Short History of Menstrual Cups - When Were They Invented?
We often receive emails from people who sing praises about Lunette and wish they would have known about menstrual cups sooner! We feel the same, and that's the driving force behind our hard work to spread the word. One thing might shock you - did you know that menstrual cups are actually an old invention?
In the USA, the first prototypes of menstrual cups, also known as catamenial sacks, were patented in 1860's and 1870's. The designs were inventive but most of them never made it on the market. The photo on the right shows a catamenial sack which was inserted into the vagina and was attached to a belt.
At the turn of the century, more internal devices for collecting menstrual flow were invented. Some of them were put inside the vagina and emptied without taking the device out. They had different kinds of valves.
The first modern menstrual cups, similar to the cups we know today, were invented in 1937 by American actress Leona Chalmers. She patented a design of menstrual cup which was made from latex rubber. Her patent application states that the design won't cause "uncomfortableness or consciousness of its presence." It also allowed women to wear "thin, light, close fitting clothing" without belts, pins or buckles that could show.
During World War II, a shortage of latex rubber occurred and the company was forced to stop production. After the war, in the early 1950's, Mrs. Chalmers made some improvements and patented new design.
The 1930's menstrual cup brand, "Tass-ette," was re-launched as "Tassette" in the end of 1950's with big advertising budget. The company sent thousands of samples to nurses who recommended it. Even though women had progressed since the 30's, women still weren't open to idea of using a menstrual cup. The idea of reusable internal protection was scandalous.
The Tassette company spent a fortune to market this innovation but only made a small amount of sales. Thus, it disappeared in 1963.
The biggest problem with the Tassette was that women didn't feel comfortable with the idea of emptying or cleaning the cup. Women who were happy with the product didn't need to repurchase another since it was reusable. So in the late 1960's, Tassette Inc. patented and started to manufacture a new disposable menstrual cup, "Tassaway," to compete with the emerging market of disposable menstrual products. At the time, the company spent too much on marketing and ended their business in the beginning of the 70's.
The only disposable menstrual cup sold throughout Europe including Finland in the 1970's was the Tassaway cup.
Menstrual cups were reintroduced in the late 1980's with the creation of "The Keeper." This cup is made from latex rubber and is still sold today.
In the beginning of 21st century a new material, medical grade silicone, was integrated into the design of many menstrual cups brands with great success. Now women with latex allergies could safely use menstrual cups.
Lunette's story started in 2005 when Heli Kurjanen, Lunette founder, launched a menstrual cup with improved design features and manufactured it in Finland from medical grade silicone. Unlike other menstrual cups, the Lunette cup is completely smooth on the inside which makes it much easier to clean. The tab is flat so no bacteria can gather there. The length, rim and shape are designed for maximum comfort and is compatible for a wider spectrum of women.
Pictures from USPTO patent applications and Tassette-ad from Museum of Menstruation, which Lunette highly recommends: mum.org