Entries in Menstruation (4)


Subscription Services Look to Automate Tampon Delivery to Women

HelloFlo | Juniper(NEW YORK) -- It's a routine women know all too well.  At that time of the month, it's off to the drugstore to buy a box of tampons, and perhaps some Advil or Midol as well.  The next month, the cycle repeats.

We order food, taxis, personal assistants, even Girl Scout Cookies using the web and mobile applications.  But why not even the most intimate of products, like tampons?

It's certainly an idea -- an idea that now a few women have had.  Three companies -- Juniper, HelloFlo, and LeParcel -- have set out to improve the tampon-buying experience with monthly subscription services.

"This entire experience is so last-century.  You go to the store, you buy your stuff and you come home and you run out," Lynn Tao, the founder of Juniper, told ABC News in an interview.  "You can pay $35 in San Francisco and find a start-up to do almost anything for you -- clean your house, get you a car.  Why not for something like this?  This should be automated too."

All three of the services work in a similar way.  You pick your tampon brand, tell the service when you get your period, enter your payment information and the tampons are delivered to your house five to six days before you begin your cycle.

But the services are certainly not identical.  Juniper was one of the first tampon subscription services to hit the Web, and it also happens to be the priciest.  Tao launched the site in October 2012 and began charging $28 a month.  You pick your preferred Tampon brand, go through the "calibration process," which requires you put in the start date of your period, and decide if you need some Midol or backup protection (panty liners, pads, etc.).

Tao says the premium price gives you a premium experience.  The packaging is nice and included with each set of tampons (you can request anywhere from 10 to 40 tampons) are a selection of teas and chocolates.  If you opt to include Midol or panty liners, they're all included in the $28 flat fee.  

While a box of 36 tampons usually costs $8.00, Tao says its service "provides a lot more value."  Each subscriber is also paired with a Juniper BFF, someone who helps customize the experience.

However, HelloFlo, which launched earlier this week, offers similar services for half the price.  Naama Bloom, the founder of the service, said it is all about convenience and making it fit into the way you are already talking about your period.

"I thought of how I think about my period and how do I talk about it," Bloom told ABC News in an interview.  "We focus on the one decision and that's whether you have a low, medium or heavy period."

There are three flow (or flo) options.  The $14-a-month deal is for those whose periods are on the lighter side and only last for 3 to 4 days.  Then there are the $16 Medium Flo and the $18 Heavy Flo packages.  The size and number of tampons included depend on your flow level.  When you select the plan, you input the day of your last period and the frequency of your period as well as your birth date.  Included with the package is a small treat.

And because three is never a crowd, there is Le Parcel, started by Megan Hollenback.  Le Parcel fits in between the other two.  For $15 a month, you get 30 tampons or pads or panty liners of your choice.  And yes, included in each Le Parcel package is a piece of chocolate and a small gift.

Women absolutely now have a choice of subscription tampon services, but the question is whether there is even a demand for this sort of service.

As of this writing, Le Parcel had 1,500 subscribers and Juniper 100 subscribers.  HelloFlo would not comment on its subscriber numbers.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Documentary Reveals the Good, Bad, Ugly of Menopause

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- "When I think of menopause, I think of hate, pure clean hate," one woman said in the new documentary Hot Flash Havoc.

"I told my wife if she goes through menopause again, we're getting a divorce," a husband said.

Nevertheless, "you're very lucky to reach menopause," another woman said. "If you don't reach it, you have some troubles."

Hot Flash Havoc, a film of "menopausal proportions," is a documentary meant to examine menopausal symptoms, reveal the history and society's view on menopause and even question the results from an ongoing National Institutes of Health initiative, which, in 2002, discouraged women from taking estrogen plus progesterone to treat symptoms of menopause.

For some women, menopause symptoms are much more than the occasional hot flash. Depression, low libido, night sweats and panic attacks are only a few of the many indications that storm through the body of a menopausal woman.

The controversial documentary will be released to the public March 30.

The beginning of the documentary creates a playful dialogue on the experiences and expectations of menopause and menstruation.

For one woman, the roundabout way in which she was told about her feminine health left her confused for decades.

"Your Aunt Tilly is going to visit you once a month, and she's going to hang around for about 30 years," the interviewee described how her menstrual cycle was explained. "When Aunt Tilly dies, you'll know about it cause she won't come around no more. Who the hell is Aunt Tilly?"

The majority of the film documents the benefits of estrogen replacement therapy, commonly taken to curb hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. It particularly criticizes a NIH Women's Health Initiative study, which, in 2002, found that women taking estrogen were at higher risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Researchers halted the clinical trial altogether in 2002 because of the noted increased risk.

Filmmakers and menopause experts interviewed in the documentary argue that the 2002 study results were misrepresented, and led millions of menopausal women to unnecessarily stop taking hormones that otherwise curbed debilitating symptoms sometimes associated with menopause.

And research released last week in the Lancet reignited this debate when a study found that estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy might lower the risk of breast cancer for some postmenopausal women. While the findings were specific to women who have had a hysterectomy, have no increased risk of breast cancer and no increased risk of strokes and blood clots, advocates of hormone therapy welcomed the results.

"Menopause has been this secret filled with shame, anxiety and confusion for centuries," said Heidi Houston, executive producer of the film. "The movie is intended to give information so every woman can make informed decisions about treating menopause and allow women to become health care advocates for themselves."

