How One Physician Is Combating Period Poverty

Jay Lankau

February 14, 2022

As a teenager, Amber Robins, MD, had the idea of a way to deliver period pads to people's homes. In medical school, period panties started arriving in the marketplace as a more comfortable and sustainable alternative to tampons, but she felt they were still missing something essential: a place for the menstrual pad.

Dr Amber Robins

The idea sat in Robins' mind for a bit longer until more time presented itself, and unfortunately, that's what a global pandemic provided.

"During COVID, I just kind of took time to delve into those passions that I hadn't thought about in years," Robins tells Medscape Medical News. "That was when I started to look at the period panty again and coming up with a solution."

The result is the family medicine physician's new company, SANXTUARY MD, which recently released a product called the "My First Period Kit." The My First Period Kit includes a leak-resistant period panty, a meditation book, 10 SANXTUARY MD–created pads, an introduction to the brand's My Period University, and more.

SANXTUARY MD's My First Period Kit.

The product is a part of SANXTUARY MD's effort to educate young people and adults alike about their periods and menstrual cycles, demystifying what is sometimes considered a "taboo" topic. SANXTUARY MD's patent-pending period panty is designed specifically to hold a pad in place and is made using bamboo fabric that can hold up to five tampons' worth of liquid, according to the company.

"I went through the process of working with designers to help me figure out different fabrics, what would work and what wouldn't, the utility of the product, and later have a provisional patent on the product," said Robins.

In addition to period panties, SANXTUARY MD offers access to My Period University, a monthly subscription box that delivers eco-friendly menstrual pads and information that educates subscribers on how menstruation works, as well as how the body changes during puberty.

Alongside period education, My Period University also inspires with Career Queens, a feature of the subscription box that highlights accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, what inspired them, and how they got to where they are. My Period University is curated for people of all ages, according to Robins, so anyone looking for more education about menstruation, such as those trying for pregnancy, can benefit.

"That's a Part of Our Job in Medicine...Education"

Robins says that the education aspect is a vital part of her goal in creating SANXTUARY MD.

"That's a part of our job in medicine, to do that education, but we often don't have enough time to talk about [menstruation] with patients," Robins says. "It's recommended that people who start their periods meet with their doctor or an ob/gyn about it, but it doesn't happen as often as I would like, so this is another way to reach out to people where they are and build a community around it and be able to give back."

Another of SANXTUARY MD's goals is helping eliminate period poverty, which the company describes as "the inability to access menstrual hygiene products," especially in schools and homeless shelters in the US. Robins says SANXTUARY MD is in the process of developing the infrastructure to supply local schools with menstrual pads using a portion of profits when products are purchased from SANXTUARY MD.

It's clear that this isn't Robins' first foray into entrepreneurship. As a co-founder of Women in White Coats, a company focused on coaching and inspiring women doctors, Robins had an idea of what the process was going to be like. However, as a company that offers a specific product, SANXTUARY MD required something of a learning curve.

"I had to figure out [if this is] a comfortable product to wear, and then bring in the knowledge I have from seeing different patients. Is this something they can benefit from?" Robins says. "I didn't have any knowledge of the fashion industry or which fabrics would work well, so I had to do a lot of research."

Robins' desire to recreate the quality she seeks to provide to her patients informed her design of SANXTUARY MD's products. She says that this experience helped keep her focused and inspired during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been putting strain on medical professionals across the globe.

"It was fun to be able to think of other things besides COVID. It was my way of getting through the pandemic," she said.

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