According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there were 355 million menstruating women in India in 2018. However, there is little understanding about menstruation and menstrual care products in the country.
A National Family Health Survey (NFHS) survey in 2018 found that 62 percent women in the 15-24 age group use cloth for menstrual protection. Poor hygiene during periods often cause reproductive tract infections, depression, fear, and frustration, causing low participation in the workforce.
More popular among urban and upper class women, sanitary pads also come with more cons than pros. They contain synthetic fabrics and chemical coatings, which can cause allergies and even cancer. Their disposal also remains a huge problem.
It is estimated that 12,000 tampons and pads are disposed of by a menstruating woman in her lifetime. Studies have shown that one sanitary pad could take from 500 to 800 years to decompose as the plastic used is not biodegradable. Disposal of sanitary waste still remains a pressing issue in India where garbage segregation remains a distant reality in most places.
However, a new generation of male and female entrepreneurs have come up with healthier and environment-friendly alternatives for women to use during the ‘time of the month.’
Menstrual cups have been available in India for in 8-10 years now, although it is yet to catch up widely. International brands like Eva, iCare, and Wow, along with Indian startups like Hygiene and You, Sikycup, TruCup, Sirona, Boondh cup, and Stonesoup, are making it more mainstream now.
Menstrual cups offer zero discomfort as they are inserted inside the body and cannot be felt. Each usage can last 8-10 hours a day, and each cup can last 5-10 years. Most brands provide cups in multiple variations according to the flow and size.
The biggest myth surrounding cups, however, is that it will damage the hymen and may cause the woman using it to “lose her virginity.” The truth: hymen can also break during playing various sports. However, while using the cup, it might stretch, tear, or remain unaffected. (Some women are born without hymen.)
Biodegradable sanitary pads
Brands like Azah, Carmesi, Laiqa, Purganics, Sparkle, Saathi, Soukhyam, Sakhi, and Aakar Foundation’s Anandi pads are among the eco-friendly, low-cost, biodegradable sanitary napkin brands. They all have innovative design behind them.
For instance, Azah’s ultra-soft organic sanitary pads are made with the finest organic cotton. The pads are chemical-free and eco-friendly, as all layers except the bottom-most one are made of cotton or paper. It can absorb up to a thousand times its weight in water, and is free of harmful synthetics such as chlorine, dioxins, and artificial fragrances. The FDA-approved product helps to prevent rashes and itchiness.
Carmesi’s all-natural sanitary pads are made of bamboo fibre and corn-starch, without any harmful synthetics or chemicals. The top sheet is made of corn-starch while the middle absorbent layer is made of bamboo fiber, and the bottom layer made with corn-based bioplastic. This makes the pad completely natural, and free of harmful synthetics or chemicals.
Laiqa offers biodegradable sanitary napkins that contain just seven percent plastic, and also comes with biodegradable and recyclable packaging. The brand claims that its pads are “rash, chlorine, and fragrance-free and protects users from UTIs and yeast infections.” Laiqa also offers personalised monthly subscription packs, which include a combination of day and night pads to suit each user’s flow. The team is available on call 24/7 within Delhi-NCR, and promise same-day delivery.
Ayurveda to the rescue
A unique initiative from Mumbai, Gynoveda combines technology, content and Ayurveda to solve period problems. Its flagship product MenoBot, a gynaecology robot, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify period abnormalities, and then prescribes Ayurvedic supplements to alleviate the issue.
On visiting Gynoveda’s website, a user has to answer 20-odd questions about her menstrual health. This test takes three minutes, and the 20 questions act as a prognosis, scanning the reproductive system of the user. Once the test is done, it provides information about the disorder. For example, if a woman is diagnosed with PCOD, Gynoveda would showcase the root causes of PCOD, what Ayurveda says, and how it can benefit the patient.
It also provides users with a hotline, MyGynie. Users get to chat, call and consult on the phone, and share their test results with Ayurveda experts. Once all doubts are cleared, Gynoveda lists treatment packs to solve the respective health issues. Gynoveda’s supplements are priced between Rs 500 and Rs 2,100.