Lancet Study Claims Menstrual Cups Are Safer, Healthier & Totally Harmless; Plus Its 100% Eco-Friendly 

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Till date, these were being advertised as a sustainable and more convenient alternative to sanitary napkins or tampons. But, now menstrual cups can perhaps be hailed as the medically-approved best option for menstrual hygiene, as per the latest study published in the acclaimed journal The Lancet

So far, the opinions of women about menstrual cups have been quite divided about the menstrual cup. While a group of conscious users are enjoying its benefits and actively advocating its use, a lot of women are still averse to the idea of the cup, mostly due to the notion of it being unsafe, uncomfortable and harmful for vaginal health. 

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

The Report Collated Findings Of 43 Studies

However, the Lancet report can put all the myths and misconceptions to rest. It corroborated the findings of 43 studies across both low-income and middle-income countries to arrive at the conclusion that “menstrual cups are a safe option for menstruation management and are being used internationally.”

The report explored the capacity and feasibility of the menstrual cups on a variety of parameters like leakage, acceptability, and safety and availability. The introduction to the study clearly emphasises the need for safe and affordable menstrual hygiene products for women across the globe.

Menstrual Cup Has Been There Since 1930s

The hype around the menstrual cup is fairly a recent development, with more and more women searching for sustainable menstrual alternatives, but the product itself has been around for many years, even in the 1930s, especially in Western countries. However, the lack of finesse in the initial designs was a roadblock to its popularity, states a report by National Public Radio.

The present menstrual cups available in the market are much more advanced in design and convenience. Made of medical-grade silicone, latex or rubber, these cups are meant to be inserted inside the vagina. The cup acts as a receptacle and can hold menstrual blood for upto 8 to 12 hours, depending on its quality and capacity. It can be removed, washed and put back in again.

 

 

 

The study has also found menstrual cups to be more leak-proof then pads or tampons, while also lasting for a longer duration.

Ideally, one menstrual cup can last comfortably up to ten years for a woman, thereby drastically bringing down a woman’s average expense on menstrual hygiene. At the same time, it can save the planet from a huge load of trash from pads and tampons, each of which takes up to 500-800 years to decompose.

No Rash – No Trash – No Cash

“No, there is no pain in keeping the cup in your vagina for a long time. True, initially one might feel its presence but after using it a few times, it almost becomes a part of your body,” reveals Dr Meenakshi Ramoo Bharath, a veteran gynaecologist from Bengaluru, who pioneered the Green The Red campaign for menstrual hygiene.

Since the cup is not absorbing the blood like tampons or pads, it prevents any foul smell which occurs due to chemical reactions with the superabsorbents. Also, it prevents any sort of rash or irritation arising from excess chemicals in the pads. “It is the No Rash – No Trash – No Cash way of maintaining menstrual hygiene,” she remarks.

“For the past four years, we have been advocating the use of menstrual cups to all women. Finally, this Lancet report is going to give the concept the credibility it long needed,” she asserts.

 

Global Experts Appreciate The Study

Recently, quite a number of non-profit foundations across the world have started distributing menstrual cups among women in marginalised communities with limited access to menstrual hygiene products. For them, menstrual cups are way cheaper and easier to use than primitive options like rags or even hay and charcoal.

Though some communities still continue to view menstrual cups as a cultural violation for young women due to its penetrative usage, experts feel that the Lancet study can put their debates to rest.

In a conversation with The Hindu, Dr Penelope Philips-Howard from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine lauded this study as a trailblazer. She mentioned that at a time when 1.9 billion women are menstruating around the globe, such a detailed, comparative analysis of all menstrual hygiene products was the need of the hour.

This comprehensive report published in an esteemed medical journal like The Lancet is ought to give menstrual cup the limelight it truly deserves. If you are yet to make the bold switch from the itchy, chemical-laden napkins, now you have no more reason to hesitate.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

TN Student Duo Make ‘Herbal’ Sanitary Napkins From Edible Kenaf Plant, Whose Fiber Is Thrown Away

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In Andhra Pradesh, kenaf or ‘Gongura’ leaves find a steady use in the local cuisine. The plant is also well-known for its other subsidiary uses in ropes, twines and some coarse fabrics, similar to jute in texture. But student duo Niveda and Gowtham  from Tamil Nadu has upgraded the indigenous kenaf fibre to a whole new level, by manufacturing a super-absorbent, biodegradable sanitary napkin from the edible plant. Both of them are pursuing their Masters in Apparel Technology at Kumaraguru College of Technology in Coimbatore.

The product has earned accolades at a number of national scientific conventions and is being locally marketed now under the name ‘Bliss’.

What makes kenaf fibre ‘Bliss’ pads a true bliss for users

Commercial sanitary napkins which contain Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP) and other harmful chemicals are raising health concerns among many women who suffer from side-effects like rashes, itching or even hormonal disturbances. Also, the ultra-thin, heavily scented pads which we find on our supermarket shelves contain around 80% plastic which makes them non-biodegradable. A single commercial pad takes around 500-800 years to decompose completely. Many organisations are coming up with alternatives like cloth pads and menstrual cups, but those also find a number of drawbacks.

This is the first time an eco-friendly menstrual product has been made which is nearly similar to the commercial pads most women are accustomed to using. As per feedback from the regular customers of ‘Bliss’, the kenaf fibre pad has truly been a bliss in their lives.

From a delicacy to a necessity

So how did the two students come up with such an innovative idea? Talking to Efforts For Good, Niveda shares, “An NGO from Andhra Pradesh approached our college for finding a viable solution to use discarded fibres of kenaf, a crop which is produced in bulk in their state. We started working to create wearable fabrics, but our research revealed that the kenaf fibre has amazing absorbance and antimicrobial properties. That’s when the idea of making sanitary pads out of it came up.”

Kenaf is produced as a crop in over twelve states in India, and feature heavily on the regional food plates. The crop’s ability to reduce greenhouse gases as well as its versatility as a fibre is much lesser known. It is quite popular in Tamil Nadu as well, where it is termed as ‘pulicha keerai’ and used for making chutneys and pickles. So, sourcing the raw materials was a cakewalk for Niveda and Gowtham. The hardest challenge was perfecting the final product – complete with adhesive and wings, similar to any commercial pad.

Niveda and Gowtham subjected the kenaf fibre to a series of laboratory tests, to check its viability as a sanitary napkin filler. They found that 1 gm of kenaf fibre can absorb up to 22.78 ml of thick synthetic blood. The organic pad has a very soft top layer and is coated on the underside with bioplastic made from cornstarch, which prevents leakage. The makers have not added any artificial chemicals or fragrances to the pad as kenaf itself has quite a pleasant natural odour. One pad can last up to eight hours and causes no itching or rashes. The product has already received a patent.

Soon to be marketed online

Curated in 2017, the product was commercially marketed from September 2018. “As of now, we are selling our products locally in and around Coimbatore. We have set up some stalls in the city and also take part in exhibitions,” Niveda informs.

Many housewives are volunteering to be sales agents for ‘Bliss’ pads and popularising the product through word of mouth. The good news is that ‘Bliss’ pads will be marketed soon on a pan-India basis through their upcoming website as well as e-commerce platforms.
The team also frequents local colleges to spread awareness about sustainable menstruation.

As a student start-up, Niveda and Gowtham’s ‘Bliss’ has won a number of awards and recognitions, including three awards at the 2017 India Innovation Initiative. The team of two hopes they help more women realise the benefits of opting for sustainable menstruation.

Also Read: She Faced Bad Experience With Sanitary Napkins Now Makes Reusable & Cost-Effective Cloth Pads

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- Mother Theresa Quote
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