My grandmother used layers of an absorbent cloth during her menstrual cycles. She would use it once, wash it, then use it again. The cycle would repeat the next month. I, on the other hand, have become accustomed to disposable products where I use it once then throw it away.
The history of sanitary products is not nearly discussed as much as it should. A topic that is so rooted in cultural discomfort and shame, it is important to understand where we started, where we are and where we intend to go.
People with uteruses have consistently been trying to find better ways to approach their menstrual cycle. Considered a taboo subject, there wasn’t as much talk regarding better ways of handling that time of the month. So people had to improvise. Think of it like a DIY experiment every month. In Ancient Greece and Rome, people used small wooden sticks wrapped in lint. In Ancient Egypt, it is believed that softened papyrus and sea sponges were used. In Ancient Japan, mulberry paper and vines seemed to work. These methods certainly don't seem comfortable but I guess you gotta do what you got to do! It wasn’t until the English in the Tudor-era where people started using cloths and rags. This went on to be the best solution for some time.
Ok, a long time. It wasn’t until the Second Industrial Revolution, the topic of menstrual products was brought up. There was public concern about the hygiene of the cloths being used and the bacterial growth that would form if not cleaned properly. This is when people started to send out patents for disposable menstrual products. The first disposable sanitary napkin was introduced in 1896 and let’s just say it didn’t do well. Naturally, for something where comfort is so important, change was not necessarily met with open arms.
During the first and second World War, nurses got familiar with specific materials that could help with absorption. One material in particular was cellucotton which was a wood pulp that maintained the texture of cotton. Manufacturers would wrap the material with your standard gauze and this was sold as the new and modern sanitary pad.
This product was widely received and brought in a lot of revenue, propelling companies to start taking menstrual care more seriously.
During the time of the second World War, it was important to have more accessible menstrual products. While their husbands were at war, women had to work in the factories and it was expected of them to work through their periods. It became necessary to have products that they were comfortable to work long hours in.
This seemed like the solution. People were using relatively comfortable, disposable and sanitary products. But as time went on, scientists continued to tweak the product. As technology was accelerating at such a rapid pace, so were sanitary products. Tampons, menstrual cups and period panties came into the market. And in the 1960s, synthetic materials became all the rage. It was in everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Synthetic plastic is cheaper, more accessible and more malleable, allowing it to make more sanitary products with better absorption, more comfort and easier packaging. Synthetics made things efficient without the financial burden.
Sanitary pads now consist of 90% plastic. 90%!! That’s the same amount of plastic as four plastic bags. And they take 500 years (!) to decompose. With the amount of sanitary products we use, that’s a lot of wastage. Not to mention how harmful the plastic is for us and our bodies!
That is why Padie was made. Made out of materials such as corn fiber and recycled cardboard packaging, our products allow the comfort of modern day sanitary pads without the plastic waste. Our biodegradable pads only take 180 days to break down. And with our eco-friendly packaging, you can be comfortable during your menstrual period and reduce your carbon footprint.
We’ve come a long way in menstrual products. We are certainly not using wooden sticks and sea sponges anymore. I don’t need to resort to the same approach that my grandmother used in her youth. We are constantly growing and evolving. And we have come so far. But we’ve still got a long way to go. Padie is our first step to get there.
“Feminine Hygiene Products.” Smithsonian Institution, https://www.si.edu/spotlight/health-hygiene-and-beauty/feminine-hygiene-products#:~:text=Before%20the%20advent%20of%20commercial,it%20met%20with%20limited%20acceptance.
Jennifer Kotler, PhD. “How Modern Tampons and Pads Were Developed.” What Did Women Use before Tampons and Pads?, Clue, 4 Nov. 2021, https://helloclue.com/articles/culture/a-short-history-of-modern-menstrual-products.
SimpleHealth. “The History of Menstrual Hygiene.” SimpleHealth, SimpleHealth, 2 Mar. 2022, https://www.simplehealth.com/blog/a-history-of-menstrual-hygiene.
Sparks, Tori. “What's the Environmental Impact of Your Period?” (Barcelona-Metropolitan.com), 10 Nov. 2020, https://www.barcelona-metropolitan.com/features/the-environmental-impact-of-your-period/.