More than a quarter of women have been forced to miss work or school because they cannot afford period products, a new poll has found.
The survey found 51 per cent of respondents had suffered from the problem, or knew someone who had. More than two-thirds had been forced to use makeshift menstrual protection at some point.
In total, 27 per cent had been forced to miss school or work – a figure far higher than the one in 10 previously thought affected by the problem of period poverty.
Sanitary products are classed as a “luxury, non-essential item” in the UK and subject to a 5 per cent tax.
The average women spends an estimated at £4,800 on sanitary products during her lifetime.
Two-thirds believed sanitary products should be available free of charge for all females, the latest research found, while 84 per cent thought these should be freely available in schools and colleges.
Some 931 people across England, Scotland and Wales were surveyed for the poll which was conducted by Bloody Big Brunch – a campaign group which organises brunches where guests pay with sanitary products rather money.
“As a society, we need to send out the message that menstruation isn’t dirty and it certainly isn’t a luxury,” said Lee Beattie, of the Bloody Big Brunch. “By using fun to highlight fundamental rights, we are hoping we can mobilise Westminster, who have been negligent on the issue of periods for far too long.”
Lucy Russell, of children’s charity Plan International UK, added: “It’s simply unacceptable that in 21st-century Britain, women and girls are suffering because they don’t have enough money to manage their period.”
Doctors’ leaders wrote to the head of the NHS to call for hospitals to provide inpatients with free sanitary towels and tampons earlier this month.
The British Medical Association (BMA) argued it was inconsistent for some hospitals to give out razors and shaving foam but not offer women items for their periods.
They said towels and tampons are a basic human need, just like food, and should be made freely available at all hospitals in Britain.
The BMA argued some patients cannot afford to buy their own products, while others suddenly find themselves in hospital without warning with nobody to rely on.
Polling company YouGov recently found almost half of British girls have witnessed their peers being bullied and shamed about their period. The study found nearly half of girls in Britain said boys tease or joke about periods.