The day has finally come. That which has been dubbed ‘tampon tax’ has ended in the UK. This outdated tax law meant that tampons, sanitary towels and other essentials for women’s periods were being taxed at the same rate as items such as edible flowers, helicopters and crocodile meat, which are considered “luxury items”. After a petition on Change.org was launched, this topic was made public and got many people talking. I for one don’t think you’d find many women in the UK who think a period is a luxury and I don’t think anyone would want to sit on a bus, a train, or anywhere really, if women weren’t using sanitary items…
For the approximate 20 million women in the UK who menstruate, the abolition of this tax represents not only a saving of money but also the recognition that periods are a reality of being a woman and are for the most part unavoidable.
In light of this long overdue change to the taxation on sanitary products, I will be investigating the wide variety of these goods, a little bit about the complications that can occur when using them and of course talking about one of my favourite topics. PERIODS.
Let’s start with some common period myths!
Myth– You can’t get pregnant while on your period.
Busted– You can get pregnant as long as you’re ovulating, for the most part this is 14 days before your period. Just because you are not on your period does not mean that you’re not currently ovulating.
Myth– You can’t swim while you’re on your period.
Busted– There’s no physical reason why you can’t swim and if you use a tampon then none of the blood will escape into the water.
Myth– If you don’t get your period you’re definitely pregnant.
Busted– Stress, hormonal changes and diet can alter your cycle length, so a missed period doesn’t always mean that you’re pregnant (although it’s probably worth checking just in case).
Myth– Every woman gets their period every 28 days.
Busted– Women’s menstrual cycles vary in length, on average between 21 and 48 days, whilst some women have very regular cycles, others can fluctuate in duration.
Myth– A period lasts exactly three days.
Busted– Like the duration of cycle the length of bleeding can vary from woman to woman, some women will have a few days of heavy bleeding, others have over a week of light bleeding and some women get spotting mid cycle.
Myth– PMS is not real and is all in the mind.
Busted– PMS is due to the changes in hormones, particularly the androgen progesterone. Like testosterone, this can be linked with aggression and hyperactivity.
Myth– You lose pints of blood during your period.
Busted– You actually lose anywhere between 3 tablespoons and a third of a mug.
Myth– You can’t have sex whilst you’re on your period.
Busted– Whilst you may still get pregnant, there’s no medical reason not to have sex while you’re on your period. It may just be a little messier than usual.
So to staunch the flow of blood that most ladies are faced with once a month, that brings us to discuss sanitary products- now courtesy of the EU, no longer a luxury item! Rejoice!
Tampons– Essentially these are cotton wool tubes with a piece of string sewn to them. They are inserted into the vagina and absorb the blood before it can leave the vagina.
Moon cups– These are flexible cups that can be placed inside the vagina, where they collect the blood. They are washable and reusable, so a great alternative if you’re concerned about your carbon footprint.
Period pants– Similar to a sanitary towel, these don’t go inside the vagina. They’re a pair of knickers that are absorbable and washable, so you can wear them all day long without needing to change them.
Au natural– Unfortunately, for many women in the world, sanitary products are still a luxury, many women have to resort to using old cloths, buckets and are often exorcised from their societies whilst they are menstruating.
While on the whole sanitary products are safe to use, there are many people who are concerned that companies like ‘Always’ and ‘Tampax’ do not put a full ‘ingredient’ list on the side of their boxes. Often these pads and tampons contain perfumes that can irritate the lining of the vagina and cause discomfort. A more serious risk is Toxic Shock Syndrome – this is a severe bacterial infection, where the normal bacteria that live on your skin get inside the vagina and release poisonous toxins. This is commonly associated with leaving tampons in too long without changing them. Signs to look out for include tiredness, fainting, having a high temperature, and feeling dizzy. If you get any of these symptoms and are worried, you should see your doctor on an urgent basis.
So, whilst the rest of the UK has followed in the Guild’s footsteps of not charging tax on sanitary items, there are still many places in the world that still do including Australia, Slovakia, various states in the USA, and Malaysia.