While periods are certainly still no great, fun thing, we should all be thankful we are experiencing them in today’s modern era. Being a bleeding woman way back when was a much harder experience and the options for containing the flow not only more limited but less desirable.
Let us start by looking way back to medieval times. While there is not too much documentation (all those monks and scribes did not want to spend their transcription time writing about women’s troubles) it is generally concluded by the academic community that there were two general options women used: One, they used rags or absorbent materials to catch the blood (interestingly enough, that is where the term ‘on the rag’ comes from) or two, they often opted to simply bleed right into their clothes.
Along with the admittedly poor options for dealing with the bleeding aspect of having a period, there was, of course, religious and superstitious shames associated with menstruating women and so most ladies would minimize their presence during their time each month, carry nosegays to mask the scent of blood and turn to homeopathic remedies such as powdered toad (please note this is not an actual, scientifically proven method you should try) to hopefully lighten their flow.
Jumping ahead to the 1700s and 1800s, as hoop skirts came more and more into fashion and women found themselves encircled in – and protected by – layers upon layers of clothing, the general consensus was simply to wear crotchless underwear and bleed freely into one’s dress.
By the late 1800s, however, concerns around how sanitary that practice was, began to arise and the Hoosier sanitary belt hit the market.
With adjustable straps akin to garters, this contraption was buckled around the waist under a woman’s skirts and washable pads could be attached to a belt to catch the blood – a very early concept of panty liners and pads.
Just a decade later, then, the first disposable menstruation pads became available via Johnson & Johnson. Nurses, too, started using wool pulp bandages from hospitals as pads due to the highly absorbent nature of the material.
As we approached the 1930s, the first tampon was made available and it really took off. For the next few decades, improvements were continually made to make pads thinner and more absorbent and tampons smaller and stronger. Adhesive was added to the backs of pads to keep them in place on the underwear and companies were constantly innovating to catch leaks.
Now, in the 21st century, we have the next step in period protection with leak-proof panties (such as PantyProp’s) that catch and trap leaks while also being all natural (unlike a tampon which can pose risks, especially toxic shock) and are washable and reusable (instead of disposable pads) and an easy, comfy one-step solution for catching the flow. Man, thank goodness for modern times and modern solutions!