This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.
A new menstrual product may change what it means to have sex on your period.
Flex, a small disposable polymer disc that sits at the base of the cervix and catches blood instead of absorbing it, was released recently in the U.S. and will soon be available in Canada. Unlike menstrual cups that fit low at the base of the vagina, Flex is a shield that sits higher, and prevents blood from reaching the vaginal canal.
Like a diaphragm (though not a form of birth control), the disc’s thicker outer edge uses body heat to mould to the inside the vaginal fornix (two chambers at the top of the vagina, just below the cervix), creating a tight seal. “There’s this kind of suction that’s created,” said Dr. Jerilynn Prior, a professor of endocrinology at the University of British Columbia and founder of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research. According to the Flex website, the cup can hold up to five tampon’s worth of fluid and be worn for 12 hours.
Flex’s founders, Lauren Schulte and Erika Jensen, developed the discs last year, after talking to women who didn’t feel comfortable having sex while bleeding, or skipped it altogether because of the mess. They pitched the idea at the Silicon Valley startup incubators Y Combinator and Amplify.La and have since raised over $1 million to fund its development. A box, with enough discs to last one menstrual cycle, costs around $15.
Flex is the latest product targeting women who are looking for cost-effective alternatives to tampons: The global feminine hygiene market is currently valued at US $19 billion and is expected to balloon to over $35 billion by 2024. But unlike popular reusable menstrual products, like Canadian-made DivaCup or Lunapads, Flex is a one-time-use product, which may be a turnoff for environmentally-conscious consumers.
“The major push for the menstrual cup or for washable pads was to decrease waste,” Prior said. “But clearly that is not the case with this. That would be its major drawback.”
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