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Elements of medicine regarding women’s sexual and reproductive health have evolved slower than technology. However, it seems that over the last few years the innovation in tandem with sustainability has finally arrived. Cloth pads, period-proof underwear or period panties and the well-known menstrual cup. Pregnancy tests are the last item added to the list of reworked healthcare products.
The traditional tests hit the stores in the 70s and have barely changed since then. The do it yourself and do it at home factor quickly became the norm, selling about 20 million per year in the US. The built-in digital component was the only new characteristic. Although a single use pregnancy tests were a huge revolution at the time, they are made of non-biodegradable material creating 2 million lb. waste a year.
The first company to come up with the idea of a compostable pregnancy test is Lia a female owned startup, focused on improving both women’s reproductive health and the environment. The product makes it easier to check if they’re pregnant while reducing the amount of plastic significantly. Bethany Edwards and Anna Couturier are the co founders of this innovative product. In an interview for Forbes.com Edwards said that the idea was to match the durability of the product to the time it is actually used: “If you think about it, a pregnancy test is only used for a few minutes but then sits in landfills for decades.”
It works like any other test we can currently find in the market. The stick reacts to urine in order to define if you’re pregnant or not and it presents the results with two lines if positive, one line if negative, as always. The most significant change is the way it’s made. Natural cellulose fibres allow the product to dissolve in water and to disintegrate. The part that holds the diagnostic strip where you pee has a personalized, temporary lining allowing the test to remain in perfect condition in use but breaks once its flushed.
The main issue both Edwards and Couturier wanted to tackle was the waste caused by single use pregnancy tests. On their journey, they came across another concern: the lack of discretion. That’s why besides being biodegradable, the flushable test allows women to acquire a new level of privacy.
According to Edwards pregnancy tests can rise a lot of questions when visible in a trash can. “Trying to hide them by wrapping them in toilet paper is one of the most common ways of keeping it a secret”, continues. We prefer if moments like this stay in the intimacy of our home, whether the expected result is positive or negative. The device has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and it’s already available in their website.
By covering the need of an eco-friendly pregnancy test, we are a step forward towards a more sustainable reproductive health, better for women and better for the environment.