The Metamorphosis of Menstrual Pads

By Vinka (translated by Chuurur R)

Hi Nonas, as women, you must be familiar with the period product that we call menstrual or sanitary pads. The various types of menstrual products we have today are the result of thousands of years of evolution. Menstrual pads also have a long history in this world. Not unlike you Nonas, menstruation has graced women since the beginning of mankind. But, do you know how women overcome the continuous menstrual bleeding at the time? It's definitely different from the safe and comfortable modern sanitary pads we have now. Women in ancient times had to handle the menstrual bleeding with makeshift materials.

Ancient Times to the Middle Ages

Figure 1: Example of sponges that were used to make tampons in the past

Menstruation for women in ancient times was a terrible phase because during this time, the body and emotional conditions were considered unstable. Additionally, they had to deal with social situations that excluded them because many cultures considered menstruation as taboo and toxic. Moreover, there were threats to health due to the materials used to collect or absorb menstrual bleeding - their cleanliness was highly questionable. 

Written records of objects used to collect menstrual blood have been around since the 10th century. We can easily guess that the most common way is to use pieces of cloth; however, some women also used animal skins, papyrus, moss, sponges, paper, etc to manage their periods. According to Historia, ancient documents discovered in a small town in Tunisia, note that in the second decade of the 11th century, sanitary napkins were a traded commodity in the Mediterranean as written by S.D. Goitein in A Mediterranean Society,. Archaeologists even found old invoices used as proof of order for these goods. The use of cloth, cotton, and sponges as materials to collect/absorb menstrual blood eventually became common at that time. The menstrual products came in the form of aprons, tampons, and belts that help cloth to relocate menstrual blood. By 1867, these products included the first generation of menstrual cups, but the materials and shapes used were not as minimalist and comfortable as they are now. Unfortunately, that purchase of menstrual products was not very popular because menstruation was still considered a taboo subject ; women were embarrassed when purchasing them. Besides, some products were only accessible to the upper class. 

20th Century: Disposable Pads

Figure 2: Examples of old sanitary products from WWI

During World War I, nurses had no choice but to innovate and make disposable wound dressings to manage the bleeding of the soldiers due to the limited supply of cotton . The wound dressings were made of Sphagnum Moss. Besides obtainable and inexpensive (in its day), it is a useful plant with good absorptive and anti-bacterial properties. This plant served as the foundation for Cellucotton,  developed by Kimberly-Clark in 1918. It was later renamed to Kotex in 1920 taking the form of an elastic belt. The name Kotex itself comes from the word "Cot-tex" which stands for cotton-like texture. The product was the first cellulose-based, disposable menstrual pad to be mass marketed, adoption was slow and the Kotex was only widely accepted in 1926.

Figure 3: Kotex is the world's first disposable sanitary pads

21st Century: Safe, Comfortable & Eco-friendly Pads

Figure 4: Garbage dump full of plastic sanitary pads

In the 21st century, there are so many different types of menstrual products. Although generally safe and comfortable for daily use, sanitary pads contain potentially dangerous materials such as plastic, fragrance, adhesives, chlorine, and bleach that can cause long-term health problems from irritation to cancer. In addition, conventional pads are almost entirely made of plastic making them nearly impossible to be recycled and take centuries to decompose. They also contain chlorine from the bleaching process that causes water and soil pollution. 

Fortunately, Nona will launch menstrual sanitary pads soon! Not only safe, these sanitary pads are free of harmful chemicals, and comfortable when used. Nona are eco-friendly because they are made from organic cotton that has been clinically tested for sensitive skin. Stay tuned, Nonas!

To see more types of period from the past century, check out this video!

 

Sources:

Photo Sources:

  • Period in Culture
  • Paragram.id
  • National Geographic
  • Menstrual Cup Reviews

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