I Tried These Pads To Ease My Period Cramps — Here's What Happened

Photographed by Ruby Woodhouse.
As an unwilling member of the Terribly Painful Period Cramps Club, it's pretty much a given that I spend at least two days of the month doubled over in bed, willing to do anything to make my cramps stop.
So when a brand called NannoCare came out with a line of pads that claimed to minimise cramps, I was, to say the least, curious — and a little dubious.
On its website, NannoCare claims that the NannoPad is infused with "Nannogenic technology" that "takes safe, lab tested compounds and breaks them into nanoparticles, which are then embedded into the NannoPad via natural fibres." Those compounds, in turn, are supposed to "naturally and safely release the needed amount of energy that helps microcirculation, resulting in a decrease of menstrual discomfort without the use of drugs or medication."
I wasn't the only one who was skeptical. Shortly after news about the product went around, renowned OB/GYN Jen Gunter, MD (of the Goop takedowns) weighed in on the pads, raising the concern that it isn't clear what exactly is in these pads. Plus, they're not FDA-approved yet.
"Medically speaking there is no 'energy' from the earth that impacts the flow of blood in the uterine blood vessels or that can treat painful periods," Gunter wrote in a blog post. "The idea that a pad can treat period pain is ridiculous."
Still, after getting a sample, I decided to try them out myself. Per the instructions, I wore the liners a few days before getting my period, which NannoCare says is meant to "keep the discomfort under control, and lessen the need for painkillers." Then during my actual period, I used the regular NannoPads, which were about the size of a light-day pad, except with a dark strip underneath the first layer that I assume is filled with the "elements" NannoCare mentioned (but honestly looked more like a pore strip).
In a statement to Refinery29, a NannoCare spokesperson says that the strip in the pad is made of "100% biodegradable natural plant fibers, and the strip is covered by a layer of organic cotton," and "nano particles used in Nannogenics proprietary blend are firmly woven into the natural fibres."

It would be wonderful for patients with bad cramps to have non-medicated methods [to reduce pain].

Carolyn Alexander, MD, FACOG
As much as I wish I could say NannoPads really did lessen my need for painkillers, that wasn't the case. In the first few days of my period, I was still writhing in pain, downing Advil every few hours.
"Every woman's body is vastly different and being that our solution is natural and not drug based, individual outcomes vary based on the person, and can be effected by many factors," the spokesperson says.
But besides the concern that they might not actually help with cramps, Carolyn Alexander, MD, FACOG, a physician at the Southern California Reproductive Center, raised the issue that not knowing what's actually in the pads might be unsafe for some to use. She says that uncommon strains of bacteria in a pad might cause urinary tract infections, and in extreme cases, kidney or bladder infections.
"The pH of the vagina is very sensitive, so something new would have to be tested for pH balance," Dr. Alexander adds. "The vagina is also an area that has a symbiosis of all different types of bacteria and if you add in new things, that could be bad for certain people."
For their part, NannoCare's spokesperson says that the "elements" used in the strip are safe, and made in an FDA-approved facility using the same safety standards as brands like as Kotex and Always.
But, the spokesperson goes on to say: "Nannocare has a pending patent, so we cannot release the exact contents of the compounds, but there are traces of minerals that naturally produce negative ions and infrared energy." Which, to be honest, isn't super comforting to hear after I've spent over a week using them in an extremely intimate capacity.
It's not that it's a wholly bad idea to want to help people reduce pain from cramps, but Dr. Alexander says that NannoPads would need more testing (and FDA approval) to make sure that they work the way they're supposed to.
"It would be wonderful for patients with bad cramps to have non-medicated methods [to reduce pain], but we would need proper studies to demonstrate safety and efficacy of such a thing," she says.
In the meantime, there are definitely some tried-and-true methods of easing your menstrual cramps, like painkillers, heating pads, and even yoga.
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