How expensive is menstruation?

Product vs Period Cost: How Expensive Is Menstruation?

Menstruation is expensive. Tampons, period pads, painkillers, ruined underwear. All of these things add up. So, what’s the total price on your wallet? And what about on the planet? 

We’re looking at period cost vs product costs today, and offering a more savvy solution for those open to a change. 

Switching to a menstrual cup is a win-win, both in monetary and environmental terms. With every Ruby Cup purchase, you’re also donating a cup to someone without healthy period solutions as well as workshops to educate them about their bodies. Shop Ruby Cup now.

How long do people menstruate over a lifetime?

Well, that’s a question you probably haven’t thought about before. The average age of menarche (the first occurrence of menstruation) is 12 years old. In the US, the average age of menopause (the ceasing of menstruation) is 51.

If we subtract 12 from 51, that leaves us with an average of 39 years a person will menstruate in their lifetime. Of course, there are other factors that come into play. This average of 39 years doesn’t consider someone who will become pregnant and miscarry, or someone who goes through a full pregnancy and breastfeeds afterwards. There are also those who take hormonal contraceptives that eliminate or produce fewer periods. All of these factors will ultimately reduce the length of time someone will spend menstruating over their lifetime.

And speaking in averages, we can’t forget about those with longer or heavier cycles. Or those with irregular periods or other complications. So let’s take all this with a grain of salt, shall we?

The average person with periods menstruates for 39 years

Period cycle and length

The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, resulting in an average of 12 periods per year. As calculated above, the average person menstruates for 39 years of their life, so let’s multiply that by 12 and we see that they will have an average of 468 periods in their lifetime. Fewer if they become pregnant, breastfeed, skip their period intentionally with birth control, or experience other complications.

The average period lasts from 3-8 days, so we can take an average of about 5 days per period. If we multiply this number by the 468 periods the average person experiences, this equates to 2,340 days of menstruation in a lifetime. And the sum of all this? The average person will spend 6.4 years bleeding. Life isn’t easy for those who menstruate, is it?

So now that we've calculated all those days and years of bleeding, let's look at some average costs of the products we use to deal with it…

Period product costs

People bleed. Yep. About half the population will menstruate an average of every 28 days. This adds up to over 6 years that a person will spend on their period. 

This bleeding doesn’t come easy, or cheap. If you’re spending money on menstrual products from before teenagehood well into adulthood, it adds up, as you’ll see.

As a menstrual cup company, we’re passionate about making periods easier for everyone, so naturally, we did the math. And we wanted to share it with you because, well, the results are quite astounding.

So let’s get into this and have a look-see at what you’re spending as someone who experiences periods on a regular basis.

Periods don’t cost the same everywhere…

Remember that these are all averages of course. The availability of pads depends on where you live. Some people prefer to buy in bulk, ultimately saving themselves money. But in some circumstances, they have to buy packages with fewer pieces in them and these are almost always costlier.

Menstrual products in rural or indigenous communities are often more expensive than in cities. So actually, people with generally less money are expected to pay more to manage their periods.

This isn't just relative to cities. It happens in low and middle-income countries as well. We took a look into the cost of period products around the world. What we found was that the cost of menstrual products in lower-income countries was exponentially higher than in higher-income countries.

So how much does the average person spend, exactly?


How much are you spending on menstrual pads?

Menstrual pads. They’re likely the first encounter with a period product that people have (if they even have access to safe menstrual products at all).

Menstrual pads are made from absorbent materials and are designed to be stuck to the wearer’s underwear and collect menstruation outside the body. They’re a great option for first-timers. Although they absorb about the same amount of blood as a light tampon, it’s recommended that you change a pad about every 4-6 hours to prevent odors or irritation against the skin. Even more often if you experience a heavy flow.

Let’s assume you need to use regular absorbency pads. If you take an average period to be 5 days, that equals 120 hours of bleeding. If you use a new pad every 5 hours, this equals 24 pads you’ll use throughout an average cycle.

If a package like this from Walmart of regular Stayfree pads costs $5.47 for 36 pieces, that equals $0.15 per pad. If you think 24 pads per cycle times 15¢, this is $3.60 per period or $43.20 per year, and $432 in ten years. And what about per lifetime? If the average person menstruates for 39 years, the average cost of menstrual pads is about $1,684.80

The average product cost of tampons

Tampons are another popular period solution because they are more discreet, collecting menstruation inside the body. They generally absorb more than a pad and it’s recommended they be changed every 6-8 hours.

Let’s say that the average price for a box of 20 tampons is €3.50, making the price per tampon about €0.18. If during each period (averaging at 5 days), you use an average of 20 tampons per cycle, this means an average spend of around €3.60 per menstrual cycle.

In one year, the average person will spend €43.20 on tampons. In ten years, that will increase to €432. Using just tampons to deal with your period in a lifetime equals a whopping €1,684.80. 

And of course, remember that these are all averages we’re talking about. There are some people who experience much longer or heavier periods and have to buy many more products to deal with bleeding.

Related post: Ruby Cup's guide to surviving the tampon shortage

How much do you spend on period products?

Panty liners are an added period cost

Panty liners are thin pads that offer extra protection against leaks. They can be used with tampons, period cups, or on lighter bleeding days. 

At about €1 for a box of 20, the price for 1 panty liner would average about €0.05. When you think that someone will go through about 5 panty liners per period, times the number of periods in a lifetime, you would still be spending €117 in a lifetime. It doesn’t sound like that much, but it all adds up eventually. It’s €117 that could happily be spent on something else. 

