollars over their lifetimes.
Dr. Yen wishes all states would pass laws granting access to free period products.
“To me, it is a shame that wherever there’s toilet paper, like public bathrooms, there aren’t free menstrual products because it’s just another bodily function coming out of another bodily orifice,” Yen told Ms. “It’s a totally sexist thing. If men bled one week out of four, tampons and maxi pads would be free in every public area.
“I am praying for the day that there are enough woke men, enough feminist leaders in our government, that wherever there is free toilet paper, there should be free tampons and maxi pads.”
But in the meantime, the #PeriodsOptional movement would eliminate the need for supplies.
“It decreases your need and use for tampons and panty liners,” Yen said. “So, now that you’re sheltering at home, it would be a great time to try skipping your periods.”
Not having a period can also be better for workflow and productivity.
“The number one cause of missed school and work for women under the age of 25 is her period,” Yen told Ms. “If you turn off your periods, then it increases women’s productivity and contribution to the world.”
How to Stop Your Period
Anyone using any combined (estrogen and progesterone) birth control pill has the ability to skip periods, says Yen.
It’s simple: In a standard four-week birth control pack, “just skip the last week of pills—which are the sugar ‘placebo’ pills—and go right into the next pack,” according to Yen. (In this case, you will need to secure a prescription for 17 packs per year, instead of 12.)
For NuvaRing users, Yen says, just change your ring every four weeks or every month.
“It is hard to change the norm, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Yen explains. “We’ve had it beaten into us by the medical establishment that we must bleed one week out of four. And that is true, if you’re not on any medication.
“But, I’m all about medication and technology,” she continues, “and we now have the technology to make that optional, while decreasing ovarian, endometrial, colorectal cancer, depression, anemia and landfill and life and shame and guilt and blood.
“If you’re bleeding one week out of four, let’s talk. There are better options.”
The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-moving. During this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.