CN: blood. (I also don't want to upset people with gruesome descriptions - answers that stick to the clinical side of things would be appreciated.)

In a medieval fantasy setting, what would women do for INTERNAL sanitary products when they had their periods? There is minimal magic - those who are either very rich or magically gifted themselves might be able to rely on magical means, but assume that the vast majority of the population wouldn't have access to this kind of alternative.

While medieval, the setting is not just limited to a mock-European location (Africa and Asia are fair game, if certain resources might be more easily found there).

I'm not fussed about contraception or period-regulating effects (I can solve these with some herbs and handwaving), but more the actual physical issue of how to deal with monthly bleeding with available resources. I've done some reading about external pads (cloth tied around the waist, and a skin filled with rags/moss tied between the legs), but would like to know more about internal options (can a girl go swimming without leaving a trail of blood behind her?)

Keeping things sanitary and hygienic would be helpful - I'd quite like not to give all the women infections once a month. Cheap/affordable materials would be ideal, as would some idea of how absorbent, say, moss is as compared with a modern tampon.

Would medieval technology allow women to use internal sanitary products, or would they have to use pads/strips of cloth/etc.?

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    $\begingroup$ And you don't want to do the research yourself why? Look what 30 seconds brought: "The Lady in Red: Medieval Menstruation" on the On the Tudor Trail blog; explains how things were done, and introduces the book The Medieval Vagina by Karen Harris and Lori Caskey-Sigety. Then, "A Brief History Of The Menstrual Period: How Women Dealt With Their Cycles Throughout The Ages" on Medical Daily. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 20 '17 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ I've done some research already - sorry if that wasn't clear. I know about various pads/external methods, and was drawing a blank on internals - I'll have a look at your suggestions, @AlexP. $\endgroup$
    – K. Price
    Sep 20 '17 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ This seems more suited to history.SE, and I think they're better equiped for this. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Sep 20 '17 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ You can make a working tampon using medieval technology, but it would not be reliable. Swimming is not something you should be doing anyways. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Sep 20 '17 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ And why do you want specifically proto-tampons? Rugs with moss work just fine. I also think that you are overestimating the volume of menstrual fluid. On average it's only 2.4 tablespoons... Unless there is an unusually heavy bleeding (which means there is a serious health problem there, not just a period) you will not have blood trails. Moreover, even if a medieval woman bleeds into her clothes you most likely will not notice it. The fluid will be mostly absorbed by petticoats and will not show on the outer skirt. $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Sep 21 '17 at 1:04

Kudos to you for thinking through the life cycle of people in your fantasy world.

Another internal item that is used modernly is a cup. (look up Diva Cup). They are made of silicone now but perhaps your world has expert leathercrafters or a plant that grows in just the right shape. Also lookup natural sponges such as sea sponge or loofa as a tampon. A single use item that is reasonably cleanable shouldn't lead to infection. Something reusable made of cloth or leather should be able to be cleaned in very hot water.

Medieval medical texts have descriptions of a "pessary" used in the vagina for uterine support or delivery of medicine that is very much like a tampon, complete with string. A fellow reenactor made a pessary out of felted wool, but I do not know if she actually used it.


There is a thought among anthropologist that medieval women didn't had monthly period. First of all that the first one marked the time she was ready to marry and (excuse me for my choice of words) inseminated. They didn't had after labour care like we do now. So no resting time, no after care or "no sex recovery".

So they went into pregnancy one after another and, because of medical conditions, period was sometimes mistaken as miscarriage.

Also the regulated day/month/year cycle that was introduced with industrialisation didn't existed so it was harder to track regularity of bleeding.

Adding to that malnourishment and hard work (which we know now can stop period) that was common in those days could result in period occurring once a year.

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    $\begingroup$ Having studied this topic I have a different impression. There were unmarried women, young widows, nuns. Husbands had work that might keep them away for months if not years at a time. Medieval medical literature for women contains many mentions of keeping their cycles regular. They were very conscious of how a cycle was supposed to work since it often relates to the cycle of the moon. There were even positive connotations such as called it "flowers". $\endgroup$
    – Mazel
    Sep 21 '17 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ There is also some very prominent texts, such as the Torah / Old Testament, which point out that women were ceremonially unclean after their periods, and at least had ceremonial cleaning which amounts to a bath, like in Leviticus 12. At least for those married to professions that required ritual cleanliness, they would have a break from sex. There is also significant written evidence that most medieval women were not brides until 18-22 years of age (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_European_marriage_pattern), but they obviously had periods before then. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Sep 21 '17 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ I think it is funny how peeps associate malnutrition with the medieval period, when it was really the renaissance that had that problem. As do modern 3rd world countries. Medieval Europe did but have modern medicine, people with malnutrition would die from the plague, or pox, or some other disease. True they weren't as fast as we are now (obesity epidemic anyone?) But they were strong enough to plow and till the soil with ixen, who they were relativity healthy. $\endgroup$ Sep 29 '17 at 15:40

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