8 Fascinating History Facts You Didn’t Know About Periods

What is the history of menstruation?

The truth is that there’s very little historical information on how women and society have dealt with their periods.

While in ancient times women’s menstrual blood was seen as magical, the topic has ever since remained a taboo across different cultures. In general, women’s periods tend to be seen by both women and men as something disgusting and shameful, rather than a nature’s gift.

In some rural areas of India, for instance, women are still perceived today as dirty and impure when experiencing their period. Recent period poverty initiatives have tried to revert the stigma and provide proper hygiene and menstrual education for girls and women.

Let’s have a look at some historical and interesting facts about periods.

Periods in Ancient Times

We know very little about how women managed their periods in ancient times. From the information we have, we can say periods were associated with sorcery and magical properties.

In some cultures, these properties were seen as positive and welcoming. Women would be seen as sacred and retreat to places where they could go inward and tap into their intuitive abilities.

In other cultures, however, women going through their period were seen as dangerous and dirty. Their menstrual blood was said to be able to turn itself into poison or even animals such as snakes and insects.

Periods in the Middle Ages

It seems that in the medieval age, women used to bleed into their clothes and use nice-smelling herbs around their necks and waists so that they could disguise the odour of blood.

Mind you that hygiene and cleanliness weren’t exactly a concern or a priority back then. People would wear the same clothes for many days. The fact women bled into their clothes didn’t change that.

Periods in the 19th Century

In the nineteenth century, a german doctor started to raise awareness of how unsanitary and dangerous it was to bleed and use the same piece of clothing for four or eight days in a row.

Around this same time, the Hoosier Sanitary Belt was introduced in the market. As the name suggests, this was a belt-like invention with washable pads that women could use around their waist.

The first disposable and commercial pad would then emerge in 1888, developed by Johnson & Johnson.

Periods in the 20th Century

The first tampon was invented in 1929 by Dr Earle Haas. Oddly enough, women had to purchase this type of product by discretely putting money into a box at the store instead of buying it directly from the salesperson.

As time passed, pads became more absorbent, in order to avoid leaks. They have also become more adapted to women’s underwear and experience.

Access to these products became easier for women in developed countries. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about impoverished areas and/or developing countries.

Periods in the 21st Century

Although menstrual cups were invented in the 1930s, they only became a hit at the beginning of this century. Their perceived value came essentially from the fact that they are a more ecological alternative to pads and tampons.

Some companies have also answered women’s requests for more organic products and 100% cotton pads are also available today. More recently (2016), menstrual discs have also been introduced into the market. They have the same function as menstrual cups but have a slightly different shape.

Concluding Thoughts

These menstruation history facts let us know that we came a long way in matters of reducing stigma and shame associated with periods. Today, women have more alternatives to deal with and manage their menstruation.

We can’t forget that this is not a shared reality by every girl and woman on the planet, but we are beginning to be more conscious of concepts such as period poverty and taking action to increase access to menstrual hygiene products and education.

It is worthwhile to note that there is now more emphasis on developing products that protect both women’s and the environment’s health. More recently, reusable organic pads are becoming a huge success among women and I personally recommend them as a healthier and safer alternative.

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16 Comments

  1. Ron says:

    What a fascinating read this is. I teach about the menstrual cycle but only the biological side of what happens to the body, but the history behind it which you have shared is great to know. This will go a long in reducing the stigma and shame associated with periods.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this recap on menstrual facts over the centuries, we women go through so much when it comes to menstruation. Boy oh boy
    …God really made us unique and strong.

    Like

  3. What an interesting post! I loved the historical theme to the post . It’s interesting that it is only recently that we are starting to look at the ecological significance of the products we use.

    Like

  4. Interesting read.. I think, when I noticed this being an upcoming YouTube video on your channel, I was curious how periods were treated in the ancient times.. There really isn’t that much information about that, is there? Interestingly enough, I think that periods are being examined more and more these days, to the point now where people will track their period alongside how productive they are or the magical properties of using their own period blood.. apparently, from a book that I had read, period blood is a good fertiliser, believe it not.. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved this post! It’s actually so strange that many of us (including me up to reading this) have no idea how women used to deal with their periods and how periods were perceived, since it’s such a huge influence on our lives.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. True story 😅 Some of us were already born when the disposable pads were already here! I do know my grandmother’s generation didn’t have access to them. They used cotton cloths folded a couple of times as pads. It’s amazing!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes, it seems like there is very little information! Some say it’s because men were the ones allowed to write History, haha. There is a good boom of people and new companies interested in exploring and taking menstrual education a step further. It surely puts the subject on the table. In ancient times they would use menstrual blood for that purpose. At least those who didn’t see it as evil or dangerous 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s a shame today that some cultures still see women as dirty and unclean because they have their periods

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the world is not always on the same page, sadly. We tend to forget that!

      Like

  6. A really interesting post to read, it was fascinating to read about the history of the menstrual cycle and the products that have been used and ones that are used today! x

    Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lucy. I’m happy you found this historical facts about menstruation interesting! x

      Like

  7. thriftplanenjoyd34977dd4e says:

    This is such an interesting post. Thank you for outlining the history. We are lucky really to have the products available today. Although I do want to try some reusable products.

    Like

  8. Well, as a woman I thought I knew everything about periods. And you still surprised me, I really haven’t thought about history that much. I did know enough to appreciate the options we have today, but you really went in deep here 🙂

    Like

  9. Cassie says:

    Fascinating! I’ve wondered about how women handled their periods historically. I came from a home and sort of a time when you just didn’t discuss it. I am hoping to change that with my daughter because I am not thrilled with the stigma. It’s great that the options and awareness and acceptance is growing. It’s a part of life that we have to deal with and I am thankful not to have been dealing with it in the olden days. I really appreciate this lesson. So interesting.

    Like

  10. AmethystAP says:

    Such an interesting read. It’s fascinating to learn about how women use to deal with period long ago and the perspective of society on period back then. Thankfully now, menstrual products are more available and the negative stigma about menstration is being challenged. Hopefully soon every menstrating person will have easy access to menstrual products and the shame around a natural bodily experience will be eliminated.

    Like

  11. Blogs by J says:

    I love the history that you added in! You have shared lots of info that I didn’t know, thank you for that!

    Like

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