Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #31: Womb Edition

Because I was stuck for topics today, so I asked my Facebook focus group, as I sometimes do. The best two suggestions were “The Hunger Games” and “boobs,” but I've already done boobs and I haven't read The Hunger Games yet (or seen the film), so I thought I'd probably better not do that one. Actually I was going to do it anyway because f*ck it, but then I was like, well, I can't think of anything to write because I haven't seen/read it yet.

Scruples: I duz not haz dem.

I happened across the term “wandering uterus” earlier today, while researching a completely unrelated topic as part of my ritzy exciting freelance writer life, and I was like, well, like sounds like an interesting thing. Then I googled it and went on to learn some very interesting things about the womb and/or menstruation, such as:

1) Women have used tampons since the days of ancient Egypt.

Those Egyptians: they thought of everything. ~ Hajor

Those ancient tampons were made of papyrus. The ancient Greeks and Hebrews also used tampons as a form of birth control, though it's possible they may have used them during menstruation.

2) In the Middle Ages in Europe, menstrual blood was assigned all kinds of magical powers. It was said to be able to madden dogs, kill trees and stain mirrors.

Yes, mirrors. Of all things. ~ Cgs

The blood was considered dangerous to the menstruating woman as well as to her entourage. “Horrible, poison creatures” were said to grow in it, and to have the ability to make the menstruating woman very ill, even fatally so. Even if the woman herself escaped illness, the blood was believed capable of rendering her very gaze deadly.

Menstruation was, of course, rightly recognized as a sign of female fertility. If pregnancy occurred, the (retained) blood was considered beneficial, even necessary for, the baby's development. After the birth, the body was believed to convert menstrual blood into breast milk.

3) In the past, men have been believed to menstruate. In the 18th century, medical science was somewhat less sophisticated than it is today. Physicians deduced that womens' bodies menstruated in order to balance their humors and restore their physical equilibrium. Mens' bodies did this by sweating, during all the hard manual labor that dudes did back then. Dudes who didn't perform manual labor – like priests and academics – were bound to menstruate, right?


Men didn't necessarily menstruate from the usual places. French doctor M. Carrere documented the case of a 25-year-old man who supposedly menstruated from his right pinky finger. Men might also menstruate from their nose or lungs, as well as their nether regions.

The treatment for male menstruation, as for so many other conditions back then, was draining some of the patient's blood. Since he obviously had too much, if it was overflowing like that.

Take two of these and call me in the morning. ~ Karl Rajnar Gjertsen

4) Throughout history, the possession of a womb has been considered a liability. The ancient Egyptians held the womb responsible for just about every female health complaint, even and especially those that had to do with other parts of the female anatomy altogether. The Egyptians, and after them the Greeks, blamed womens' health problems – all of them – on the aforementioned “wandering uterus.” This self-explanatory condition caused the uterus to wander around the body, leaving havoc in its wake. If the uterus wandered into the chest, for example, the woman would develop a respiratory complaint; if it wandered into her face, she might give birth from her nose (I guess). There were two treatments for this condition; rub the vagina with “sweet-smelling” unguents to lure the uterus back into its proper position, or rub the affected area with stinky disgusting unguents in hopes of scaring it back.

That's how I got the monkeys out of my ass. ~ Chris huh

Even after medical science figured out that the womb can't just roam wherever it freakin' wants, doctors still believed that its mere presence in the body made women crazy. “Hysteria” remained a thing in the United States until the 1950s. Symptoms included:

  • Nervousness
  • Heaviness in the abdomen
  • Fluid retention
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle spasms
  • And of course, the ever-popular and always debilitating “tendency to cause trouble.”

Treatments included seclusion, bed rest and bland food. Doctors advised that the afflicted refrain from any physical or mental activity, since taxing the system was deemed likely to aggravate the condition. As one blogger puts it, “They believed mental activity could be harmful to women as well; perhaps all that thinking meant the brain would take blood away from the reproductive organs and lead to infertility.”

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Some doctors prescribed “body braces” designed to support the “abdominal organs.”

That is a womb harness.

“Pelvic massages” were also a popular treatment for hysteria, since it was believed to occur due to sexual deprivation. I'm sure you would have heard about these by now. They required physicians to “massage” their patients' genitals at least once a week.

Or blast them with a water cannon, that works too.

According to Wikipedia, these treatments were profitable for doctors, who didn't have to worry about their patients up and dying because, you know, they weren't actually sick. However, the entry goes on to somewhat hilariously state that “The technique was difficult for a physician to master and could take hours to achieve.”

That's what she said.

The first clockwork vibrator appeared in 1870, and the first electrically powered one a few years later. When electricity began appearing commonly in homes in the 20th century, electric vibrators were among some of the first home appliances available. Their invention predated such conveniences as the electric vacuum cleaner and the electric iron by nine and ten years, respectively.

Notice that she's using it on her hair?