Period Practices

#NSFB: Not safe for boys.  Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.  


Ladies, I am in no way saying that that time of the month is not a struggle.  For many women, it is a time of pain, uncomfort, and, for lack of a better word, ickiness.  But in many ways, we have it good – just hear me out.

The other day my friend and I were talking about different way to handle period cramps: midol, heating pads, pressure points, among others.  In light of this conversation, I began to wonder how women dealt with menstruation historically before tampax and Dove Chocolate.  So here is a brief timeline and some interesting facts that I found.


  • Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans  The egyptians used softened papyrus as tampons, Greeks made tampons out of lint wrapped around small pieces of wood, and the Romans made tampons out of soft wool.
  • Biblical Times  When women were on their periods they had to be separated from the men.  They were considered to be unpure as was anything that they touched.  (Book suggestion: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant)
  • 1831 France  Menstruation is linked to ovulation by Charles Négrier
  • 19th Century  Until the late 19th century, it was very common for women to wear home made pads if they wore anything at all.  It isn’t until the late 19th century that women began wearing menstrual pads.
  • 1870’s  Menstrual pads become commercially available.  They are reusable and held up by belts or straps.
  • 1890’s  The first disposable pads are available but are not used by many.
  • 1931 Tampons become commercially available in the United States.
  • 1937  The first menstrual cups are introduced by fail.
  • 1970’s  The self-adhesive pad is introduced.
  • 1980’s  Menstrual cups are introduced again and this time are more successful.  Also, Toxic Shock Syndrome from tampons becomes a concern for many.

Fun Facts:

  • A woman will spend approximately 3,500 days menstruating.
  • Woman may use nearly 11,400 tampons in their lifetime.
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume was published in 1970.  It was the first book to discuss a girl’s first menstruation in a fictional storyline.
  • Throughout history, menstrual blood has been seen by many as sacred and thus has been used in different sacrifices, rituals, remedies, and different practices.
  • Before self adhesive pads and tampons, belts were used to hold pads.
  • Women were not allowed to work in certain industries (mainly food and opium) out of fear that during menstruation they would spoil the food!
  • For much of history, women did not wear any form of pad or tampon during their period and instead would allow themselves to bleed onto their clothes and even the floor.  The floors of factories were covered in hay to catch menstrual blood and women thought that men would find it attractive because it was a sign of fertility.
  • Women who complained of menstrual cramps were sent to psychiatrists at certain points in history because menstrual cramps were seen as a rejection of one’s femininity.
  • Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam all prohibit sex during menstruation.
  • There is a short Disney film about menstruation called “The Story of Menstruation.”  Posted below!


Disney’s 1946 film “The Story of Menstruation”

More information:


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