Femtech is a contraction of the words ‘female’ and ‘technology’. It’s technology for – and sometimes also by – women. Sounds futuristic? That isn’t really the case. It mainly concerns innovations in the areas of menstruation, pregnancy and sexuality. For example products that make your menstrual life less (uh) heavy. Hence why factory-made sanitary pads with an adhesive strip are also an example of femtech. Homemade reusable cloth pads aren’t; they belong in the handicraft & DIY category. But anyway, back to femtech.
Recently, a new term was launched that, according to its creators, is a better fit: women-centered design, product design with women and their specific needs in mind. Whatever you want to call it, #femtech is big business: Grand View Research predicts that the global women’s health market will be worth USD 51.3 billion by 2025. A niche market? No way! Entrepreneurs have finally realised that this concerns half of the world’s population. We give you some examples of #femtech aka women-centered design: with and without charger leads or batteries.
1. Leakproof underwear
Leakproof underwear has a special gusset that catches and absorbs the menstrual blood – the amount varies from half a tampon to four tampons worth, depending on the type. The leak-resistant layer stops any moisture getting through. After use, just rinse the period pants in cold water and throw in the washing machine with the rest of your laundry. Nowadays, leakproof menstrual and incontinence underwear comes in all different colours and styles; from boxershorts to lacy strings – there’s even a bikini bottom version for in the swimming pool.
Shop leakproof underwear by for example WUKA Period Wear.
2. Organic menstrual products
Better for the environment and for your health. Contrary to regular sanitary pads, the organic variety doesn’t contain any synthetics like plastics, fragrances or superabsorbent polymer (SAP). Made from 100% certified organic cotton, the pads are completely biodegradable, having for example an absorbent core sheet made from corn starch. Is it a coincidence that most founders of green labels are women who were dissatisfied with regular sanitary products? Nowadays, environmentally friendly menstruating is en vogue, leading to many regular brands also launching an organic product line.
Menstruate ‘green’ with vegan sanitary pads or tampons by Genial Day.
3. Period tracking app
In the old days, you’d put red crosses or stickers in your diary. Nowadays, you use your smartphone. Just google ‘menstruation app’ or ‘period tracker’ and instantly you’ll get dozens of period tracking apps displayed on your screen. Most of them are free. Some offer the opportunity to keep an entire digital diary (How do you feel? Grumpy? Bloated? Suffering from headaches? When did you last have sex? What was it like? How does your discharge look? Do you use any medication? etc, etc). Period tracking apps are the best-known example of femtech. They can be very useful to gain insight into your cycle. But be aware of the privacy issue. Because what do these companies do with your intimate data and who profits from all this menstrual surveillance?
Shop: the new Apple watch OS6 with period tracker (by the company that a few years ago launched a HealthKit that left out the entire menstrual cycle). Or download an app for free.
4. Fertility tracker
A fertility tracker (also called a body-temperature-based tracker) is a computerised form of the Fertility Awareness Based method (FAB). This little device allows you to monitor your menstrual cycle by measuring your basal body temperature – which increases a bit after ovulation. The thermometer syncs with an app and the whole thing is done in under a minute. The device calculates your fertility status and displays it as either a red or green light.
Shop: Daysy and LadyComp.
5. Pain relief with a charger lead
Suffering from menstrual cramps? Take some aspirin and crawl into bed with a hot water bottle. Or just press a button. TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) units work by means of electrostimulation: they send stimulating pulses to the body that influence the nerves so the pain decreases. They do this through the skin, via adhesive pads that you’re wearing on your tummy or lower back in case of menstrual pain. The device itself is portable; it can be worn clipped onto your belt or in your bag. The intensity of the pulses can be arranged by pressing the buttons.
6. Smart tampon and/or cup
Diagnosing endometriosis, cervical cancer and the PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) by analysing your menstrual blood? Companies are working on developing so-called smart tampons that can detect these diseases. Sounds like futuristic fiction? It isn’t. Since your menstrual blood doesn’t only contain blood, but also other cells and tissue like endometrial lining, in a way your period is a natural biopsy, with every month new data about your physical condition. Another example of a smart tampon is a tampon with Bluetooth sensor attached to the extra long tampon string. This sensor notifies your phone when it’s time for a change. There’s also a smart menstrual cup, the Looncup (not in production yet), which works in the same way but has the sensors in the cup.
Add to the wish list: NextGenJane, MyFlow, Looncup (not in production yet).
7. Pelvic floor trainer
Many women suffer from incontinence, especially after giving birth or before the menopause. The reason? Weakened pelvic floor muscles. To counteract this, there are specific exercises, but also physical devices like Kegel trainers. Insert these pelvic floor trainers into your vagina and operate them with your smartphone. Another option is smart underwear: pants with a sensor that registers when you leak.
In the shopping basket: Elvie, Kegel8, Carin, Mystim, Beacmed, NuTek. Without electronics: Lelo.
8. Reusable applicator
Another one in the eco category. In some countries, like the UK and USA, many women use tampons with applicators. The disadvantage? All these disposable applicators lead to mountains of plastic waste. Not anymore: now there’s a reusable tampon applicator on the market. After using, rinse, dry and store until it’s time for the next tampon change. This saves up to 12,000 plastic applicators per woman. Of course, you could also just use tampons without applicators.
If you do want an applicator: Dame.
9. Home tests
Having a smear test done is nobody’s idea of a fun time. But suffering from an untreated STD is even worse. The solution: self-sampling tests. Order a test online that gets delivered to your home (in a neutral envelope – the neighbour doesn’t need to know you might have chlamydia), swab yourself to collect a sample, and send it back to the lab. Afterwards, you can check your results online, using a personal code. Home tests aren’t just for sexual health screening though; they can also detect the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer.
Better safe than sorry: Testalize.me, Eve Kit, SmartJane, FertilityIQ.
10. Tampon and pantyliner combined
Worried about leaking tampons but don’t want to use a sanitary pad as back-up? The Tampliner is a tampon and pantyliner combined. Put your finger into the condom-like plastic sleeve, push the tampon through the opening in the mini-liner and insert. If it’s in the right position, the pantyliner will unfold between your labia, preventing any leakage. When removing, the tampon will get wrapped in the plastic sleeve so it doesn’t turn into a bloody mess. Both the tampon and the pantyliner are made of organic cotton and the entire device is 95% biodegradable. Some women claim the tampliner is the first actual innovation in menstrual products in the last few decades; others aren’t so enthusiastic about the invention and find it tricky to pee without getting the pantyliner wet.
Maybe worth a try: the Tampliner by Callaly.
11. Period-related beauty and wellness products
No, period-skincare isn’t meant for down there (after all, a healthy vagina is self-cleaning). But many women experience oily skin in the week before their period and get more spots when they’re menstruating. Hence why beauty companies have come up with cyclical skin care: products that are tailored to your monthly cycle. Other special beauty and wellness products for menstruators include vaginal steaming, cramp-easing bath salts, warming body butters and relaxing essential oils.
Shop some instant relief via Whoopi & Maya, Foria, Amaretta, Disciple Skincare or Anna is Clear.