period poverty
Vanessa Moraes, 39, shows how she uses a diaper and a towel as a substitution for a sanitary pad. Mauro PIMENTEL/AFP

On average, females begin menstruating at 12 years old until they reach a menopause stage at the average age of 51. It has been estimated menstruating woman will endure around 468 periods in their life – equal to roughly one period per month.

But, according to the Journal of Global Health Reports, around 500 women across the globe struggle to obtain menstrual products due to economic, social and political barriers.

Period poverty is the "insufficient access to menstrual products, education, and sanitation facilities", says the National Library of Medicine.

World Bank notes that as many as 500 million females worldwide have been pushed into period poverty.

The financial burden of having a period varies widely in nations worldwide, with costs starting at zero to several thousands of dollars.

The call for free period products has only intensified since Scotland's government officially passed its Period Products Act and became the first country in the world to provide menstruating women with free hygiene products.

While policymakers voted to favour the new legislation in 2020, the law was only actively implemented in 2022.

A study conducted by Healthnews named the sanitary pad the most common menstruation product amongst females. The report also highlighted the vast differences in the cost of having a period in more than two dozen countries.

Most Expensive:

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was ranked the most expensive country in the world for menstruating women, with hygiene products costing women more than £2,000 for the average 39 years that they will experience periods.

Located at the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, the Healthnews report revealed that the UAE charges females £0.83 for one sanitary pad. The study totalled the average yearly costs of £53 per year, up to £2,087 over a lifetime.

The United States was listed as the second most expensive, charging females $ 0.12 per sanitary pad. On average, menstruating women in the US will spend £34 per year on period products - totalling £915 over the lifespan of menstruation.

The third most expensive country was Australia. In Australia, females spend at least £31 each year on sanitary products, with each pad costing £0.11. On average, throughout their lives, menstruating women will spend around £1,221 on their periods.

Sweden was listed as the fourth most expensive country in the world for menstruation products, and Canada ranked fifth.

Least Expensive:

In Germany and Finland, women pay the least for period hygiene products. Females are charged £0.03 for a single sanitary pad in European nations, spending just £9.75 per year and £383 over a lifetime of menstruation.

Menstruation tools are also relatively cheap in Japan and Poland – each listed as the second least expensive place to have a period. The cost of one pad was measured at £0.05 in both nations, resulting in females spending £13 on their period each year and £517 in a lifetime of bleeding.

The United Kingdom had the third lowest costs. Menstruating women in the UK spend at least £0.49 on one sanitary pad, totalling £14.41 per year and £562 throughout their life.

A 2023 WaterAid report found that one in four women in the UK are struggling to find the funds to pay for period products.

The charitable survey, which questioned 2,000 British females, revealed that 26 per cent of the menstruating women said that they were wearing their period products for longer than they should.

While several health risks come with wearing menstrual products for longer than advised, including toxic shock syndrome, blood clots, rashes and infections, 20 per cent of the interviewees admitted to using makeshift materials, such as toilet rolls and sponges.

Offering free period products, Scotland was exempt from the Healthnews analysis of UK costs.

After comparing the average annual salary to the average costs of sanitary products, the Healthnews researchers said that pads were "extremely accessible" for women and girls in Germany and Finland – listed as the least expensive nations for menstruating females.

In Germany, where the average salary measures at £41,980, the cost of period pads is estimated to take up just 0.91 per cent of a person's salary. In Finland, the average annual pay is £40,670 – meaning the cost of sanitary pads makes up 0.94 per cent.

Although there is a higher average income for people in the UAE, counted at £50,117 per year, because menstrual products are almost five times more expensive, period products will cost women more in proportion to the amount of money they earn each year.

It is predicted that the cost of menstruation tools will be a staggering 4.2 per cent of a person's annual income.