Through the ages women have used different forms of menstrual protection. Women often used strips of folded old cloth (rags) to catch their menstrual blood, which is why the term "rags" was used to refer to menstruation.
Disposable menstrual pads appear to have been first commercially available from around 1888 with the Southall's pad. More widely successful disposable menstrual pads had their start during the first world war, when French nurses used Kimberly-Clark's wood pulp bandages as a menstrual pad that could be thrown away after use. Kotex's first advertisement for products made with this wood pulp appeared in 1921.
Until the birth of disposable pads, women used a variety of sewn or makeshift pads made from a variety of fabrics, often leftover scraps, to collect menstrual blood, although some women have used anything absorbent, including grass to collect menstrual blood. Fabrics could generally be washed and used again. Some women, mostly ones living in rural areas or from a low socio-economic status, did not use anything to collect menstrual blood. When disposable pads were introduced, they were too expensive for many women to afford. When they could be afforded, women were allowed to place money in a box so that they would not have to speak to the clerk and take a box of Kotex pads from the counter themselves. It took several years for disposable menstrual pads to become commonplace. However, they are now used nearly exclusively in most of the industrialized world.
Cloth menstrual pads made a comeback around 1970. With the number of cloth pad manufacturers and online communities devoted to this increasing in the 1990s and the early 2000s, they appear to be gaining popularity.
In underdeveloped countries, reusable or makeshift pads are still used to collect menstrual blood. Women in impoverished nations must often resort to either staying in their rooms during menstruation or using infection causing items such as leaves, husks, disposed cement bags, etc. This issue affects millions of women without access to feminine hygiene. This lack is directly tied to exploitation, drop out rates, infection, early marriage and even child trafficking. Quality washable menstrual pads are now helping as worldwide awareness is growing and many NGO's are coordinating volunteers to sew effective washable pads with moisture barriers that, unlike disposables, can be used month after month.
Read more about this topic: Cloth Menstrual Pad
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