Women have used various different methods for collecting menstrual flow through history.
Much of the information on what was used, was never recorded in history, but we do have some information. The easiest way to see what products might have been used, is to look through old patents.
Usually called “Catamenial Sacks” or “Catamenial Bandages” (menstrual fluid being called “catamenia”), there have been some interesting designs patented! Although it is not known how many of these were ever in production or how popular they were.
Some of the early patented designs included rubber pouches filled with sponge, and even rubber sacks inserted into the vagina and held in place by wire!
Even into the 1950s, disposable pads (while available to purchase since 1888) were still too expensive for some women to buy, and homemade cloth pads were still used by many women.
It might surprise you to know that right up until around the 1980s, most pads were “belted pads”. Rather than having wings that attached to the underpants as we wear now, they were often much longer pads, where the ends of the pad attached to a belt worn around the waist/hips to keep them in place.
Early menstrual products were clearly not as effective as they are today, with products such as the “Menstrual Apron” created to help prevent menstrual blood soiling clothing.
This site features information on historical menstrual products, via patent pictures and descriptions – To help facilitate research and education on menstrual products through history.