Pad Up Public Health

When you’re in hospital, already sick, stressed, vulnerable, or recovering from childbirth, it’s not guaranteed that you will have access to sanitary items such as period products or maternity pads if you need them. In public hospitals across Australia, there is access to band-aids, bandages, painkillers, and incontinence aids, but not pads or tampons.

Here at Share the Dignity, we knew this was an issue, having heard stories from many women who had been menstruating while in hospital. Menstruation is not a choice, so they had no choice but to use incontinence pads, adult nappies or dressings to get by until they could purchase their own products, or their family came to visit. We needed to understand the extent of the issue.

We put a call out to our community asking for women and girls to share their experiences. The response was overwhelming. Thousands of you responded with your stories about access to period products while in hospital.

While it might be a hospital policy to stock period products, we found this wasn’t the experience of all women. Availability is limited and many rely on the kindness of nurses and midwives who give pads from their own supply. Some women had to wait hours for help, lying in their own blood. This is not okay.

#PadUpPublicHealth written in pink on a pad, surrounded by other products provided when in hospital that are a guaranteed like bandaids, wound care and paracetamol

Your stories

We’ve been listening to your experiences and so has the media, with 9Honey supporting our movement and helping to shine a spotlight on this important issue.

Christine says 'Was admitted to [redacted] hospital in WA last year in an emergency sitation and had my period at the time. You would think I was asking for their bank account details when I asked for sanitary products! It's not like I had time to pack. How can hospitals be so unprepared for something 50% of the population requires on a daily basis 25% of the time?'
Melissa says 'I'm a paediatric nurse. It's not uncommon to be caring for young adolescent [girls] on their first period. You would think that there would be supplied pads for patients and for parents with young children who can't leave the ward, but this usually isn't the case. How can we expect minors admitted to hospital to just go and get pads or to have to ask a relative to buy some for them? It's honestly a disgrace.'
Jo-Ann says 'I had a miscarriage and had to stay in hospital. I had to wear an adult diaper until my hubby went and bought me supplies, but I still spent the night in a nappy. The weird thing was in emergency they gave me pads. So sad.'
Rachel says 'This is true. My waters spontaneously burst in hospital at 33 weeks, and the hospital had nothing to offer me. I had to wait 12 hours until my family could bring me items, meanwhile leaking amniotic fluid everywhere. There was no dignity in it, during an already stressful situation. I was just given towels and some disposable bed protectors to sit on.'
Rachelle says 'I was 20 weeks pregnant and 20 years old. I had bled and went to ED in a scared rush. I waited for a long time and was given a comine (wadded dressing) after having to ask the administrator for something and being told they dont supply pads to anyone.'
Shona says 'This is true! When I was in hospital after giving birth, they gave me one giant pad. When I told the nurse I needed to change it she did a big eye roll and said I have to use my own. Had to get my husband to go get some because I just assumed they would be provided, especially for patients having to stay days after birth like I had to.'

How can you help to pad up public health?


Our latest crusade is gaining momentum. #PadUpPublicHealth calls for State and Federal Health Ministers to introduce free period products in all public hospitals. We’ve been gathering the information we need to engage key decision-makers, including Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Here was his response to our advocacy letter.

We need your help to influence the decision-makers in your local area and implore them to make a change for good. Please download the template letters below to send to your local MP and/or state and territory Health Minister. Your voice can have a big impact on the lives of women and girls all over Australia.

Letter from the office of Greg Hunt MP in relation to our #PadUpPublicHealth campaign
Template letter - local MPs 2021

Template letter - local MPs 2021

Write to your local MP to help #paduppublichealth.

Template letter - federal MPs 2021

Template letter - federal MPs 2021

Use this template to send a letter to your federal MP to #paduppublichealth