Why we need to talk more about menstrual health
No more stigma please
Ladies (and gents), let's talk about menstruation. On the brink of 2020, it should now be normal for us to discuss our monthly issues – period care, relief, bloat, pain, woes and more – without fear or judgment. After all, Mother Nature has intended for us to band together in solidarity when it comes to our womanly health. If our experiences have taught us anything, it's that the topic of menstrual health is an important one that should be made accessible to every girl.
We roped in Elaine Hong, co-founder of Enya to talk about period care and feminine hygiene. Enya is a tech-enabled period care company that was set up to tackle the issue of itchiness and discomfort when wearing pads during menses – thus, the birth of its cotton pads. Enya's main goal is to provide a holistic approach towards feminine care, as accessible, affordable and convenient as possible.
Hi Elaine. As we move on as a more opened and aware society, how is Enya sparking conversations about menstruation?
For Enya, we start by sharing why we founded the company and why we chose organic cotton as our prime material. Our periods tell a lot about our health, so does the product that we use during our cycle. Some women experience minor itchiness and burning sensations depending on the type of product we place onto our vaginal area, and many chose to ignore it because we might think it's normal to feel so. We started by sharing about the breathability of organic cotton—that was our first spark. Naturally, we were very grateful that our customers begin to share about their experiences, not just with Enya, but their own stories with other women on our socials.
In your opinion, why should we talk more about menstrual health or feminine hygiene?
It's because it has a lot to do with our reproductive health. It starts from our periods. I believe that society progresses through conversations that turn into actions. The conversation a mother has with her daughter, and then the daughter's daughter will ultimately shape what we call society today. It's very powerful to understand our own bodies and to know what is right for ourselves.
From your research, what are some things that women are not aware of or still embarrassed to talk about when it comes to feminine health?
This is very interesting. When we first started asking on our Instagram stories, we figured "ok, perhaps no one would reply", but it turns out that many young women want to share their experiences dealing with period cramps or embarrassing moments. There were so many interesting and funny ones! During our 'first period' stories, one of our audiences thought that she had cancer when she got her first period.
We're living in a time where customers want to be involved in any way that they can. Through conversations, we realised that, for example, period stigmas are still present because of how our generation before viewed periods.
Tell us, what makes Enya's pads different then?
Our use of premium organic materials/products – our customers love using Enya pads because for the first time ever, it's finally comfortable and it doesn't cause an itch or burning sensations. I've been using both commercial pads and organic pads—the difference is one gives me itches at times and the other is too expensive. We took the best of both worlds and combined them together in a beautiful box.
And what's your vision?
Our direct-to-consumer business model allows us to keep an open conversation with our customers. And we keep that on-going interaction whether it's by asking what sort of product they want in our next line, what was their first period experience like or just how we can improve our product.
Our Enya Premium range is a result of our survey from what women would prefer in a pad. So instead of having brands telling you what you should use for your period, we try to engage with our customers as much as possible to understand what you want because you know your body best.
Could you explain a little about the reason to use organic cotton as part of menstrual care?
Yes, sure. Organic cotton is cared and harvested intensively and it does not contain harsh chemicals or pesticides. Our vaginal skin is highly permeable, meaning to say anything that comes into contact with our vaginal skin gets rushed into our bloodstream almost immediately. We introduced organic cotton because of its breathable, skin-friendly properties.
What are some tips you can share about menstrual hygiene? Perhaps, things that most women ignore but really shouldn't.
Change your pads no matter how busy you are! Most women leave their pads on for more than 6 hours, which is not advisable by the gynaecologist, as it is prone to bacterial growth and infections.
Consumers are getting more eco-conscious these days. Will Enya be looking into more sustainable form of feminine care e.g. cloth/reusable pads?
Yes, in the near future. Furthermore, I believe it's two very different markets. Our target audience are customers who live a fast-paced lifestyle, but still want something that is hypoallergenic. We are striving to co-create an eco-friendly alternative for disposable pads with our customers, without sacrificing on pad performance or adding too much weight on the price point. Everything we do at Enya, it goes back to designing with the mass consumer in mind first, whether it's being able to afford organic cotton biodegradable pads or replacing the middle absorbent core with a plant-based polymer. I apologise for getting a bit too technical (laughs).
In your website, it's stated that Enya wants to "empower and inform women about safer, healthier alternatives for their bodies and beyond". What efforts are you doing to pursue this?
One of the reasons why we named it Enya (fire in Irish) is because we want to spark conversations about periods, so the easiest and fastest way to inform everyone is through social media. Whether it's just by asking people to share their first period experiences to managing basic menstrual hygiene. Our team also organises corporate events to interact with everyone and to keep our conversation as inclusive as possible.
What's coming up for Enya?
We are partnering with Redtalks and Spot for the Merdeka Menstrual event this Saturday, 16 November, where we'll hold conversations involving—our menses. Redtalks is a youth-led organisation that strives to normalise period conversations and Spot is an organisation that provides comprehensive sexuality education for girls. It's going to be really exciting!