Concerned about the fact that she and most women experience pain during their menstrual period, 26-year-old Montrealer Nanette Sene created a portable prototype to relieve dysmenorrhea, or painful periods, which has earned her a prestigious award.
Sene, who has a master's degree in industrial engineering from Polytechnique Montréal, was awarded the Social Entrepreneurship Award (and a cheque for $5,000) by Mitac, a non-profit organization that supports various innovation initiatives in Canada.
“I'm proud, and I'm really happy, especially because we won in the social innovation category,” said Sene. "We always said that our problem is a societal problem, because it affects almost 50% of the population.”
Co-founder and president of Juno Technologies, Sene has been working on this prototype for two years—a portable, wireless device that can be worn under clothing at the lower abdomen level. “Our goal is to be an alternative to and complementary to drugs, because there are some who use drugs for whom it is not enough,” she explains, adding that she is currently taking steps to patent the technology and can’t reveal more details.
"Basically, it's a problem that affects me and my co-founder [Lynn Doughane], so we always say that if nothing works out in the end, if we already have a solution for both of us, we'll be happy,” she says.
The two women surrounded themselves with engineers, advisers and mentors. As they are creating a medical device, they want to ensure they can obtain certification from Health Canada before marketing, which is a long process.
The next few months will be critical for Juno Technologies, as the company's founders plan to complete the first version of their device. They will then carry out their first tests with 30 to 50 patients in Lebanon, Doughane’s country of origin.
The journey has not been without its pitfalls. “For us, what was hardest in the beginning was the fact that there is very little information about menstrual pain in studies, in research, in the literature,” says Sene.
Yet up to 30% of women suffer from menstrual pain considered severe or serious, explains Dr. Valérie To, gynecologist at the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l'Île-de-Montréal.
Menstrual pain can have many causes, and “endometriosis is probably the most common,” says Dr. To. It is a chronic condition that occurs when cells that should be inside the uterus are in the belly.
“We know that menstrual pain and pelvic pain can affect work productivity, and cause absenteeism. It is also important to include . . . teenage girls and young adults who go to school,” she says.
While some countries such as Spain have implemented menstrual leave, Dr. To says her priority is access to care. "What's really important is for these women to be seen by a doctor, to be assessed, to try to figure out what's causing the pain and to start treatment to help them improve their quality of life," she says.
This article has been translated from its original French and first appeared on our sister site Profession Santé.