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World Menstrual Hygiene Day – Sanitary Napkins: What? When? Why? & How?

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Farzana Alam Piya

01Sanitary napkin (pad) is the most commonly used feminine hygiene product – an absorbent item used by women during menstrual cycle. Each year, Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed on 28th May globally to spread personal hygiene awareness among people, during menstrual cycle.

The idea of disposable pads was first designed by Benjamin Franklin in 1988. Later commercially manufacturing of pads was started from United States of America since 1921, with the brand: Kotex. The revolution of plastic has changed the entire nature of the sanitary napkin.

Raw Material for Sanitary Napkins:

02Structure of Sanitary Napkins

A sanitary napkin consists of 4 functional layers:

  1. Fluid Acquisition Layer/Top Sheet: This is the top layer of a sanitary napkin which is a perforated film. It fits comfortably, gives moisture to the skin and does not cling to the body. This layer transfers the liquid from the top layer to the secondary layer quickly and keeps the surface dry. It is generally made of polypropylene or polyethylene fibers.
  2. Distribution/Transfer Layer: This is the 2nd layer of sanitary napkin which spreads out the fluid, especially in the longitudinal direction, to increases the probability of more retention of fluid and also to ensure the better utilization of the product.
  3. Absorbent Layer: This is the 3rd layer and most important part of a sanitary napkin. This layer absorbs the flowing substance and retains it for a long period of time, avoiding back flow under pressure. It is generally made of polymeric open celled foam.
  4. Liquid Impervious Membrane: This is the bottom most layer of the sanitary napkin. This part is made of low density polyethylene film and acts as a barrier to prevent fluid from leaking.

How Sanitary Napkin Works 

Body fluid flows on the sanitary napkin vertically, keeping in contact with the first layer: Fluid Acquisition Layer. Then the fluid moves through the Fluid Acquisition Layer to the Distribution/Transfer Layer, without spreading in the facing layer. In Transfer Layer, fluid spreads horizontally then moves to the Absorbent Layer.  Once fluid reaches the absorbent layer, it is preserved in that layer, without reversing flow direction.

Manufacturing Process of Sanitary Napkins 

03Key Points about Sanitary Napkin

  • 04The interface between Fluid Acquisition Layer & Absorbent Layer:  To ensure a safe transfer of body fluid from the Fluid Acquisition Layer to the Absorbent Layer, intimate contact between the two layers is a must. Generally, the 1st Layer of a sanitary napkin Fluid Acquisition Layer is formed of hydrophobic fiber, on the other hand the Absorbent Layer is formed of hydrophilic fiber. If there is any gap between 2 layers, it will deflect the pattern of flow of liquid and liquid may spill out. So, the interface between these two layers should be as less as possible.
  • Compression of Absorbent Material: Fluffed cellulosic pulp or super absorbent fiber (SAP) is used for almost all sanitary napkins, as the core component of the absorbent material. Some brands use it in compressed form and some brands in uncompressed form. In time of absorption, a highly compressed fiber will expand while a lightly compressed fiber will get collapsed. To ensure maximum utilization of a sanitary napkin, high compression of absorbent material is essential.
  • Density: Density of a sanitary napkin influences significantly the capacity of fluid absorption and fluid retention. It also affects the stability of the product. So, the density of the sanitary napkin should be user friendly ensuring maximum utilization.

Indicators for Global Sanitary Napkin Market

  • 05The global market of sanitary napkin has reached a value of US$ 21.6 Billion in 2019 where the leading position is shared by Asia Pacific (Sanitary Napkin Market Research Report 2020-2025: com).  As the menstrual awareness is rising along with the monthly incomes and living standards of people in Asia Pacific, the demand of disposal sanitary napkin is getting higher in the region.
  • The Global sanitary napkin market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.2% by 2023, according to a report published by Gen Consulting Company
  • According to another statistic (Business Wire), the global sanitary napkins market size has the potential to grow by US $ 5.43 billion during 2020-2024, along with a CAGR of 6% with menstrual pads.

Sanitary Napkin Market Scenario in Bangladesh

  • According to national statistics, currently only 14% Bangladeshi (around 13 million) women use disposal sanitary napkins. They require 1-2 packets of disposal sanitary napkin per month which means the monthly demand of sanitary napkin is around 13-25 million packets.
  • Reports say that the annual market worth of the sanitary napkin industry (including adult diapers) in Bangladesh is around 400 Crore Taka (US $ 47.5 million), each year growing at a rate of 20%. (The Daily Star)
  • There are around 35 sanitary napkin brands available in Bangladesh. 90% market share of disposal sanitary napkins is hold by local brands and rest 10% by foreign brands.
  • Per-packet price of local sanitary napkin brands is 80-120 taka (US $ 1- $ 1.5) where each sanitary napkin costs 8-15 taka (US $ 0.1 – 0.2). On the other hand, per-packet price of exported sanitary napkin brands is 100-200 Taka (US $1.25- 2.5).
  • 85% of Bangladeshi (around 79 million) women use rags or old clothes during their menstrual cycle as they cannot afford disposable sanitary napkins. Manufacturing affordable disposal sanitary napkins can rise demand of disposal sanitary napkins and offer new market opportunities.
  • Square Toiletries Limited (STL), Bangladesh’s leading manufacturer and marketer of personal care, home care and health and hygiene products, holds more than 70% market share of disposal sanitary napkin.