How did the iconic Cleopatra cope with her menstrual cycles while she ruled ancient Egypt? Did women in Clovis' time have creative solutions for their periods? What was the perception of modern women towards their menstruation? The menstrual legacy reveals fascinating episodes of our feminine history. It is evident that the progress of our societies has shaped the way we understand and manage our cycles, transforming our connection with the feminine essence. Let's delve into this historic journey.

Ancient texts and records: reflection of the feminine rhythms of past times

The first references to menstruation take us to ancient Egypt. Records from those times present a diverse view of the menstrual cycle: sometimes it was restricted in certain sacred places and, at other times, therapeutic benefits were attributed to it. This duality in the Egyptian perspective was manifested in the different positions of their gods regarding menstruation. Despite this, figures such as Hatshepsut and Cleopatra VII rose to power and prominence. During this era, the god Set, representative of disorder and ruin, was linked to feminine periods. Despite the divine connection given to the cycle, doctors of the time adopted practical methods, identifying disorders such as amenorrhea and prescribing treatments with extracts and plants.

ancient menstuation

Beyond contemporary approaches to menstrual problems, women historically created inventive solutions to manage their flow, creating proto-tampons from materials such as papyrus. In parallel, in ancient Greece, ladies used cloths rolled on pieces of wood, marking the first version of the modern tampon.

Transformation of perceptions and misinterpretations about menstruation.

The taboo associated with menstruation developed over time, influenced by writings from monotheistic religions. In the attempt to differentiate human beings from their animal nature, menstruation was stigmatized. In the 1st century AD, Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar, claimed that menstruation had the power to "corrupt wine." Inserting something into the vagina began to be considered an unholy act.

Petticoats began to be opted for instead of tampons, allowing women to expel their "pollutants" and, according to Hippocrates, a Greek philosopher and physician from the 4th century BC, their "noxious discharges." This medical pioneer is credited with observations about women and their cycles, concluding that, although it could be harmful, menstrual bleeding could have certain benefits for mental health. Medical documents from the Middle Ages are along the same lines, recommending immersion in baths with purifying herbs. The female body was believed to harbor an ailment that was released during menstruation, a belief reminiscent of the ancient bloodletting practices that dominated medicine for many years.

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Menstruations: A mystery that lasted until the last years of the 20th century

Despite scientific progress related to menstruation, taboos did not disappear as expected. The erroneous beliefs were maintained, and Pasteur's studies in the 19th century consolidated the perception of menstruation as an impure phenomenon that required special hygienic attention. Over time, the topic became marginalized, relegating menstruation to the background and underestimating its relevance in women's lives. "The first disposable hygiene protections made their appearance in the 1920s."

During the first decades of the 20th century, in the absence of commercial options, many women found themselves having to design their own solutions. With ingenuity, they adapted fabrics from baby diapers and integrated them into their intimate clothing, giving rise to the first menstruation panties. In that same period, options emerged such as the "sanitary apron", a waterproof undergarment, and the travel set proposed by Sears, with an apron and a special belt, predecessors of modern washable protections. The roots of modern pads

In French lands, the first disposable pads did not materialize until the 1920s, thanks to the initiative of Kotex, which knew how to take advantage of the cotton cellulose left over from the post-war period to conceive an affordable, functional and "safe" product. The menstrual hygiene landscape was transformed with the arrival of disposable tampons from Kimberly-Clark in that same decade, and later, with the more versatile and concealable adhesive pads launched by Stayfree in 1969. These advances offered women a new degree of freedom and well-being during their cycles. However, did these companies contribute to female empowerment in the 20th century? Looking at their advertising, it appears that they perpetuated silence around the issue, promoting the cleansing benefits of their products and avoiding referring directly to menstruation.

Are we moving towards an era without prejudice?

Despite the progress made, there are still challenges to overcome, such as the difficulty that many women face due to the lack of resources during their menstrual period. In addition, bad information and the lack of comprehensive sexual education must be combated, which cause insecurities around menstruation among adolescents, even in advanced countries. It is crucial to continue supporting developing nations such as Nepal, Kenya or Bangladesh, where a large number of women do not have access to basic hygiene measures or optimal health services, affecting their well-being and education.

The perception of menstruation has undergone a metamorphosis over time, influenced by social evolution. Movements such as feminism have challenged and disproved misconceptions about menstruation in Western cultures. Brands have renewed both their campaigns and their products, including sustainable and healthy alternatives, such as menstrual cups and underwear designed for those days. Conditions such as endometriosis, previously underappreciated by health professionals, are now widely recognized, providing relief to thousands of women through effective therapies. The stigma associated with menstruation is on the decline thanks to more transparent conversation. These changes fill us with optimism, hoping that in the future, the taboo around menstruation will be a distant echo.

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