WHAT DID WOMEN USE IN THE PAST?
Women used to (and still do) use a variety of things to absorb theirmenstrual flow. It makes sense that they used whatever was handy and plentiful,things like puffy wool, loose cotton, moss, special cloths or old rags,dried grasses or soft vegetable fibers. All of these materials could bestuffed in a kind of envelope worn between the legs. Some cultures believethat menstrual blood should return to the earth, and so women don't useanything, but perhaps bleed into a special spot.
Close fitting underwear are a pretty recent invention: women used towear bloomers or nothing at all under their many skirts and underskirts,so they attached their menstrual cloths to belts worn around their waistand under clothing. These belts continued to be used in combination withdisposable pads until at least the 1970's, when the pads started to bemade with sticky stuff on their backs.
Disposable pads were discovered by nurses during World War I, when theyfigured out that the absorbant bandaging they were using on their patientsworked really well for their periods too. The first disposable napkinswere sold in 1921.
Tampons were "invented" in the 1930's. That is, at that timethey started to be manufactured commercially and sold world-wide. But womenin ancient Japan wore tampons made of paper, and women in Indonesia madetampons of vegetable fiber.