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Reusable Product Could Help Women in Developing Countries

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 10 Aug 2017
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Image: Uganda hosted the first African regional conference on menstrual hygiene management (Photo courtesy of James Kiyimba).
Image: Uganda hosted the first African regional conference on menstrual hygiene management (Photo courtesy of James Kiyimba).
A novel sanitary pad made from quick drying, recyclable, and reusable material is intended for women in the third world.

Under development at the University of Borås (Sweden) and the Swedish School of Textiles (Borås, Sweden), the SpacerPAD is designed to contain menstrual blood, unlike common disposable sanitary pads, in which the material inside the pad absorbs the menses. The pad is rinsed out once a day and dries quickly for reuse. Once the woman’s period has ended, SpacerPAD can be boiled to thoroughly clean it. An important development pre-condition was that SpacerPAD could be manufactured locally, and without the need for advanced technology.

SpacerPAD is currently being tested at the Swedish School of Textiles by Lena Berglin, a docent in textile technology, with comprehensive 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 the field. The testing phase will include in-depth interviews looking at a number of parameters, including comfort and function.

“A lot of women use rags, leaves, ash, or even cow dung to absorb the blood. 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,” said Karin Högberg, PhD, a researcher in caring science at the University of Borås. “The name SpacerPAD tells you something about the design – we’re talking space-age here. However, we can’t say too much about the actual structure of the textile because of a patent application.”

“It is 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,” concluded Dr. Högberg. “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.”

Menstruation is a normal biological process and a key sign of reproductive health, yet in many cultures it is treated as something negative and shameful. Continued silence around menstruation combined with limited access to information results in millions of women and girls having very little knowledge about menstruation and how to deal with it. Menstruating girls and women often feel ashamed, embarrassed, and face long-standing social stigmas. As a result, they miss school and productive workdays and fall behind their male counterparts.

Related Links:
University of Borås
Swedish School of Textiles

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