: ‘It’s a perfect storm for women’: Tampon shortage adds to women’s supply-chain woes

First, a baby-formula shortage. And now this. 

Women across the country have reported they’ve had difficulties finding their tampons of choice.

Manufacturers say they are boosting production to meet the demand, and have said that the shortage should be temporary. The tampon and sanitary pad industry is worth an estimated $3 billion a year in revenue. 

“The shelves are CLEARED,” one Twitter user wrote.

Maggie Hassan, a Democratic junior senator from New Hampshire, said on Twitter that she was “calling on CEOs of the four major tampon producers to increase supply — not prices.”

The baby-formula and tampon shortage is a double whammy for women. “It uniquely impacts women in a really critical way. Both of these products are important to health and wellness,” said Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician with One Medical based in Phoenix, Ariz.

While the tampon shortage doesn’t appear to be as severe as the baby formula shortage, it’s adding another layer of stress for women. Suzy Shinn, a Grammy-nominated sound engineer,  wrote, “I am not emotionally strong enough to handle a tampon shortage.”

Edgewell Personal Care
the manufacturer of tampon brands including Playtex and o.b., said in its second-quarter earnings that a lack of raw materials and manufacturing labor shortages had hurt the supply of tampons.

Procter & Gamble
the manufacturer of Tampax and L brands, controls more than half of the domestic tampon market, according to the Wall Street Journal. “We expect this is a temporary situation in the U.S., and the Tampax team is producing tampons 24/7 to meet the increased demand for our products. We are working with our retail partners to maximize availability, which has significantly increased over the last several months”, Procter & Gamble spokesperson told MarketWatch. 

Edgewell Personal Care did not respond to a request to comment. 

“ ‘Both of these products are important to health and wellness.’ ”

— Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician with One Medical based in Phoenix, Ariz., on the tampon and baby-formula shortages

A spokesperson for Walmart

said the retailer has not seen a shortage of tampons, but spokespeople for Walgreens

and CVS

said they are experiencing shortages among some popular brands. A CVS spokesperson said there have been instances in recent weeks when tampon suppliers haven’t been able to fulfill the quantities of orders the store placed. CVS declined to give details on which suppliers failed to meet orders. 

The tampon shortage could create crucial health risks if women try to stretch their supply by using them for longer than recommended, Bhuyan said.  “It is important to avoid extending the use of a tampon,” Bhuyan said. “I’ve been hearing that people online are saying that they’re going to be doing that.”

Tampons should be changed every four to eight hours maximum, Bhuyan said, and people should choose the right absorbency for their period.

“It is a perfect storm for women,” Bhuyan said.

She advised women to check whether the packaging of tampons is sealed before using and always check the expiration date. An opened package could lead to the tampon growing mold.

Not following the usage guidelines could incur the risk of infection, and could — in a worst-case scenario — lead to toxic shock syndrome, a serious and potentially fatal condition that can occur when super-absorbent tampons are used for prolonged periods of time, Bhuyan said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked toxic shock syndrome in to tampons made of certain materials in the 1980s that manufacturers don’t use anymore. Though it’s very rare, it still happens.

“Manufacturers of tampons sold in the United States no longer use the materials or designs that were associated with toxic shock syndrome,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers to use standard measurement and labeling for absorbency and to print guidelines on the boxes.”

“If you use tampons, read the labels and use the lowest absorbency tampon you can,” the Mayo Clinic says. “Change tampons frequently, at least every four to eight hours. Alternate using tampons and sanitary napkins, and use minipads when your flow is light.”

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