The Evolution of Sanitary Pads
Posted byMartha Garcia
Research indicates that most cultures traditionally have not recorded information concerning menstruation or how women handled their periods. But let’s be honest: historically, most record keeping was done by men. What guy was interested in sanitary pads or preserving the details of how to keep the toga from becoming blood stained or how heavy the flow was?
But here are some things we do know about how women have dealt with their periods through the ages.
There are some historical indications of what women used to collect the blood during menstruation. In ancient Egypt, females used papyrus that was soaked in the Nile River to soften it to help absorb the blood, says St. Vincent.1
To keep their pristine togas white, Grecians wrapped splinters of wood in cotton and used that to collect the blood (ouch).
Some scholars report 18th and 19th century English and German women were simply encouraged to bleed into their clothes. By the 1850s, women fashioned the first “maxi pad” out of bandages, sacks, elastic, buttons and wire. Those were often reused month after month. Femme International notes the first disposable pad was invented in 1888.2
World War I
At the turn of the 20th century, women often used sanitary aprons, describes Stuff Mom Never Told You.3 These devices were less used to collect menstrual blood and more to protect clothing. They were worn under skirts and dresses and tied around the waist. There is no wonder the feminine care industry evolved to more sophisticated menstrual protection methods.
Another option during this time were period bloomers. These panty-like garments were like a large rubber-coated diaper. They kept women leak- and stain-free, but not very sanitary, considering they weren’t breathable.
By World War I, French nurses began using cellulose bandages as maxi pads. This gave rise to the menstrual belt, a special underwear with hooks or clasps to hold rags or a pocket in which to stuff the gauze. Menstrual belts were widely sold until the mid-20th century when the industry began to change after the invention of maxi pads, tampons and menstrual cups. In 1970, the first maxi pad with adhesive was invented, obliterating the need for a menstrual belt, leading to the period options we know today.
Options Available to the Modern-Day Gal
Nowadays, period protection isn’t taboo like it was hundreds of years ago. Women have more options than ever before, including all-natural feminine care products, menstrual cups, tampons, and sanitary pads with wings and adhesive backings, all available in the colors of the rainbow. The newest invention, period-proof panties, can even collect up to two tampons’ worth of blood, says Seventeen.4
Luckily, ladies no longer have to worry about wool, moss, animal skins or splinters (seriously, ow.), so they can turn their attention toward more important things.
1“Menstrual cycles through the ages: A brief history of your period.” St. Vincent. http://www.3384her.com/2012/12/menstrual-cycles-through-the-ages-a-brief-history-of-your-period/.
2“The History of the Sanitary Pad.” Femme International. June 24, 2013. https://www.femmeinternational.org/the-history-of-the-sanitary-pad/.
3Conger, Cristen. “A Brief History of Period Panties.” Stuff Mom Never Told You. January 23, 2015. http://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/blogs/a-brief-history-of-period-panties.htm.
4Denton, Elizabeth. “I Tried Free Bleeding Into Period Panties and This Is What Happened.” Seventeen. April 7, 2016. http://www.seventeen.com/health/sex-health/a39337/i-free-bled-into-period-panties-and-this-is-what-happened/.
- Posted by Martha Garcia
- On May 23, 2017