Analgesics for those with bad period pain

Cramps, bloating, tender breasts, back aches or headaches. Some people experience very uncomfortable periods. Oftentimes, the only way to remedy the issue is to take something to help with the pain. 

Enter yet another period product cost. Depending on the country, analgesics can cost you a pretty penny. This packet of 20 liquid filled Advil (ibuprofen) capsules sells for $5.37, making each pop worth $0.45. If the average person uses 5 capsules per cycle to deal with period pain, this is already $2.25 per period, $27 per year, $270 in 10 years and $1,053 in a lifetime.

Considering period poverty exists even in high income countries, not everyone will be able to afford the larger packages right off the bat. Living in a rural area where there are no large superstores like Walmart around will also increase the price of analgesics as smaller shops don’t always carry bulk options. 

Period vs product cost on the environment

And the environmental impact… how about that? We haven’t even grazed the surface.

This report found that period products outnumber plastic bags and straws as the most common single-use plastic items found on Europe’s beaches.

Uncomfortable as it is to address, almost all of the disposable period products on the market today contain plastic - whether it’s a little or a lot. The first choice, pads, are wrapped in fine sheets of plastic and also contain up to 90% plastic. And tampons with plastic applicators? Those are like the plastic straws of the menstruating world.

Just how much plastic exactly are we using to deal with periods in a lifetime? If we look at the numbers of pads or tampons, which were relatively similar in how many were used per cycle, let’s say you were to use 25 per cycle.

If we multiply that 25 per cycle by year, we’re sending 300 plastic products to the dump every year, and 3,000 in ten years. Consider the average of 468 periods in a lifetime, that equals 11,700 disposable, plastic-containing products! 

And if we add some panty-liners into the mix? Just using 5 panty liners throughout each period, that equals 2,340 pieces more of trash in the landfill. 

It’s obvious there is a period product problem. What can we do about it?

Related post: Can plastic free periods help us pay back climate debt?

Period product costs on the environment

Menstrual cups can save on period costs

Is your head spinning after learning about all these period costs both on your wallet and the environment? Are you mildly enraged? You should be. But, there is something you can do. You have options. Well, an option. A sustainable, reusable option. Curious?

It’s called the menstrual cup. And it’ll save you loads of money. And help eliminate all that plastic waste we mentioned up there.

What is a menstrual cup? It’s a small cup made of soft, medical-grade silicone designed to collect menstrual fluid in the vaginal canal during a person’s period. It generally collects more menstruation than pads, tampons or period panties. And because the material doesn’t react with its surroundings, it means a happier vagina.

How much can Ruby Cup save you?

As mentioned above, the average person will use 11,700 disposable products and spend €1,684.80 in their lifetime. Let's use our beloved Ruby Cup as an example. Costing €28.95 in Europe, the Ruby Cup has a lifespan of up to 10 years. If you consider that the average spend on disposable period products for 10 years is €432, if you use your Ruby Cup for the full 10 years, you will save €403.05 or about 93% of your allocated budget for pads or tampons.

How much can Ruby Cup Save the planet?

Now what about the environmental impact? 

Over a ten-year period, using tampons or menstrual pads results in 3,000 single-use plastic products being sent to the landfill. If you were to use your Ruby Cup and nothing else for that time, you’re contributing to a more waste-free planet, avoiding all of that unnecessary plastic.

To see just how much money and plastic products you can save with a menstrual cup, check out our impact calculator

Is a menstrual cup right for you?

If you’re not sure or want to know more about the menstrual cup, check out our article on the pros and cons of using one. We also recognize that one cup isn’t one size fits all. Our Ruby Cup saver pack contains one small and one medium menstrual cup, the Ruby Cup sterilizer and of course 2 donations and workshops to someone who doesn’t have access to safe menstrual products or education.

Afraid that using something made from plastic will be against your vegan lifestyle? Well, look no further because the Ruby Cup is your 100% vegan menstrual cup solution. As we mentioned earlier, it’s made from medical-grade silicone, we’ve never tested on animals or thought of using animal-based products. So it’s a completely natural solution if you’re a vegan. And if you’re not, it’s still a great point to be aware of.

What if you’re not sold?

So, you’ve tried the Ruby Cup and realized it’s not really for you. Did you just waste €28.95 on a period cup just to throw it away? Not at all. We completely understand that the menstrual cup is not necessarily the right fit for everyone.

No worries at all! We're proud to offer a 120-day money-back guarantee. We’re all about helping fellow people who menstruate find their perfect solution! If you’re still trying to figure out what exactly that is, maybe this article on the best period products will be helpful.

As “taxing” as the experience of menstruating an average of every 28 days can be, it’s important to remember that this is a completely natural biological function we’re talking about. There’s no reason for the stigma around periods. Lately, there has been an uprising of people who are fighting for more education and especially more dignity around the topic of menstruation.

The more open we are about periods and the costs surrounding them, the more people will be aware of what’s going on. Are there any other costs involved with menstruation, besides the cost of the products we just mentioned? Absolutely! We get into the nitty gritty in this post about period costs if you’re interested in learning more.

Zero waste period cups

Are you ready to switch to a zero-waste period option? With every Ruby Cup purchase, you’re also donating a menstrual cup and educational workshops to those without access to safe period solutions. Shop Ruby Cup now.

Back to blog