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Period underwear project expands across Tasmania, easing cost-of-living and reducing landfill

When Amy Brown was formally diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at the beginning of the year, she found a lot of things in her life finally made sense — especially when it came to her menstrual health.

"The symptoms that ADHD or neurodiverse women tend to have are mood swings, depression, pain, swelling, and at certain times in my menstrual cycle, it is harder for me to function," Ms Brown said.

"Since finding out that I have ADHD, it has allowed me to plan my world a bit better so I could manage those ups and downs that happen throughout my cycle."

Despite many other women with a diagnosis of ADHD reporting worse symptoms during their period, Ms Brown believes there is still a lack of awareness and conversations about hormone health.

"I saw so many doctors and went through a lot of different processes which was quite frustrating because I didn't really have a greater understanding as to why my experience was much harder than someone else's," she said.

"Anything that brings these issues to people's minds is beneficial."

Having the conversation

One project that is bringing attention to women's health, and in particular, periods, is the Undies Project.

The Women's Health Tasmania initiative first launched in Hobart last year and saw 250 Tasmanians on a low income receive five pairs of reusable period underwear for free.

"People menstruate, people need assistance with that, it's not something that people should worry about or feel any stigma around," Women's Health Tasmania chief executive officer Jo Flanagan said.

Now the project has been rolled out across the state and will give 500 Tasmanians who have a health care card or pensioner concession card access to reusable period underwear as a result of generous donations.

"This has alleviated some of the cost-of-living pressures people experience by removing the stress of having to find money for period products every month," Ms Flanagan said.

"It has gotten people out of the poverty trap."

Ms Flanagan said the Undies Project also sparked more conversations about menstrual health and how certain products helped them, particularly when it came to people living with a disability.

"There isn't as much personal care associated with reusable period underwear compared to single-use sanitary items," she said.

Sharyn Ferguson noticed a big difference when her daughter, who has autism and down syndrome, started using period underwear last year.

"Sophie needs support when she goes to the toilet and the period underwear has helped her to cope a lot more," Ms Ferguson said.

"She has the black underwear and she can't see the red blood, because that can be terrifying for a woman with autism."

Saving the environment, one pad at a time

The project is also having huge benefits for the environment and reduced landfill in the Hobart City Council area by around 750 kilograms in its first year.

Research has found a sanitary pad can take between 500 and 800 years to break down in landfill, compared to a coffee cup, which takes 30 years.

Women's Health Tasmania hopes the project can continue long-term to give more people on low incomes the choice to switch from single-use sanitary items to more sustainable products.

"We've had wonderful donor support … but the next stage will be getting in touch with other Tasmanian councils and even the University of Tasmania because there are a lot of students struggling with cost-of-living," Ms Flanagan said.

Anyone who would like more information on the Undies Project and how to apply for period underwear can visit the Women's Health Tasmania website.

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