Menstrual cups might not have the same mainstream visibility as disposable pads or tampons, but they do have a long history, as well as a hardcore following. Some version of the menstrual cup has been around for nearly a century, which means it's time to disrupt it — at least, if a team of Silicon Valley-type entrepreneurs has anything to say about it.
Enter LOONCUP, a medical-grade silicone "period partner" that's being marketed as the world's first-ever smart menstrual cup. The reusable product, which is currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter, syncs with a corresponding app via Bluetooth, tracking details like the volume and color of your menstrual fluid over time. Yes, that's correct: You can quantify your workouts, you can quantify your sex life and now, you can quantify your period.
So how does this actually work? According to Kate Lee, one of Looncup's developers, three tiny, advanced sensors in the cup measure its position and slope, as well as its mass. Lee told Mic that the sensors will allow the cup to quantify your menstrual flow and determine when it's reached capacity. It will then send push notifications through the app (available for the iPhone or Apple Watch), which will help women determine if their cups overfloweth before they ruin another pair of underwear.
As far as tracking color is concerned, Lee said the cup is embedded with RGB color sensors, which can determine "how fresh or how old the blood being discharged is." (Dark brown blood, or "old blood" from your leftover uterine lining, is typically shed at the beginning of your cycle, while brighter red blood usually marks the middle of a cycle.) Lee claims that the color of your period blood can be indicative of other health issues, such as uterine fibroids.
"We believe making the Looncup smart — data tracking enabled, quantifiable — will allow women to more accurately track and analyze their flow to catch early warning signs of premature ovarian failure and myoma [fibroids]," Lee said. "Right now, it's quite difficult to keep track of increases or decreases in fluid volume, and we believe providing women the tools to better monitor and understand their changing menstruation will be highly beneficial for disease, hormonal and other body change detection."
Lee hopes that in the future, Looncup will be able to monitor "illnesses such as diabetes, anemia, hypertension, bacterial infection and viral infection" — all by tracking a woman's monthly flow.
If that sounds either bizarre or a little too good to be true, that's because it very well might be both. First of all, Looncup's "smart" tracking technology might only be available for a brief period of time. While the Looncup, like other menstrual cups, is reusable after more than one cycle, its tracking mechanism can't last forever. The cup's battery lasts up to six months, according to the developers, but it is't rechargeable and can't be replaced. So while the cup itself might last for years, it'll lose its smart tracking function pretty quickly.
Whether or not Looncup can achieve its own stated goal of helping women better understand their own periods is also up for debate. By quantifying menstruation and theoretically allowing women to track their flow in real time on their phones, the cup arguably could remove users' natural engagement with their own bodies. However, it could also provide valuable insights women might otherwise fail to notice about the changes in their cycles.
Regardless of whether you see this particular menstrual cup as half full or half empty, a number of women already seem to be on board: Looncup's developers have currently received more than half of their $50,000 crowdfunding goal. They ultimately plan to sell the Looncup for $30 to $40, a price point comparable to that of other reusables such as the DivaCup, Lily Cup, Mooncup or Lunette. But if it delivers on its promise, it has the potential to be a slightly better offer — at least as long as the battery, and not just the cup, stays full.