Periods can be tough. For most women, the days that mark the beginning of the 28-day menstrual cycle require great patience, preparedness and strength. While menstrual symptoms vary from person to person, the most common experiences include cramping, fatigue, increased appetite and stress — with the latter tied closely to the preferred method of hygiene. Frankly, pads and tampons — the two most common tools — are imperfect. They move, they leak and leave women in uncomfortable positions.
While watching television with her husband one afternoon, Crystal Etienne, a mother and entrepreneur in New York, noticed that her sanitary pad had shifted and, due to her clothing choice (a pair of shorts), was visible.
“You know, men don’t care, but I thought, in this day and age there is no reason why we should be dealing with this,” she said. Etienne hopped online to do some research. She was looking for something that could prevent the awkward situation from happening again and came up empty-handed. Quite industriously, she decided to build it herself, and the Panty Prop was born.
The uniquely patented product features a slot through which a woman can place her sanitary napkin. The secure feature will help any pad, regardless of size, remain in place. The panties, which can be used by tampon or menstrual cup wearers as well, also feature an absorbent liner made of organic cotton that is designed to prevent any leaks.
“Panty Prop will correct and perfect that unfortunate, unexpected feminine hygiene failure. Our life doesn’t stop because we have our period. We have dinners, meetings … you’re constantly thinking, I hope nothing happens and I get a stain,” said Etienne. “I just feel like women should have options.”
“We’re spending all this money on these products from these big corporations and they’re not perfect; they’re not suitable to us, and we still worry about it. That’s what my product does. It lets you not worry about it.”
Beyond the panties, Etienne’s line features bodysuits, leggings, swimwear and a collection of absorbent boxer briefs for men.
Her mission to help women goes beyond the products, as she is an advocate for early education around sex and hygiene, especially in the African-American community. On the Panty Prop website, there is a Period Pack Kit that comes with a pair of undergarments, a journal, sanitary napkins and other things.
“I think that the conversation should start so much earlier. I’m very open with my daughter. … Me growing up with my mother, she never spoke to me about hygiene. Everybody remembers that first day when you got your period. Every girl remembers that day, and I can’t remember having that conversation with my mother. It was just there, and I had to figure it out,” she said. “I didn’t do that with my daughter.” Etienne shared that this has helped them to have a very healthy relationship, which she hopes will inspire other women and girls.
Seven tips for talking to a girl about her first period
Start talking about periods in general terms from an early age.
As your daughter gets older, get into specifics.
Answer questions with simple, factual information that is age appropriate. Don’t feel the need to elaborate or go into extensive explanations because you’re nervous. If your first-grader finds your box of tampons, you can simply say, “Mommy uses those every month when she gets her period,” without going into a two-hour discussion of the menstrual cycle, ovulation and female anatomy.
Take time to understand what your daughter is really asking. Instead of assuming you know what your daughter’s asking, find out what she thinks the question is about. If she asks something about girls bleeding or has heard another girl talk about her first period, ask her, “What have you heard about it?” You might find that she’s heard something strange or off base that you’ll need to correct with good information.
Use your own experience to spark discussion about hers.
Know that “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. Sometimes children ask questions that we aren’t prepared for. At a time like this, it’s fine to say, “That’s a good question. I’m going to think about it and get back to you.” (But do get back to her. Don’t pretend you forgot in the hope that she will, too.)
Don’t just hand your daughter a book or video. You can use a book or video as a jumping-off point to discuss menstruation, but don’t just hand your daughter a book and assume your job is done. Watch it or read it with her, and talk about it with her afterward.
For more information on the Panty Prop, visit pantyprop.com.