Every few weeks someone e-mails me the latest vaginocentric Kickstarter campaign to review. I was first alerted to this week’s contestant, LOONCUP, by Morgan Shanahan from BuzzFeed. She asked my opinion and I will confess, I laughed out loud watching the video. Then I showed it to two more
OB/GYNs who shared my mix of WTF? Why? and Is this a Saturday Night Live commercial? And then we all felt sad, because people gave money for this.
Everything about the Loon Cup is wrong. Here’s why.
First, the idea that a woman needs to track the color of her menstrual blood or whether she had clots or know precisely her menstrual volume is incorrect. Some women get hung up on the color of the blood or whether there are clots (possibly because of this exact kind of misinformation), but they don’t signify anything medically. Knowing the precise amount of menstrual blood is also unnecessary and is a bit like missing the forest for not even the trees but grains of sand on the ground. It’s a level of detail that isn’t needed. Ever. If a woman is bleeding heavily she will tell her doctor she is soaking though her menstrual pad every hour for several hours or needs to wear a pad and a tampon to get through a movie. If you don’t have a low blood count (anemia) and you can go 2-3 hours between changing a menstrual product (not because it’s gross, but because it’s soaked) then your period isn’t too heavy medically.
Women can tell the color of their menstrual blood and if they have clots by looking at their pad/underwear/looking in the toilet/looking at the floor as they go between the toilet and the shower/standing in the shower. Thinking blue tooth technology will augment vision makes me wonder if anyone on the project has actually had a period or seen blood and if any women work at Kickstarter.
The cup can only communicate with your smart phone if the antenna is “just outside your body.” How far out? Just outside the vaginal opening at the vestibule or outside the labia? I can’t imagine that a flexible (I hope) antenna rubbing on the vestibule or labia will be anything but irritating or even painful (lots of nerve endings here!). I have a hard time imagining myself “Killing it at work” (LOONCUP’s words, not mine) all the while getting poked by a vaginal antenna, never mind swimming or sitting on an bike. I mean really. Also, given the rendering and prototype it looks like the cup will have to sit very low in the vagina for the antenna to stick out and this will also be uncomfortable. Will this be affected by body size as women who are overweight often have larger labia majora?
I am concerned about the design. I see they have a video that shows insertion and removal technique, but the prototype looks like a modified version of a cup already on the market. Real world insertion isn’t always a slick fold ‘n pop, so what if you crunch the antenna?
How can they claim it is safe when it hasn’t been tested? What if the antenna gets exposed or the battery?
The battery lasts 6 months so if you want to keep tracking this unnecessary information you will need to buy one twice a year. Take good care of your regular menstrual cup and you might get 2-3 years (or even more).
The big bonus of menstrual cups is that they reduce the landfill of pads and tampons, but the LOONCUP will add to the environmental footprint of a menstrual cup not only by the number needed (4-6 for each DivaCup), but the added antenna and battery discarded with each cup.
As L.V. Anderson from Slate points out menstrual cups are FDA regulated as Class II medical devices. To get approved for sale in the United States the makers will have to prove it is equivalent to what’s on the market, but it isn’t so it will require approval. Approval requires a lot more money than what they have raised so far on Kickstarter. I doubt any US backers who pledged $30 or more will actually get the cup they were promised before they reach menopause for this reason.
Not being able to boil it for cleaning isn’t a big deal. We tell women to clean pessaries and vibrators with soap and water, but I’m not sure how a blue tooth antenna will hold up to twice a day soap and water for 6 days or so each month. Little nicks in the tip where the antenna will supposedly sit are bound to happen.
The only potential application might be research, but they would likely have to pay women to wear it given the protruding antenna. Currently when we study menstrual blood loss we weigh pads before and after and that works pretty well. Could this cup be better? Who knows.
I’m all for people funding whatever they want for whatever reason, but by selecting LOONCUP as a “staff pick” Kickstarter have shown they have little concern about whether a product can even go to market (never mind be safe or work). Perhaps they are more concerned about their 5% or PR because when you mix vagina and tech it seems like the perfect recipe for attention.
My opinion is the LOONCUP is an answer to a question no one is asking (or needs to ask) and has some potential comfort and safety concerns and the chance it will come to market is very slim.