Tampons have become the latest consumer good hit by supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and other factors.
Some have taken to social media to voice their frustrations over the supply shortage of the menstrual product.
“Great! Now there is a Tampon shortage! Shelves we’re almost bare at the store today. This will be delightful!” one user tweeted.
“Apparently there’s a tampon shortage… because being a woman wasn’t already a big enough pain in the a–,” quipped another user on Twitter.
Several makers of tampons, like Procter & Gamble and Edgewell Personal Care, have acknowledged the lack of the feminine hygiene products on the shelves.
“We understand it is frustrating for consumers when they can’t find what they need,” Procter & Gamble, whose brands include Tampax, said in a statement.
But why exactly is the United States seeing a supply chain shortage with tampons, and why now?
The answer is the perfect storm of supply chain issues, inflation, labor shortages and possibly higher demand due to seasonal usage.
Pricie Hanna is a founding partner of the Price Hanna Consultants firm, which focuses on key raw materials and nonwoven and hygiene absorbent items, among others. She told The Hill that the U.S. relies on other countries to produce the materials — rayon and cotton — needed in tampons.
“So when we take an industry that has been very much before the pandemic at just in-time inventory planning, they’ve always been able to precisely arrange for the delivery of raw materials into the converting plants [that] make the tampons,” she added. “And that’s been very much disturbed.”
Hanna said higher demand for the materials has also inflated prices, leading manufacturers later to raise their own prices to maintain their margins.
The average price for tampon products saw a 9.8 percent jump in cost as of May 28, according to NielsenIQ, Bloomberg reported.
Hanna also said there are not enough truckers to both deliver those raw materials to plants and later deliver the finished products to retailers.
And she said there is likely higher seasonal demand for tampons because people wear more tampons in the summer during activities like swimming, for example.
Edgewell pointed to workforce shortages from COVID-19 as one of the reasons why their inventory and production have been impacted.
“Production, and therefore inventory, of these products was impacted due to extensive workforce shortages caused by two separate Omicron surges in the U.S. and Canada in late 2021 and early 2022, respectively,” the tampon manufacturer, whose brands include o.b. and Playtex, said in a statement.
The combination of tampon shortages and increasing prices for the product is leaving some users in a bind, Dr. Cybill Ruth Esguerra, assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at John Hopkins Medicine, told The Hill in an email.
“Decreased access to menstrual supplies can be a significant stressor for women,” she said. “They may feel uncomfortable leaving the privacy of their home while they’re on their period, which interferes with work and life.”
The impacts could be greater for low-income individuals who are not able to afford tampon alternatives, such as menstrual cups.
“It’s reusable and quite durable, lasting in some cases for years. This tampon shortage, particularly if it continues for many months, might provide just enough motivation for some women to try out this option,” Esguerra said.
However, Edgewell and Procter & Gamble both stressed in their statements they believe the shortage only last a few weeks.
Not all companies are facing shortages, though, and women can look to other brands who say they are not facing the same issues as their competitors. Another tampon-producing company, Kimberly-Clark, said its their brand U by Kotex is fully stocked.