Tracie Egan Morrissey writes:
Given the USA national debate regarding birth control coverage, it's increasingly clear that many people have no idea how much it costs it to own a vagina — folks are getting up in arms about the idea that the pill could set uninsured women back about $1000 a year, but in the grand scheme of things, that's nothing. Do you even know just how much you're shelling out for your clam? Were you aware of the fact that in your 20s alone, you will spend over $26,000 on vaginal maintenance? Herewith, we do the math on just how much that cooter is costing you.
Note: Annual quantities of drugstore-type purchases and personal grooming treatments are estimates based on Jezebel staffers' personal experiences.
Studies show that oral contraceptives have been used by about 80 percent of women in the U.S. at some point in their lives. And it's a huge expense—particularly so without health insurance. While Planned Parenthood does offer generic forms of certain pills at a discount, many women are prescribed specific pills for specific reasons and thus, cut-rate pills are not an option. Birth control pills are made of hormones—sometimes just one hormone and sometimes a combination of two hormones (progesterone and estrogen). The combinations and sequences vary and are selected for each patient to distinctly meet her needs. For example, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) will need a different level of hormones than other women and thus, her presciption needs to be carefully managed under a doctor's care. The same goes with women suffering from irregular menses, dysmenorrhea, vaginal bleeding, ruptured cysts, or hemorrhagic cyst. That being said, birth control can cost a woman up to $129.99 per pill pack. Because they are taken daily like vitamins and not simply whenever a woman has sex like Viagra, a woman goes through a pill pack every 28 days. So this is actually what Sandra Fluke meant when she testified that it would set back law students $3000 over the course of law school if insurance didn't help defray the cost of birth control.
$129.99 a pack at 13 packs per year: $1689.87
Yes, there are reusable devices, like the Diva Cup (which has its own cult-like following), but about 70 percent of American women use tampons. And on average, a woman will, in her lifetime, use more than 11,000 tampons or pads. That's a lot of disposable cotton. And it's a necessity. Could you imagine if we just free-flowed? The entire world would look like a murder scene.
$6.79 per box at Drugstore.com, at 9 boxes of tampons per year: $61.11
$7.99 per package of maxi pads at Drugstore.com, at 7 packages a year: $59.43
A woman's period does not just involve blood, but also bloating, cramping, headaches, constipation, fatigue and irritability. Research shows that about 85% of women (aged 25 - 35) deal with the physical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Midol, the over-the-counter medication used to deal with the effects of PMS, is a common remedy.
$6.99 a bottle at Drugstore.com at 3 bottles per year: $20.97
Pelvic exams are vital to a woman's gynecological health. A healthcare provider examines the entire pelvic area—internally and externally—to determine if there are any infections or other conditions that need to be addressed or treated. An annual pap smear will help to detect cervical cancer. Planned Parenthood—for the time being, anyway—provides this service to uninsured women for a discounted rate. Otherwise, a woman could pay upwards of $500 for an exam and lab results.
$175 at Planned Parenthood
Birth control pills do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, so condoms play an important role in a woman's sexual health. And while a man should certainly pitch in with this expense, it's best to never rely on someone with a boner to be looking out for your best interest.
$17.99 per box of 36 at Drugstore.com, at 2 boxes per year:
"Feminine itching" is very real, and unlike with men—who think nothing of readjusting their balls mid conversation—it's generally unheard of for women to dig at their crotches. Anti-itch creams are really the only socially acceptable way for women to handle the problem without scratching.
$6.29 per tube at Drugstore.com.
Urinary Tract Infection Remedies
UTIs are more common in women than men, partially because a woman's urethra is shorter than a man's, and as a result the bacteria has a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder. Additionally, the urethral opening in a woman is much closer to the rectum than that in a man, meaning that the E. Coli that live in the lower intestine has a better chance at making it into a woman's urethra. The treatment for UTIs, if done correctly, can be costly, between antibiotics—particularly if one is uninsured—and all-natural cranberry juice, which is about eight times as much as the better tasting, but not very helpful, cranberry juice cocktail.
$40 per prescription of generic antibiotics
$8.81 per 32 oz. bottle of all-natural cranberry juice at Amazon.com
Studies show that about 75% of all women have a yeast infection at some point in their lives. While over-the-counter medications are used to treat yeast infections, women should confirm her diagnosis with a doctor before treatment, to rule out any other conditions. That can be upwards for $200 at a regular doctor's office, without insurance, but Planned Parenthood offers discounted rates for yeast infection screenings.
$16.68 for Monistat at Drugstore.com
$90 for a Planned Parenthood screening
Pubic Hair Removal
Recent studies indicate that most women, aged 18 - 39, engage in pubic hair removal—whether partial or total—through various methods (waxing, shaving, laser removal). A 2009 survey released by the American Laser Centers claimed that the average woman shaves 12 times a month, spending about $15.95. Women who are committed to waxing do so every 6 weeks.
$35 per waxing at 9 times per year: $315
$15.95 for shaving products per month at 12 times per year: $191.40
Because women use toilet paper every time they go to the bathroom—for urination and defecation—they use at least twice the amount of toilet paper than men, if not significantly more. (Unfortunately, no studies have been done at this time regarding this difference in usage.) So if one man uses an average of one roll of toilet paper per week, it can be safely assumed that a woman would go through at least two rolls per week.
$11.99 per 9 pack at Drugstore.com, at 12 packs per year:
Owning a vagina is a lot like owning a car: Even though you have a set amount of expenses when it comes to care and maintenance, sometimes we have accidents and need to draw on a rainy day fund.
Emergency Contraception: $50 without insurance
Pregnancy Test: $15
Abortion: $400 through Planned Parenthood
$1500 without insurance through a private provider
Variables Total: $465 - $1565