The History of Menstrual Cups

THE Menstrual Cup is not a new phenomenon. In as much as the idea is fairly new in Zimbabwe and only came onto the picture in 2016 after being cleared by the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) to be distributed by The Butterfly Cup Company, the menstrual cup is actually and tried a tested method of managing menstrual hygiene in the first world countries.

So the first big question one might have in mind is “Where have these amazing devices come from?

The first menstrual cup to be patented was designed by a woman called Leona Chalmers, in 1937. An American actress who is now probably more famous for her innovation than her acting.

There were two major factors that influenced the uptake of the menstrual cup. World War 2 saw the devastation of the rubber supply which halted production and women of the era were simply not comfortable to become so intimately involved with their body. And so it was that for a further period of history, sanitary pads remained the preferred choice of sanitary wear.

Skip forward to the 1980’s and another American company emerged onto the sanitary wear market with The Keeper cup. Over the next twenty years there was a growing awareness of the toxic waste disposable pads and tampons were creating and the devastating effects their plastic components were having on the planet.

Concerned women wanted to reduce their sanitary wear foot print on the earth (The average woman will throw away over 11 thousand pieces of disposable sanitary wear during her lifetime.) and this created a demand for more menstrual cups.

Today there are hundreds of different brands made all over the world from the Ruby Cup in USA to the Moon Cup in the UK, the Fleur Cup in France and the M Power cup in SA. All of these cups are made from medical grade silicone, a substance that has been widely used in surgery and medicine for over 50 years because of its safety and stability.

In 2016 it was realized what an extraordinary difference could be made to the lives of women and girls in Zimbabwe if they had access to a menstrual cup.

After much investigation, research and with an ethical trial, published in a S A medical journal to establish its uptake and acceptability ,the approval of the Ministry of Health and Child Care was given to The Butterfly Cup Co for the sale and distribution of the Butterfly Menstrual cup in Zimbabwe.

(Ethical Trial conducted by Dr Mugove G Madziyire MMED O&G, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Zimbabwe, College of Health Science, published in Womens Reproductive Health Magazine: ISSN: 2329-3691 (Print) 2329-3713 (Online) Journal homepage:


Forty-four (81%), 51 (96%), and 52 (100%) participants reported that they did not experience discomfort during cup insertion in the first, second, and third menstrual cycles, respectively.

Forty-four (81%), 52 (98%), and 52 (100%) participants did not experience discomfort during their daily activity while using the cup in the first, second, and third cycles, respectively.

Forty-four (81%), 48 (90%), and 51 (98%) participants did not experience an increase or emergence of period pain (not previously experienced) while using the cup in the first, second, and third cycles, respectively. Only three (6%) participants experienced leakage in the first and second cycle, whereas only one (2%) experienced leakage in the third cycle. (94%) of the participants found the menstrual cup easy to maintain.

The majority of participants (56%) preferred sterilizing solution over boiling by the third cycle. Seven participants experienced mild, two experienced moderate, and one experienced severe discomfort during insertion in the first cycle, and only one experienced mild discomfort in the second cycle.

The majority of the 54 participants who had been trained to use the menstrual cup found it acceptable and easy to maintain, and they were willing to use it beyond the third menstrual cycle.

The trial has now been followed for 12 months with similar results being obtained. The report will be published later this year.







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