For generations, women have devised ways to cope with the pain their period causes. Some take pain medicine, others use a heating pad to ease their cramps. Heating pads work well, so it isn’t necessarily surprising that a new crowdfunding campaign is trying to sell a wearable, app-controlled heating pad. The Aika Black-T relies on an “innovative graphene” and something called “far infrared radiation,” which seems to be an unconventional method of attempting to provide beneficial energy to the body. If you Google it, you’ll find the one study that Aika mentions on its Indiegogo page, as well as some Eastern medicine websites extolling its virtues.
To check the claims’ veracity, I spoke with Maura Parker Quinlan, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, to ask about the device. She reviewed the study and found nothing out of the ordinary, although the radiation technique is outside the mainstream. More than anything, she emphasized that local heat is helpful for cramps relief. The Aika Black-T “probably wouldn’t be harmful to try,” she said.
I agree with Dr. Quinlan, of course. Any woman who has used a heating pad during her period can attest to its effectiveness. But here’s the thing: heating pads are inexpensive — they can cost as low as $13. The Aika Black-T starts at $89 with the retail price jumping after early bird pledges sell out. You’re paying for an app and some elastic to keep the heating pad around your waist like a sad, less trendy fanny pack.
What further frustrates me about the Aika is its design. The company is trying to sell it as not only a practical medical item but also a fashionable, sexy device. Sexy! Okay, they never explicitly say sexy, but just look at this press photo:
They even put it in a fashion show:
As a woman with a period, I understand the demand for a heating pad and commend companies that want to promote and better women’s health. But Aika puts tech in a device that doesn’t need to exist. Sure, there’s a convenience factor to a wearable heating pad. Maybe women who stay home from work because of their pain could actually commute and work because of it. But with the lace, the company goes too far for me. Why does Aika have to sell its device on its sexiness?
Another company, my.Flow, attempted to create a smart tampon. That was also a bad idea. But decent ideas do exist to make periods more comfortable! The DivaCup was a major success, and I know lots of women who use it. The same goes for Thinx (it’s a shame about the poor leadership culture, though.) Tech companies should think more critically about why they’re creating female-focused products and what service they actually perform for women. Is your product genuinely useful, or are you attempting to profit off society’s idea that women should always be sexy, even when they’re bleeding from their vagina?