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Old September 24th, 2011, 04:35 AM   #1

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Ancient Periods (I hope you're not eating)


I was watching The Borgia's with the wife last night and there was a scene where the pope was trying to get it on with his mistress. She turned him down because it was that time of the month. My wife then asked me what they used instead for sanitary towels back then. I had no idea, but I thought I'd put it to you lot here.

I know the Borgia's is a bit later, but what did ancient women use to stop the flow of blood? Did they have sanitary towels? or, as my wife put it, did they make a bloody mess everywhere?
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Old September 24th, 2011, 08:55 AM   #2

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I'm guessing that the Egyptians used papyrus, Spartans used hair shaved from helots, Athens used owl feathers, and I'm sure the Persians used sand and that's probably why they had to cover their faces because of all the faces they'd make from the pain.
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Old September 24th, 2011, 09:15 AM   #3

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Ah the Menstrual Flow - er , Lawrence Gardiner had a few thoughts on this subject ,i give you the link , the details of Starfire as he calls it start from page 7 .

STAR FIRE- Hmmmm!!Read Betwen the Lines
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Old September 25th, 2011, 02:44 PM   #4

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I'm guessing that the Egyptians used papyrus, Spartans used hair shaved from helots, Athens used owl feathers, and I'm sure the Persians used sand and that's probably why they had to cover their faces because of all the faces they'd make from the pain.
oh how I love the comforts of modern civilization
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Old September 25th, 2011, 03:52 PM   #5

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oh how I love the comforts of modern civilization
At that time they were called comfort
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Old September 25th, 2011, 04:56 PM   #6

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Probably similar until quite recently;reusable cloth pads,which were washed, depending on the taboos surrounding menstruation in that society..

In some cultures,women were put in isolation during their periods, in separate building.

BUT,in most societies a great many people would have been too poor to afford cloth,so may have used a disposable vegetable product such as grasses or moss.
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Old September 26th, 2011, 02:00 AM   #7

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Ever heard the term "on the rag"? It's kind of an outdated term these days but it used to refer to "that time of the month" - because women used to use (and reuse after washing) rags/towels to catch the flow. I don't know how far back the term dates but I imagine for as long as humans have woven cloth material and worn undergarments, extra cloth has probably been placed in those undergarments to help absorb menstrual flow.

I read somewhere that the ancient Egyptians would use reeds as tampons but I don't know if that's true or not. Sea sponges were probably used in ancient times (since they still are today) though whether they were inserted as tampons or just placed in undergarments as a pad/towel, I'm not sure. Sea sponges probably weren't as readily available as rags/towels, especially further inland but as a natural method which would have been available to the ancients, they were probably used by some.
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Old September 26th, 2011, 02:31 AM   #8

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Don't forget that women's health was not as good as it is today. This (so I read) has an influence on the woman's monthly cycle. Also they would have their first period probably at a much older age than today. Another influence is that women were pregnant much more often than today.

All this would lead to the deduction that women (unlike today) would need a lot less sanatary towels. I believe that during the middle ages women would use and reuse strips of cloth. As History chick also commented
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Old September 26th, 2011, 02:50 AM   #9

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Also they would have their first period probably at a much older age than today.
Really? I know in medieval times, girls could be married as young as 12 - which would suggest 12 was not an uncommon age to get one's first period. I doubt it would have changed too drastically from ancient times to medieval.

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Another influence is that women were pregnant much more often than today.
Not only that but they also breastfed longer (which limits/prevents fertility) - apart from those who used wet nurses of course. I don't know about ancient times but in the 19th century, women would breastfed for about two years. It's probably not unreasonable to think the same was true in earlier periods of history.
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Old September 26th, 2011, 02:57 AM   #10

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You're right, Maundu, women were pregnant more often back then. I mentioned this to my wife and she told me that the menstraul cycle doesn't start again until the mother stops breastfeeding. So if women were pregnant/breastfeeding continuously then why would they need a sanitary towel.

EDIT: I see History Chick got there first
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