THE SHOCKING EVOLUTION OF PERIOD PRODUCTS
By Ashley @ Planned Parenthood | Feb. 25, 2016, 4:26 p.m.
If you’re anything like me, pads, tampons, underwear, reusable cloths or menstrual cups may not seem ideal or much to choose from when you’re on your period. In fact, WHY hasn’t anyone invented a better way to deal with periods after all this time?
What did women use before pads and tampons? It may be difficult to believe, but once upon a time none of these modern period products existed. Before the 1800s, women made do with softened papyrus leaves, lint wrapped around a stick, rolled up grass and sea sponges. If you’re not already feeling grateful for the products available today, read on.
After the 1800s, women faired slightly better with “rag bags” (hence the term rag) – yes, literally, a bag of rags that were washed and re-used. Then came the sanitary apron, which is quite similar to wearing a giant rubber diaper. Luckily, pads and tampons came along soon thereafter, but not without some constraints.
Before the 1970s, pads weren’t self-adhesive. I know, the HORROR! Yes, non-adhesive pads actually existed. Pads were either pinned to underwear or worn using a sanitary belt, which pads were clipped into or pinned to. Ouch? And yes, the experience was just bad as it sounds. Can you believe this was less than 40 years ago?
While tampons were actually patented in the 1930s, use did not become popular until the 1960s because people were afraid that using a tampon would cause them to lose their virginity. The menstrual cup was also invented around the same time, but did not become popular until the 1980s. That’s unfortunate.
The products available today may still not be perfect, but hey, at least there are options that don’t involve safety pinning your pad to your underwear. And better yet, those period products are only getting smarter – like the menstrual cup that texts you when it needs to be refreshed and period underwear made with moisture-wicking, antibacterial fabric that holds up to two tampons worth of liquid.
Today’s period products allow women who have access to them to live fairly normal, undisturbed lives when their period is around. For example, instead of wearing panty liners as a back up to my tampon and having to worry about leakage, I now wear period underwear on my heavier days. With the period underwear, I have absolutely no worries because even if my tampon leaks, my underwear is literally period-proof.
Although tech for women has boomed in the last few years, we still have a long way to go. While technology has vastly improved periods for women, there haven’t been any life-changing inventions in years and women are still paying an estimated $18,171 in their lifetime for period-related products. Continuing innovation and making period products more accessible (like, how about free of charge?) will only continue to normalize menstrual cycles and even the playing field between men and women.
Cheers to innovation and making your period that much easier to tolerate and work around. We can’t wait to see what types of cool period products the future holds.