The history of menstruation


Even though I’m not denying that there are still various stigmas around this natural process (which also seem to have been frozen over time since the Roman Empire), I wanted to dedicate a few lines to this evolutionary change and the women who faced it for more than half of our history on the planet.

Although there is not much information about feminine hygiene methods in ancient times, the first medical records date back to 460-370 BC, in classical Greece. These were written by Hippocrates, who was a renowned thinker who is credited with the title of the father of modern medicine, even today. It was he who initially spoke about the bleeding period of women, in his book Corpus hippocraticum, which brought together various analytical writings on ‘women’s diseases’.

Hippocrates considered that menstrual blood was the product of the waste of female body fluids. This theory was developed from a conception that the woman was “defective” and imperfect, since her basal temperature was very high and the interior of the body was extremely humid. This was subsequently the reason why the body urgently needed to excrete its blood. Likewise, the medical treatments and care for this ‘disease’ was to get pregnant and / or marry in order to control it.

Although this may seem unusual and even unheard of, the vision of the Greek people was still somewhat that of the researcher who ventures to draw conclusions, but is still very far from the final result. On the contrary, in the Roman Empire dangerous motives were attributed to menstruation. Pliny the Elder published a book called Naturalis historia, where he said that nothing was more powerful than menstrual blood, for both good and bad. He also promoted the idea that women could not see anyone for a couple of days as she could ruin farm fields, abort animals, turn wine into vinegar and other ailments. Likewise, this idea was replicated in different cultures and religions, such as Judaism or Hinduism, to the point of segregating and rejecting women even when they were not menstruating.

This generated a complex and conflicted relationship between the woman and her own body, but how not to have it? This thought lasted for many years, since menstruation and its reasons began to be studied in a more scientific way until the 19th century. In the next part of this article, we will talk about the etymology of this word and the new look that began to be seen in front of it.