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Period Management Through the Eras

Today we have a large range of options to choose from when it comes to period products; cloth pads, disposable pads, menstrual cups, period undies and more! But it hasn’t always been this way, let’s take a look at how period management has progressed through the eras. It's very interesting to go back in history to see how we ended up with the menstrual, maternity and incontinence products we have now. 

It's fascinating to know how menstrual products have evolved over time.

Ancient times

In the ancient times periods were dealt with using materials such as wood, moss, animal skins and grass #allnatural

Early 1700s

Most women used old rags and would wash and reuse them. Women who lived on farms used sheepskin to aid their periods and would boil it clean after each use. While women who needed to travel made piles of cheesecloth sacks that were stuffed with flattened cotton. The cotton would be disposed off and replaced into the reusable cloth sack.


People developed patents for period products. Women used sanitary aprons made of waterproof materials that were worn underneath their dresses to protect them from leaks and stains. There were also pieces of rubber that were worn over the butt between bloomers and skirt so then you sat down, there was a rubber barrier. Both these methods were used to prevent stains instead of absorbing the blood. Women also pinned cotton and flannel into their bloomers.


Sanitary apron in the 1850s 



The first sanitary pad called Lister’s Towel was available for sale, however, it failed horribly as everyone was embarrassed to talk about menstruation openly to accept this form of period management.


Kotex sold the first pad made of Cellulose, a material used for bandages during the war.


There was a patent for the first menstrual belt to keep sheets of fabric and inserts in place front and back.

 Sanitary belt of the 1920s



The first reusable menstrual cup is produced and the first modern tampon is made from cardboard and cotton, complete with an applicator. The tampons were sold and branded as Tampax however they were advertised for married women only as it was believed virginity is lost with the insertion method. 


The first pad with an adhesive strip is put on the market by Stayfree. This was a gamechanger and put an end to menstrual belts. 

 Disposable pads dominated the world's market with all different sizes and absorbency levels. 


The first pad with wings is seen on the market. Got to get that pad securely stuck on!


Rely tampons were sold on the market, the outside was made from polyester and the inside contained polyester foam cubes with carboxymethyl cellulose, a thickening agent. However, these tampons caused problems as the synthetic materials was a breeding ground for staphylococcus, a bacteria which causes toxic shock syndrome. Rely tampons were recalled due to the TSS risk.


A surge in popularity for reusable menstrual cups made of materials such as latex and silicone. 

 Menstrual cups comes in all shapes, sizes, firmness and even colours.


Slowly but surely there is less taboo around menstruation but there is still more education needed around the world to tackle issues of period poverty, stigma and myths. The inventions throughout history for better period management tried and tested has certainly led us to the modernised versions we have today. These products include reusable cloth pads, reusable tampons, disposable pads, tampons, menstrual cups, sea sponges and period underwear. 

Would you consider reusable menstrual products moving forward?


September 30, 2018 — hannahpad NZ