Story at a glance

  • Two Polish medical students have created a tool that calculates the cost of various menstrual hygiene products.
  • The calculator is part of a movement to raise awareness of period poverty.
  • Around the world and in the United States, many people cannot afford these necessary health products.

Dominika Miszewska is comfortable talking about periods. As a sixth year medical student and doctorate candidate at the Medical University of Warsaw, she and her friends talk openly about menstruation. But after recent protests in Poland brought attention to women’s reproductive rights, she realized that stigma wasn’t the only problem. 

Period poverty refers to the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand-washing facilities and waste management. And all over the world, it’s a problem for people who menstruate. 

“I was really struck by the numbers. I thought it was only a problem in third world countries,” Miszewska said. “It was really scary to know that it isn't just a problem for students, but also schoolgirls, women who work and who have to choose between paying for their kids and paying for their products.”


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Recently, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for anyone in need. Inspired by the news, Miszewska and her friend Julia Żuławińska created a cost calculator for period products. Inputing the length of your menstrual cycle, how many products you generally use and their cost, the calculator can tell you how much money you will spend each month, year and in a lifetime. 

Miszewska herself was lucky enough not to worry about menstrual products when she lived at home with her parents, but after moving away from school she realized how inconvenient and expensive they were. With the calculator, which works for several different products, she hopes people will be able to better budget for and afford necessary products. 


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"We thought it could be essential to highlight the importance of eco-friendly (and economy-friendly) options," she said in an email. 

Period poverty has other consequences beyond health. In the United States, more than 4 in 5 students have either missed class time or know someone who missed class time because they did not have access to period products, according to a Harris Poll. And the economic burden on women has only increased during the coronavirus pandemic. But Miszewska hopes that greater awareness will help motivate change. 

“It’s also our goal to spread the education about periods being normal and not being taboo,” she said. “The more you hear about menstruation the less it becomes scary or unknown.”


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Published on Dec 02, 2020