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Women face another product shortage: tampons

Supply-chain snarls are hitting the feminine care aisle, with women venting on social media about how hard it is to find tampons in stores right now. 

On Twitter, #tamponshortage is trending, with some users calling it the latest "nightmare" for women after the Food and Drug Administration acknowledged widespread shortages of baby formula. Individuals and not-for-profit groups that collect donated feminine care products are also complaining of empty shelves where the monthly essentials are usually stocked.

"I thought I was going crazy noticing empty shelves where tampons should be," one Twitter user said.

Members of an online forum for Washington, D.C.-area parents also reported problems sourcing tampons. One member said she had visited three different CVS locations only to find them "99% bare of all tampons." 

Dana Marlowe, founder of I Support the Girls, a non-profit group that provides bras and menstruation products to homeless and poor women, said the organization is currently feeling the impact of the tampon shortage.

"We've been getting requests for tampons, and our warehouse shelves are empty. We are literally down to boxes versus pallets," she told CBS MoneyWatch. "It's been very noticeable." 

Non-profit organization I Support the Girls is down to just a few boxes of donated tampons as the nation faces a tampon shortage. I Support the Girls

I Support the Girls receives donated products from individuals and corporations, which they then distribute to social service agency partners including homeless shelters, refugee agencies and organizations that support victims of human trafficking. Through May 25, the organization received more than 213,000 tampons, down 61% from nearly 548,000 donated tampons in 2020. 

Marlowe thinks the issue isn't getting the attention it deserves. "It's so stigmatized in society, and also a majority of lawmakers don't have periods," she added.

"Periods don't stop for pandemics" 

Some tampon manufacturers have acknowledged the product shortages. P&G, which makes Tampax brand tampons, called it "a temporary situation" and said Tampax is working "24/7 to meet the increased demand for our products," as well as helping retailers get more products on store shelves.  

"We understand it is frustrating for consumers when they can't find what they need," a P&G spokesperson said. 

Walgreens told CBS MoneyWatch that the drugstore chain is experiencing temporary shortages in some of its locations nationwide. 

Tampax products are missing from store shelves at a Walgreens drugstore in Manhattan, New York. Megan Cerullo/CBS News

A spokesperson for CVS Health said that some suppliers have struggled to fulfill the pharmacy chain's orders. "If a local store is temporarily out of specific products, we work to replenish those items as quickly as possible," the spokesperson said, adding that CVS Health has stopped short of rationing tampons. 

Alternatives to tampons, including menstrual pads, period underwear, and menstrual cups and discs can be suitable substitutes for tampons, but don't work for everyone. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Marlowe of I Support the Girls said she's seen women resort to using the insides of mattresses, cut-up dirty sheets and t-shirts, and cardboard to stem their flows, which health experts say can be harmful 

"Periods don't stop for pandemics," she said. "Just because there is a shortage doesn't mean your period is going to turn off that month."

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