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13 Historical Facts About Periods You Didn't Learn In School

Bloody hell.

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1. Some medieval women folded pieces of material to soak up their period blood.

Linen was a particularly popular fabric as it was very absorbent. You'd wash the linen, and then use it again.
Women in England in the Middle Ages / BuzzFeed

Linen was a particularly popular fabric as it was very absorbent. You'd wash the linen, and then use it again.

2. These early pads were called "clouts" or "rags".

Hence the phrase "on the rag". Medieval women didn't wear underwear, so it's thought your rag would be pinned in place, possibly to a girdle that was like a belt.
Rogier van der Weyden

Hence the phrase "on the rag". Medieval women didn't wear underwear, so it's thought your rag would be pinned in place, possibly to a girdle that was like a belt.

3. Sometimes your clout would come unpinned and fall on to the floor – to the horror of anyone who saw it.

Christians, especially, viewed periods as deeply suspicious, and called ladies' menstrual cloths "filthy rags" or "monstrous clouts". No doubt they enjoyed the word play of "monstrous" and "menstrous".
Jean Miélot, Jean Le Tavernier (illuminator), La Vie et Miracles de Nostre Dame

Christians, especially, viewed periods as deeply suspicious, and called ladies' menstrual cloths "filthy rags" or "monstrous clouts". No doubt they enjoyed the word play of "monstrous" and "menstrous".

4. Some people (let's call them men) thought period blood was poisonous and could cause wine to sour, crops to die, and dogs to go mad.

The whole experience of female menstruation was seen by some as filthy and polluted.
commons.wikimedia.org

The whole experience of female menstruation was seen by some as filthy and polluted.

5. Many "experts" considered periods a monthly illness or disease that needed to be treated.

People still subscribed to the ancient ideas of Hippocrates that women's sedentary lifestyles meant they didn't use up all their blood each month, so they had to expel the leftovers.
Hugo Van Der Goes

People still subscribed to the ancient ideas of Hippocrates that women's sedentary lifestyles meant they didn't use up all their blood each month, so they had to expel the leftovers.

6. If a woman didn't come on her period, some doctors would suggest taking blood out of her veins instead.

Poor nutrition meant women probably didn't have periods so regularly in the past.
badnewsaboutchristianity.com

Poor nutrition meant women probably didn't have periods so regularly in the past.

7. If you didn't use a "rag", you might just let your period blood soak into your clothes.

Women wore "shifts" and petticoats under their dresses that would absorb the blood.
amnh.org

Women wore "shifts" and petticoats under their dresses that would absorb the blood.

8. Red was a common colour for medieval and early modern petticoats – possibly to disguise the period blood stains.

Periods were known as "flowers", "menstra", "termes", "women's sickness", and "courses".
Barthélemy d'Eyck

Periods were known as "flowers", "menstra", "termes", "women's sickness", and "courses".

9. It was common to carry around nutmeg or little pouches of dried flowers to conceal the smell of the blood-soaked fabric.

These were known as "nosegays".
Joris Hoefnagel

These were known as "nosegays".

10. Some women even used moss as a sanitary pad.

It's thought that could be how the moss Sphagnum cymbifolium, known as "blood moss", got its popular name.
Tacuinum Sanitatis

It's thought that could be how the moss Sphagnum cymbifolium, known as "blood moss", got its popular name.

11. One method of stemming a heavy flow was burning a toad and wearing the ashes in a pouch around your waist.

12. If a girl didn't start her period, she was told to insert wool soaked in pulped cucumbers and milk into her vagina.

Getty Images

13. It was said that if you had sex on your period and became pregnant, your child would be born with red hair.

Sex on your period was discouraged. Some people thought period blood was so toxic and poisonous it could burn the skin off a man's penis.
Birth of Jacob and Esau, Hague, Maitre Francois (illuminator), c. 1475

Sex on your period was discouraged. Some people thought period blood was so toxic and poisonous it could burn the skin off a man's penis.