Prior to the 2002 study, some preliminary research found that the menopausal hormone therapy actually helped to decrease the risk of heart disease, but the preliminary data found the treatment did not decrease risk and put women at increased risk of some invasive breast cancers and stroke. Prior to the study results, hormones were one of the most prescribed drugs in the country.

But the use of estrogen dropped by 71 percent from 2001 to 2009, according to the North American Menopause Society.

"Women with a uterus who are currently taking estrogen plus progestin should have a serious talk with their doctor to see if they should continue it," Dr. Jacques Rossouw, acting director of the WHI at the time, explained in 2002. "If they are taking this hormone combination for short-term relief of symptoms, it may be reasonable to continue since the benefits are likely to outweigh the risks. Longer term use or use for disease prevention must be re-evaluated given the multiple adverse effects noted in WHI."

Dr. Marcia Stefanick, a researcher on the WHI study, told ABC News that the questions the initiative set out to answer were not specifically on menopause, but about the health risks and benefits of menopausal hormones for older women, "for whom they were being prescribed to prevent common diseases of aging women (i.e. heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia)."

"As it turns out, menopausal hormone therapy did not reduce heart disease in older women and it increased strokes," Stefanick said.

The treatment indeed helps to curb hot flashes. It also helps prevent vaginal dryness and preventive bone loss, she said. While temporary use of the treatment likely has mild risks, women deserve to know them, Stefanick said. And menopausal hormone therapy taken for several years has shown an even greater risk of the adverse health conditions.

But critics of the study said the patient population was skewed. While the study included more than 16,000 women ages 50 to 79, the average age of women in the study was 63. On average, women begin menopause around 51 years of age, when most women will experience the most severe of their symptoms.

"There was no question that there were more risks for women over 60 years of age," Dr. June La Valleur, director of the Mature Women's Center at University of Minnesota Medical Center, wrote in an email. "Women need to have options and to say that no one should use estrogen or estrogen/progestin therapy for menopausal symptoms is absurd."

Dr. Alan Altman, president of the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health and a menopausal expert interviewed on the documentary, told ABC News, "Women were instilled with fear that wasn't necessary and they need to understand that they can let that fear go and make a good, educated decision about menopausal hormone treatment."

New WHI data came out in 2008 and found that three years after women stopped taking the hormone therapy, increased risk of heart disease diminished. But women were still at a slightly increased risk of stroke, blood clots and cancer.

As for Houston, the executive producer said the motivation for the documentary came from her own challenges in dealing with menopause and not knowing all her options.

"Menopause is a natural change that is going to happen to everyone," Houston said. "I believe we have the right to have all the information available to us so we women can make our own choices. Whatever a woman's choice is, whether she wants to take hormones or not, it doesn't matter, as long as she has the options so she can decide on how to have the best quality of life."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Birth Control Pills Relieve Menstrual Pain, Study Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(GOTHENBURG, Sweden) -- Birth control pills relieve pain associated with menstruation, a 30-year Swedish study found.

The research, published Tuesday in the journal Human Reproduction, studied women over a 30-year period to confirm whether combination oral contraception pills do indeed alleviate symptoms of painful menstrual periods, known as dysmenorrhea.

Researchers surveyed three groups of hundreds of women who reached 19 years of age in 1981, 1991 and 2001.  The women were then assessed again, five years later, at the age of 24.  Birth control pills proved to reduce pain more than age.

"By comparing women at different ages, it was possible to demonstrate the influence of [combined oral contraception] on the occurrence and severity of dysmenorrhea, at the same time taking into account possible changes due to increasing age," Ingela Lindh of the Institute of Clinical Sciences at Gothenburg University in Sweden, said in a statement.  "We found there was a significant difference in the severity of dysmenorrhea depending on whether or not the women used combined oral contraceptives."

Most gynecologists have believed in the pill's pain relieving properties for decades, but a review published in the Cochrane Collaboration in 2009 concluded that there was only limited evidence to suggest the pain relief benefits.

"Gynecologists have been prescribing combined oral contraceptives for the last 40 years and for this indication," said Dr. Paula Hillard, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University School of Medicine.  "It was disappointing to see results of Cochrane. ... But gynecologists didn't feel that this proved that the pills weren't helpful, only that the studies hadn't yet been done to show it."

The study's authors reported that dysmenorrhea accounts for 600 million hours lost at work and $2 billion worth of productivity in the United States alone.

"[Painful periods] can have a detrimental effect on these women's lives, causing regular absenteeism from school and work, and interfering with their daily activities for several days each month," lead author Lindh continued in the statement. "Therefore effective management of dysmenorrhea is beneficial for both the women affected and society."

And experts welcome the confirmed findings.

"This is a well-done, informative study," said Dr. Diane Harper, director of the Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  "The evidence is finally available to support what physicians see in their offices on a daily basis -- women with painful menses are indeed helped by being on a combined estrogen/progesterone pill to make the menses lighter and less painful in discharge."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Leptin Could Help Revert Amenorrhea in Pre-Menopausal Women

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- The hormone leptin may be effective in treating women who have stopped menstruating due to a lack of fat, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Amenorrhea can affect pre-menopausal women who don't have enough fat, such as long-distance runners, gymnasts and those with eating disorders.  As a result, these women can experience infertility and bone loss due to abnormal hormone levels.

But researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that replacing leptin, a hormone usually made by cells that store fat, could revert the loss of periods.

In the study, 20 amenorrheic women between the ages of 18 and 35 were either given a synthetic form of leptin or a placebo for 36 weeks.  Out of 10 women who received the hormone, seven of them began menstruating and four of the seven were found to be ovulating.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio