The History of Tampons

Tampons, in both their use and design, have come a long way since their creation. The use of tampons date back to ancient times, starting with the ancient Egyptians. There were a variety of materials that were experimented with in these times: ancient Egyptians used lint, Romans used wool, and evidence shows that absorbent moss was used in ancient Africa and Asia.1

In both ancient times and modern times tampons have had multiple uses aside from absorbing menstrual blood. In ancient Egypt, lint tampons were dipped in honey and lactic acid to prevent pregnancy because lactic acid was thought to act as a spermicide. Additionally, during World War I nurses used tampons as medical supplies.2

Modern History

The modern tampon was developed by Dr. Earle C. Haas, a physician from Denver, Colorado. Haas’ modern compressed cotton tampon was created after he witnessed his wife experience discomfort with sanitary napkins, also known as pads. He came up with the idea of two telescoping tubes: a smaller one that held the cotton, and a slightly larger one to help place the cotton in the vagina. These tampons with applicators were first developed by Haas in 1931 and marketed to be an absorbent of menstrual flow. Gertrude Tendrich, who later founded the Tampax brand, bought the patent and tampons hit the market in 1933.3

The modern tampon is similar to pads in that they are designed to absorb a woman’s menstrual blood and shedding endometrium. They are now made out of cotton fibers that have been pressed together and fit to a cylinder shape so that they can be easily inserted into the vagina. There is an extensive variety of tampons to choose from, depending on one’s preference of materials and flow. There are four main types in the mainstream market: cardboard applicator, plastic applicator, extendable applicator, and digital (applicator free). There are also submarkets for tampons such as organic tampons which have less chemical additives.

The Future of the Tampon

So, what is next for the tampon? Ridhi Tariyal and Stephen Gire envision a future where a tampon could do much more than simply absorb one’s menstrual blood; they wanted to create a tampon that will allow individuals to test themselves at home for infections like chlamydia. Also, because menstrual fluids contain much more than just blood, Tariyal and Gire are hoping to be able to diagnose diseases like cancer and endometriosis through this unique tampon blood test. If this new tampon can be tested and sold to the mass market women’s healthcare would greatly benefit from the ability to detect life threatening diseases like cancer early.4

 

References

  1. Bardis, Panos D. “Contraception in Ancient Egypt” Indian Journal of the History of Medicine. Vol.12, No. 2. Indian Journal of the History of Medicine: India, 1967. Date Accessed 15 October 2018
  2. Kennedy, Pagan. “The Tampon of the Future: [Op-Ed]” New York Times. New York Times: New York, 03 April 2016. Date Accessed: 16 October 2018.
  3. "History of Tampons and Tampax." About Tampax. Procter & Gamble, 2014. Web.
  4. Kennedy, Pagan. “The Tampon of the Future: [Op-Ed]” New York Times. New York Times: New York, 03 April 2016. Date Accessed: 16 October 2018

Last Updated: 16 October 2018.