MenstruPal : Taking care of your menstrual health with the help of a wearable device.

MenstruPal : Taking care of your menstrual health

Inspiration

Context

Menstruation is a periodical vaginal bleeding that occurs with women under certain age. Generally, the menstrual blood contains tissues of endometrium, cervical mucus and other vaginal secretions. Commercial products such as sanitary napkins, tampons and menstrual cups are used to absorb these fluids. Although these fluids contain clear markers for other conditions typically diagnosed from blood or tissue samples, these readily available specimens collected through sanitary products are disposed off. There are certain diseases like Genital Tuberculosis (GTB), cervical cancers, fibroid or STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) which have no prominent symptom and are generally detected at a very advanced stage when a women face infertility or abnormal bleeding.

Menstrual health is the most undiscussed and unconsidered issue in developing countries like India. Furthermore, there is a social taboo associated with this which restricts public discussion leading to lack of awareness and consequences.

Our Inspiration for the project was to spread more awareness among women about menstrual health and find a novice way to help them improve the same.

Our Goal

In this project, we are aiming to design a smart wearable system for women that could be used to be more aware about the symptoms of these diseases at an early stage from menstrual blood and alert the user for further investigation.

Process

Once we had our assumption, we pulled together a team of people with diverse skills from hardware, engineering, UX, electronics. All of our skills together contributed to valuable opinions and insights. With an openness to learn from each other we continued with the project. The process worked and improved as we worked together:

  1. Research : Plan research activities to learn from about the people we are designing for and explore unfamiliar contexts.
  2. Brainstorm: Throw away assumptions. Rethink everything.
  3. Prioritizing ideas: What is better (or only possible).
  4. Implement: Focus on details and polish.
  5. Document: Document what you’ve learnt to have impact.
  6. Synthesis: No sense making a prototype if its purpose is not understood.

Research

There were three main components in the project which needed extensive research:-

  1. Application
  2. Wearable
  3. User

Application

We started our research about application by looking at current applications present related to menstruation.

Competitor Analysis

We did a competitor analysis of various applications present on Playstore and Apple Store related to menstruation. There are many applications present in market which helps you predict your next period on the basis of data you feed related your cycle.

Menstruation Applications’ Comparison

Take Aways

After analyzing different applications we note down different categories present. Main categories were last period date, mood, bowel moments etc.

Categories present in Applications

We also did research on various kinds products available for using during menstruation.

Wearable

We started looking at products in the market related to menstruation:

We conducted a thorough survey of both related commercial products as well as published research literature. Cause we wanted to spread the awareness many we focused on low cost which guides us to work with reusable components such as reusable sanitary napkins and menstrual cups. Gynecologists have helped us identify a set of most important biomarkers that can together allow detection of most common health issues associated with the vaginal area so we started looking at metrics which we can use from these reusable components to detect the biomarkers .

Menstrual blood properties measurable by Sanitary Napkin and Menstrual Cup

User Research

Learn From Experts

As our understanding of various medical conditions was not sufficient we seek to medical experts to guide us in developing an understanding of the severity, frequency, symptoms, diagnostic procedures for the most prominent conditions. So we talked to some gynecologists.

Interview Questions
Conversations with Gynecologists

After analyzing our conversations with gynecologists we note down various metrics which can be indication of your menstrual health.

we also recognized different menstrual blood color which can be a metric to measure menstrual health.

Different menstruation blood color

Brainstorming

From three use-cases to one: . We built, prototyped, iterated, gained insights, and decided one out of the finalists.

Prototyping

Prototype 1

One prototype consists of a sanitary napkin disposal system which exploits the knowledge of the connection of the color of the menstrual blood with a woman’s health. We propose a system in which a color palette is provided showing 8 prominent colors of the menstrual blood and a slider is provided on the disposal system for easy detection of the matching color. The prominent colors and their associated conditions are:

  • Pinkish/Pale red: Low estrogen levels caused mostly due to excessive exercise, PCOS and poor nutrition. If not treated this condition may lead to osteoporosis.
  • Watery-looking: Anaemia symbolized by whitish diluted flow.
  • Dark Brown: nothing to worry about
  • Thick jammed red color with large clots: Low progesterone and high estrogen levels and uterine fibroid.
  • Mix of grey and red: STD/STI and sometime, even miscarriage.
  • Bright cranberry red: Healthy regular period
  • Brown or rusty: High body temperature
  • Bluish: Low body temperature.

