To The Tampon Mansplainer: The True Cost of My Period

Like many women on International Women’s Day this year, I wanted to be able to focus wholly on appreciating the incredibly inspirational women around me. Instead, I found myself distracted and overwhelmed by intense gratitude for a man who’d used basic math and logic to work out how much each menstrual cycle should cost us, and taken to the web to share his results.

In case you missed it, the unnamed sanitary warrior did some research and, with simple methodology, calculated the first-world cost of a period. He came to the conclusion that the cost per period should simply be the total volume of blood shed per cycle divided by the maximum volume able to be contained by a tampon, which would give total number of tampons needed.

He deduced that each period is 10-35mL per period — a bit more if you have a “juicy lining” — and that tampons are able to contain 5mL of fluid before they literally burst. This calculated to be 35mL (to be generous) divided by 5mL (rupture volume of tampons) to give us a grand ration of 7 tampons per period.

Ever-so-courteously, his final step involved advising us of the cost of a whole 12-month year — by multiplying by 9.

I wish I could say periods were as simple as basic volumetric equations, and that we only had periods for nine months per year, but unfortunately it’s a little more complex than that, and our uteruses do not hibernate in winter — however juicy.

The actual average loss per menstrual cycle is 15-50mL, and can be as much as 80mL. Periods vary between three to seven days, and average at around five days. Regardless of the aforementioned statistics, women are guided by the fact that tampons need to be changed at the very minimum every eight hours as to avoid literally dying from overwhelming sepsis. And because most women don’t really like spending up to 25 per cent of their life flirting with death, they tend to change their tampons at least every six.

In addition to this, the two middle days of the cycle tend to be heavier, which means that tampons may require changing up to every three to four hours.

Taking the various stages of the cycle and possibility of actual death into account, this calculates to be approximately 20 to 24 tampons per cycle.

So unfortunately the equation needed is not derived from simple volumes, but rather better estimated by calculating total hours per period divided by hours of tampon wear if you don’t want to die from multiorgan failure. Multiplied by 12.

This works out to be around $100 a year, before taking into account the obligatory number of tampons lost in bottomless handbags, and accidentally drenched to the size of a sponge when left in toiletry bags. And whilst we’d all rather spend that elsewhere, it’s not so much the cost that gets me, but that someone who doesn’t even have a vagina provided the impetus for me to sit down and write this.

So, tampons and lady parts aside, the next time an issue interests you, please take the time to inform yourself of the facts by engaging in constructive two-way conversation with someone who has actually experienced the issue first hand, whatever that may be. And most of all, please, get yourself a calendar.

Cover by Josefin