history

11 Bizarre Ways Women Dealt With Their Periods Throughout History

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

A woman’s “time of the month,” also known more scientifically as menstruation, has never been an easy topic to tackle for most folks.

Of course, it’s not just talking about our periods that can get uncomfortable — cramps, bloating, tenderness, hormonal swings, and more are all part of the fun package women’s bodies greet them with every few weeks. How many of those side effects a woman endures will vary from person to person, but there’s no escaping the biological rite of passage.

Which made me wonder: What did ladies do back in the day when their “Aunt Flow” came to visit? They obviously couldn’t just pop over to their corner drug store for some sanitary napkins or tampons to keep themselves tidy. It’s shocking how little people from the past really knew about the female body.

Take a look to see some of the most bizarre methods from history, and let us know if we missed anything you remember hearing about.

And don’t forget to SHARE these strange period practices with your friends!

[H/T: Metro, Sugarscape, Gurl]

Thumbnail source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Hippocrates' Tampon

1. Hippocrates' Tampon

The philosopher may have been one of the smartest minds of his time, but I don’t know how much women loved his early idea of a tampon made out of lint fixed to a small piece of wood. They also used this as contraceptive.

I just hope there weren’t any issues with splinters…

2. Ancient Roman Wooly Witches

2. Ancient Roman Wooly Witches

While Pliny the Elder spread the belief that menstruating women had the power to kill crops, control the weather, and drive dogs mad, the ladies were using itchy wool to absorb their time of the month.

3. Medieval Toad Talismans

3. Medieval Toad Talismans

Sounding even spookier, European women suffering from some of the painful side effects of their period were instructed to boil a toad and wear the ashes in a pouch near their nether region to somehow ease their heavy flow.

They also carried bouquets of flowers to mask any unfortunate odor, which I’m sure wasn’t helped by the toads.

4. Therapeutic Cramp Relief

4. Therapeutic Cramp Relief

Historical physicians wouldn’t treat women suffering those pesky abdominal pangs with any pain reliever, but instead by recommending them to a psychiatrist to discuss their clear rejection of femininity.

For his part, Sigmund Freud asserted the condition further, saying it stemmed from “penis envy.”

5. West African Love Spells

5. West African Love Spells

Some women in West Africa used to embrace their periods and even collect their menstruation.

For those who believed in the folk magic of hoodoo, they recommended boiling the blood shed during menstruation and putting it in your crush’s drink in order to make them fall head over heels for you, although the opposite reaction seems far more likely.

6. Ancient Egyptian Pads

6. Ancient Egyptian Pads

They beat us to the punch on disposable sanitary napkins by about 5,000 years when they realized how absorbent papyrus paper was, in addition to being great writing material.

7. Grabbing A Rag

7. Grabbing A Rag

The phrase “on the rag” might sound uncouth, but it does derive from the real women who would use whatever was handy — regardless of how recently or not it had been washed — to take care of “Aunt Flow.”

They weren’t just being lazy, though. Before the 20th century, women ate less, were pregnant more often, and died much earlier in life, so menstruation was a somewhat rarer occurrence and simply not a priority.

8. Free Flowing Prairie Women

8. Free Flowing Prairie Women

Research shows that pioneering ladies didn’t bother adding anything extra to their ordinary underwear, and just let it bleed through their clothes.

There are some reports that they would wear black underwear, but that definitely wouldn’t stop the fluid from reaching the rest of their outfit.

9. Spermicide Sponges

9. Spermicide Sponges

While they were well known as contraceptives used in the past, these springy orbs were also used on a regular basis to soak up menstruation.

10. Tampon Panties

10. Tampon Panties

Tampon technology was still in its early days when these helpful undies hit the shelves with an extra-absorbent crotch to catch whatever the product might let leak.

11. Menstruation Belts

11. Menstruation Belts

These ultra-constrictive and often painful contraptions were all the rage from 1890 all the way until 1970 rolled around with the self-adhesive options women are more familiar with today.

Jess Catcher for LittleThings

Be sure to SHARE this crazy look back at the past with your friends!