You’re sitting in class (or the bus, or any other place with maximum potential for embarrassment)… when suddenly there’s a change in the tides. The floodgates open. Your stopper has come unstopped. If you get a period, you know exactly the kind of situation to which I’m referring — a situation that the Bluetooth tampon My.Flow intends to help you avoid. Even if you don’t get a period, you’ve undoubtedly figured out today’s topic of discussion by now. For the sake of clarity, however, let me be explicit: I’m talking about leaking through your tampon.
It’s one of the cruelest ironies of menstruation; even when you’re prepared for its arrival, sometimes a mere tampon isn’t enough to stem the flow, especially if you have a tendency to forget when you last changed it. You might think you’re safe, but suddenly you find yourself sitting in a pool of your own blood as it soaks through the seat cushion. For most people, the solution is simply to carry around extra supplies and pay attention to their lady bits, while others free bleed like champs, but the startup my.Flow takes a different approach. According to the Daily Dot, my.Flow is a Bluetooth-connected tampon system designed to alert your phone when it’s time for a change.
My.Flow is set to hit shelves in 2017. The Bluetooth device is expected to retail for about $49, and the “companion tampons” should cost around $13 per monthly supply. The system itself is exactly as complicated as it sounds: According to the Guardian, the tampon has an extra-long string threaded with conductive steel. After you insert the tampon, you connect this string to a Bluetooth-enabled device attached to your waist; this device is then wirelessly paired to your phone. Finally, you program the accompanying app to alert you when your tampon is saturated by a certain percent.
As with many menstruation-related products, my.Flow has been receiving a decent amount of press, and not all of it has been positive. As the Guardian points out, my.Flow is designed to help you hide that you’re menstruating, but it may actually serve to draw attention to the fact instead. After all, users are wearing a tampon literally connected to their waist, and the saturation alerts are sent straight to your phone. You can change the notifications to say whatever you want, but if you use any popular euphemisms for your period, the app’s purpose is pretty apparent.
Of course, my.Flow also raises the question of why we’re pressured to go to such lengths to hide our periods in the first place. Although it’s a natural fact of life for half the world’s population, menstruation is seen as shameful and “unclean” in many cultures, and this taboo ends up having very serious consequences. Manufacturers and advertisers have long used this stigmatization to sell products; if leaking through her tampon is really a “girl’s worst nightmare,” as my.Flow writes on its website, then she’s far more likely to spend money trying to prevent it (and so, for that matter, is anyone else who menstruates, whether or not they’re a girl). My.Flow in particular does not break down stigmas surrounding menstruation; the startup’s co-founder told the Guardian that she uses purple liquid in my.
Flow demonstrations because the color “meets in the middle” between euphemistic blue liquid and more realistic red, but it’s still… well, not red, and therefore just another euphemism.
On the other hand, my.Flow could prove to be more useful than you might think. An app reminding you to change your tampon may not be necessary for someone who’s been using them for years, but the alerts could be enormously helpful for menstruation newbies. Although I can’t speak for anyone else, my early adolescence was plagued by anxiety around tampons — not because I worried about leaking, but because I was terrified of leaving one in for too long. Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) may not be as much of a concern as many believe, but forgetting about a tampon can still have health risks. Finally, the app’s ability to track your period has interesting possibilities. There are plenty of period trackers out there, but my.Flow could measure your flow at the source, so to speak.
So what’s the takeaway? My.Flow could prove to be useful for women’s health, although perhaps not in the ways the startup may anticipate. Rather than focusing on ways to hide our periods, it’s high time we start talking about them openly — nobody likes bleeding through their pants, but it’s hardly nightmarish. The sooner we stop being weird about other people’s periods, the sooner we can stop feeling weird about our own.