Why FourthWear® Underwear?
Nyssa's co-founders, Mia, Aubrey, and Eden, gave birth within a year of each other and experienced a mix of vaginal and caesarean deliveries at varying levels of recovery. During this time, we learned that postpartum recovery (aka The Fourth Trimester) is considerably more physically and emotionally intense than we had anticipated or been made aware of— and that we weren’t alone! There are close to 4 million births each year in the U.S. Because so many aspects of Fourth Trimester recovery continue to be discussed in hushed tones, many people aren’t aware that almost everyone bleeds heavily for days, weeks, even months after giving birth. It is also a little known fact that over 90% of first-time mothers who give birth vaginally will experience tearing, which can range from minor (first degree) to debilitating (fourth degree). Ice is an essential support to help with pain relief.
Despite experiencing a range of vaginal traumas, we were each handed flimsy mesh undies, giant chemically-activated ice pack (with sharp corners and a plastic coating that makes blood and fluids flow right off of it!) and a handful of pee pads. Our nurses patiently showed us how to fold the pee pads to make a sumo-looking log. Then how to balance the ice pack on top of it and stuff it into the thin mesh underwear. Thus we each spent weeks and months shuffling around, trying not to let the ridiculous, appalling makeshift contraptions fall apart. All while learning how to wrangle and care for a newborn. When we came out of the other side, we knew we had to change things for the next wave of birthing people.
Ideation & Design:
Every person’s birth experience and recovery is unique. During our prototyping and ideation process for FourthWear® Underwear, we consulted many new mothers and birth professionals, including doulas, midwives, and OB-GYNs to ensure that our underwear could be as helpful as possible to as many people as possible.
In addition to creating a patent-pending design that enables you to insert an ice/heat pack over a caesarean incision site or in the vaginal/perineal area for consistent and effective cold/heat therapy, we selected a leak-resistent, super stretchy fabric and widened the gusset to better accommodate oversize pads.
After being in a hospital (for those who don’t give birth at home), it can feel pretty demoralizing to continue to wear the very clinical-looking mesh underwear. It makes you feel as though you are still a patient. We wanted our underwear to help women start to feel like ‘themselves’ again after going through a very intense physical and emotional experience, so we purposefully designed FourthWear® Underwear to look closer to something you might have worn before giving birth.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of different fabrics that we tried when initially prototyping! Our fabric (and product) needed to have four very important attributes: the ability to stretch (and recover) enough to accommodate a postpartum body, be incredibly soft and silky to the touch, have as little environmental impact as possible, and be able to securely hold an ice/heat press against the skin.
We tried everything: bamboo blends, Lyocell, organic cotton, charcoal coated fabrics, even wool! Though polyester can get a bad rap as some people associate it with being used in uncomfortable and rigid garments, the actual feel of the fabric is akin to a luxury athleisure product. To top it off, recycled polyester actually reduces the volume of plastics (like water bottles!) going to a landfill or our oceans (eight million metric tons of plastic per year enter the ocean, according to the Ocean Conservancy*, and around twenty-six million tons of plastic heads to landfills according to the US EPA).
Manufacturing in Mexico
Our initial production of FourthWear® Underwear began in Chicago, allowing us to keep a close eye on manufacturing and providing a direct path to sustainability (less travel to our fulfillment center = less gasoline used = better for the environment). As Nyssa grew, however, our Chicago manufacturers were no longer able to keep up with demand.
From the beginning, we have tried to juggle affordability with sustainability and conscientiousness. And as a certified women-owned business we feel strongly about supporting other women in business.
We recently moved our production to Gigafitness, a female-owned garment manufacturer in Guadalajara, Mexico. Through this move we were able to reduce our environmental footprint, as they produce every piece of the garment.
The best way to be sustainable is to reuse. That’s why we made sure that our packaging is designed to have a second life after you start using your FourthWear® Underwear.
Nyssa’s reusable and water-resistent pouch features a beautiful illustration created especially for Nyssa by U.K.-based artist Kit Agar, as well as a child-proof closure. It can be used to hold anything from make-up to diapers to FourthWear® Underwear waiting to be tossed into the wash.
We do everything we can to keep our product as affordable as possible while still maintaining a high quality of production. FourthWear® Underwear uses a slightly thicker, stretchier material compared to a standard pair of underwear. Technically, the design necessitates as much material as two pairs of underwear (an outer layer and inner layer to ensure that an ice/heat pack can be held securely anywhere within the garment).
Postpartum is beginning to be understood to last a full year after delivery. FourthWear ® Underwear is intended for use throughout that time, and beyond.
FourthWear® Underwear Care Instructions
FourthWear® Underwear can be laundered in a washer and dried in a dryer (we wouldn’t make new moms hand-wash their dirty postpartum underwear!). It should be laundered on low heat settings and a gentle cycle, without chlorine bleach, to preserve the stretchy bonding tape that keeps the pocket flexible and intact.
We started Women Werk as an effort to support women who are officially in retirement yet looking to make some additional income or who have been marginalized by the workforce because of age. It is central to our company values that we support women whose voices too often go unheard and whose experiences are still riddled with ‘unmentionables’— whether that be during postpartum, perimenopause and menopause, and beyond. Our Women Werk team currently consists of two sisters, Carolea and Anna, who help with the fulfilment of orders. We will be looking to hire more post-retired women and expand the platform as Nyssa grows.