Once a user moves the slider to the matching color on the palette, the data is synched with a mobile application which updates the health status of the user. If some symptom is discovered, the application would advise the user to visit a doctor.

Another addition to the system can be to insert a sensor in the sanitary napkin itself which tracks the relative weight of the user. This relative weight will be measured in reference to the weight inputted by the user in the beginning.

Prototype 2

A crate of sanitary napkins with cylindrical swabs : We thought of making a cylindrical swab with sensors attached to it which would act as both the support instead of using racks as support and would be taken out of the crate. All the swabs would be placed in different box for testing purposes. Also after the removal of swab from the crate all the sanitary napkins would get collected inside a package placed in the crate in this way the box is reusable and will only need to buy new swabs time to time.

Prototype 3

The third prototype was an embedded sensing system which includes a capacitive touch sensor to detect the start time and end time of the napkin worn, the temperature sensor would sense the body temperature and a flow sensor. Figure 1 is a prototype of capacitive touch sensor and temperature sensor connected to the reusable sanitary napkin.

a. Reusable pads(left side) .b. Conductive thread(right side)
Figure.1

Touch and Temperature sensor — Figure 1 is a prototype of capacitive touch sensor and temperature sensor connected to the reusable sanitary napkin. The sensors are placed in such a way that it would touch the body but does not get wet. Since the whole system is designed for a sensitive part of the woman body we will build the circuit using e-textile material such as conductive fabric and conductive thread to maximized the comfort of the user.

Figure 2. Markers

The embedded flow sensor would be a marker based sensing matrix designed using the conductive thread on fabric. We will be using eight markers(Fig. 2) on a sanitary napkin placed in one inch of difference to detect the amount of fluid. The markers will act as switches which get connected through the bodily fluid like menstrual blood. Each of these markers is connected to different resistance to get different values as output for detecting the location of the connection. The following experiment will show us how the voltage reading changes for each marker with different fluid and volume.

Flow sensor prototype

Final Prototype

We started focusing more on the third prototype and continued with more iterations from our growing insights for reasons as following :-

  • Using menstrual cups is still a taboo in India because of certain myths. Hence we settled on using reusable pads as they are both cheap and eco-friendly.
  • To perform any kind of test on menstrual blood a certain amount is required which is quite difficult to extract out from sanitary napkins.

Our goal in the end became to build a sensing system which would sense the change in the important biomarkers such as menstrual flow, color, body temperature, pH, humidity, protein level, oxygenation, hemoglobin and sugar or glucose level for monitoring of women health.

Our system consist of a sensing circuit powered by battery or through other means to sense these markers and a mobile application to inform the user. The sensing circuit can be embedded onto a sanitary napkin as and when required to monitor women’s health. The data collected from the napkin through the sensor will be sent to the mobile application to give updated information and helpful interferences. This sensing circuit would be able monitor health conditions in real time such as temperature increase, humidity monitoring and sudden menstrual flow change

a. Sensor . b. Mobile phone close to the sensor

We focused on three metrics for the mobile application.

Application Sketches

High Fidelity Prototype

MenstruPal Application

We created a project video to show how conductive threads are used to detect flow of menstrual blood and how the sensors will be integrated with MenstruPal mobile application.

Menstrupal Project Demo

System Flow

Team

Manideepa Mukherjee
Twishi Sagwal
Akanksha Pandey
Advisor : Dr. Aman Parnami

Future Work

Manideepa Mukherjee is continuing the work with other interns to use NFC sensor for transferring data from the sanitary napkin to the application.