How Women Dealt With Menstruation Before the Discovery of Menstrual Products by Teya Janelle Posted on September 29, 2016

Women in the past didn’t have too many options when it comes to career, lifestyle and yes, feminine products. In the modern 1920s, most women were hesitant to talk about sanitary protection.

Every girl today is lucky to have menstrual cups and sanitary pads available in stores. Their only concern is the disposal of such used products. 

Ever wondered how women survived the day without napkins or menstrual cups? Animal skins such as sheep skins, sea mosses and other pieces of clothing might be just one of the few things women used in the past.

Here are some interesting historical theories for you:

  • It wasn’t taboo to have blood stains on your dress or skirt. It was just a normal life experience. It was only until the discovery of sanitary pads and tampons did the society believed that menstrual blood should be invisible and having period stains could be embarrassing.
  • Some of our female ancestors didn’t wear napkins or cups. In fact, they just let the menstrual blood flow. Modern women now call it freedom.
  • There were menstrual huts and other private places where they can sit there and just bleed all day, which means that in the old times, it was an unproductive being a woman.
  • A menstruating woman in medieval Europe would also bring a small bouquet of flowers and sweet smelling herbs on other parts of her body specifically on her neck and waists just to counteract or neutralize the menstrual odor. Now we have scented sanitary pads and menstrual cups that prevent odor when you’re having your period. Women of today are indeed lucky so maybe we should stop complaining too much.
  • Complaining about menstrual cramps was not acceptable. It was a sin to complain and take pain relievers (which weren’t available at that time). According to religious belief, God wanted girls to feel their femininity and to be reminded about Eve’s original sin. Today we can complain all day, take heating pads or simply take a pain reliever to make the day productive.
  • If you were born in the past that means you would be menstruating with a trail of blood as you walked along the road, enjoying your femininity. Messy yet classic.
  • Some people in the medieval period would burn toads and put the ashes in a pouch so as to ease the heavy menstrual flow. 


So what did women use before the discovery of sanitary pads and other menstrual products?

Papyrus Plant

Papyrus plants were commonly grown in the hot and dry climate of Egypt. It was said that the ancient Egyptian women softened the papyrus and made the first tampons.

The sad thing about it was anything that a woman sat on was actually considered tainted and impure. The Egyptians were truly creative and resourceful.

Wooden sticks

It was mentioned that most Roman women were using small wooden sticks with bandage. They inserted the sticks into the vagina.

It was one of the earliest tampons, which means that you could insert anything inside your vagina as long as it can stop or block the menstrual flow. 

Rags

In the past, it seemed natural to use rags or layers of pieces of clothing to somehow deal with menstruation. Using rags wasn’t that inconvenient at that time because women before had shorter menstrual cycles.

They also didn’t experience heavy periods as compared to women of today’s generation perhaps because of the change in lifestyle and food habits.

Menstrual Apron Under Skirts

The aprons were worn basically to avoid period stains. Our female ancestors had washable linen worn with a girdle so it would hold the nappy in place under a woman’s skirt. 


Menstrual Belts

In the early 1900s, women dealt with menstruation by wearing menstrual belts. The menstrual belts have straps that were wrapped around the waist that let the pads be held in place by using clips. They were like the baby diapers used by mothers probably ten or fifteen years ago.


Norwegian Knitted Pads

Worn with belts, they were like knitted holders placed on the vagina to prevent period stains. They were washable knitted menstrual pads made in Norway during the 19th century. The knitted pads were actually cute and creatively made.

Applicated tampon

In 1929, a new type of tampon was created to respond to the needs of women to have a more convenient period. This tampon is designed to slide the diaphragm in the vagina without touching it.

The first sanitary napkin was inspired by French nurses using wood pulp bandages in collecting a woman’s menstrual flow. According to sources, in 1888, Kotex released its first advertisement.

After the popularity of napkins, the first menstrual cup was invented in the late 1930s, which is similar to the cup that most women are using today.


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