Women and girls have been dealing with periods since the beginning of time. From mystical powers to a well-understood scientific annoyance, the miracle of becoming a woman has a fascinating evolution.
Women in ancient Egypt are credited with making the first tampons out of rolled papyrus and other types of grasses.
Ancient Greeks are said to have made their tampons out of lint wrapped around small pieces of wood.
In Roman times, periods were associated with mystery, magic, and even sorcery. A Roman author wrote, “Hailstorms … whirlwinds and lightening even, will be scared away by a woman uncovering her body while her monthly curses are upon her.”
Early Mayans believed that menstruation originated as a punishment after the Moon goddess slept with the Sun god. Do not mess with Goddesses.
In Europe in the 1800s, British Medical Journal published a statement saying that menstruating women were medically unable to successfully pickle meat. Seriously, who pickles meat anyway?
And one more fun fact: When Judy Blume released “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” it was the first book to mention a girl getting her first period. This book was published in 1970! We sent a guy to the moon only one year before we were okay mentioning periods in a book written for girls. Periods have been misunderstood, shamed, and secreted away for thousands of years.
Considering the first period products were rolled grasses, we have not come that far. A tampon is slightly more comfortable than a piece of wood wrapped in lint but woman can still die from Toxic Shock Syndrome, pads are still bulky, and who hasn’t had an unplanned bikini wax from those sticky wings?
I do believe the teens of modern day are leaving a mark of their own on the history of periods. They are bringing humor and an openness never before seen in the history of menstruation. Teens are refusing to hide in shame, or stop doing things they love. Instead of quietly unwrapping a pad in the school bathroom, teens are proudly grabbing their period bags and walking with heads held high into the bathrooms. Not only are teens laughing about the good, the bad, and the ugly of periods, they are changing the demand in the market. They want comfort, coverage, convenience, and environmental consideration.
Here are four products that are slightly more comfortable than what Ancient Egyptian teenagers used.
1 | The menstrual cup
Once teens get past the “where do I put that thing” horror, the cup reveals itself as an environmentally friendly alternative to pads and tampons. These reusable, bell shaped cups are made out of silicone and are worn internally and collect rather than absorb menstrual flow.
Menstrual cups have actually existed since the 30s but have taken a long time to become mainstream. Leave it to teenagers to buck the system!
Note: There is a learning curve to using cups. They require teens to get up close and personal with their body and they are not easy to get in or out.
Cups cost between $30 and $40 dollars but can be reused for many years. There is virtually no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. They can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time, while swimming and sleeping. They come in many colors and sizes specifically designed for teens.
2 | Period panties
Period Panties are basically super absorbent underwear that take the place of a tampon or pad. They are super thin (so no diaper butt) and come in many styles/colors/designs to fit any booty perfectly.
This underwear needs to be rinsed in cold water after use and then simply run through a regular load of laundry. The only catch is that they need to be hung to dry.
Period panties are a great option for teens who aren’t quite ready to explore all of their lady bits and aren’t ready for adventures in inserting and retrieving. Period Panties even have a line of swim wear so every teen can rock the pool or beach with confidence.
Teens may like Knixteen, a period panty designed specifically for teens. Their website states that their panties are to be worn in the days leading up to their periods as a backup – with a pad or tampon on the heaviest days – or as an option on the lightest days. They are priced at $17 per pair.
Knixteen has a teen-friendly website that answers period questions and even allows teens to send an email to their parents with size and style to make ordering and conversations about periods even easier.
Be sure to check out THINX, too. These cost a bit more per panty but can be worn instead of a pad or tampon. They offer period panties of all sizes and shapes and they are also doing great things around the world with their THINX Foundation. They are partnering with grass roots organizations to educate and empower girls and women across the globe about female health and reproduction, eliminate the shame associated with menstruation, and lower our combined carbon footprint. Girls across the world should have the power to manage their monthly periods with dignity.
3| Sea sponge
If you and your teen are super adventurous you can try a Sea Sponge. Yep. An actual sponge harvested from the Mediterranean Sea. These gals come in many different sizes and can even be trimmed for a perfect fit. These sponges are 100 percent natural and environmentally friendly and can be rinsed and reused many times.
The downside is that teenagers in particular aren’t as comfortable with their bodies and have difficulty retrieving the sponge after use.
4| Reusable pads
Washable pads are made of absorbent cotton and are used much like a disposable pad. They can be rinsed and then washed for multiple uses. Lunapads have great starter kits and accessories in fun colors and patterns.