Swedish researchers have invented a reusable and quick-drying sanitary pad, which they think has the potential to help change the lives of women in developing countries for the better.
They noted that, in many cultures menstruation is considered something dirty, and is a taboo subject that puts women of childbearing age in a difficult situation.
“It is a human right to have access to adequate menstrual hygiene”
Karin Högberg and Lena Berglin are currently developing a reusable and quick-drying sanitary pad to help reduce the problems faced by these women. A prototype has already seen the light of day.
Developed during a project involving the Swedish School of Textiles and the University of Borås, it is called SpacerPAD and is a pad made from new quick-drying, recyclable and reusable materials.
The design of the product means that it contains the menstrual blood, unlike common sanitary pads where the material inside the pad is absorbent.
The product is rinsed out once a day and dries quickly. Once a woman’s period has ended, the product can be boiled to thoroughly clean it.
It will be possible to produce SpacerPAD locally without the need for advanced technology, according to those behind the project to develop it.
“We can’t say too much about the actual structure of the textile because of a patent application,” said Ms Högberg, a researcher in caring science at the University of Borås.
She spent the end of her PhD period in Nairobi, in Kenya, where she said she saw how much of a problem menstruation was for women living in the cramped conditions of the metropolitan slum.
New sanitary pad ‘could change lives in developing countries’
“A lot of women use rags, leaves, ash or even cow dung to absorb the blood,” she said. “What is more, in many cultures menstruation is considered something dirty and is thus taboo, meaning that women cannot use other types of washable feminine hygiene products because they cannot hang them up to dry.”
SpacerPAD is currently being tested in the lab at the Swedish School of Textiles by Ms Berglin, a lecturer in textile technology, with tests focusing on leakage, washing, drying and bacterial growth.
The next step is to produce a primary prototype that can be tested by women. In-depth interviews looking at a number of parameters, including comfort and function, are also planned.
Ms Högberg said it was a “human right” to have access to adequate menstrual hygiene.
“If you don’t, it leads to a complex situation potentially resulting in ill health,” she said. “In physical terms, there is the obvious risk of infection, but there are also social consequences because of the humiliation and stigma associated with the subject.
“Many women find their freedom of movement restricted and are stuck at home during their periods if they are unable to conceal them,” she added.
The SpacerPAD project is being financed by the Chalmers University of Technology and the Swedish foundation Sparbanksstiftelsen Sjuhärad.