After years of using tampons and pads as my usual menstrual protection, I recently made the switch to period underwear and haven't looked back.
Here's what I've learned along the way.
G-string period undies. Image: EcoPeriod.
1. There's more choice than I thought
Before trying period undies I assumed the only options were bulky full briefs in the style of Bridget Jones.
But the market seems to be exploding at the moment with more and more brands offering a range of period underwear in various styles (including G-strings!), absorbencies, fabrics and colours.
Yes, you can still get full brief undies if that's your preference, but I like that you choose a style that suits you.
2. It feels like a leap of faith
Wearing period undies for the first time can feel like jumping over a huge mental hurdle. I've ruined plenty of briefs over the years by mistiming the start of my cycle, so the thought of bleeding straight onto period underwear (even though that's their USP) is slightly unnerving.
Now that I've found the undies that suit my needs, I honestly don't even think about it.
3. It takes time to find your perfect pair
Depending on how heavy or variable your cycle is, when you first start using period undies you might need to trial a few different absorbency levels to ensure you're protected. Partly as you might not know exactly how heavy or light your flow is, and partly because some brands measure absorbency differently.
You may also want to carry some back up protection with you until you find your perfect pair, just in case the ones you're wearing aren't absorbent enough.
4. You start talking about periods to anyone who'll listen
This could very well be a 'me problem', but ever since I made the switch I have talked more about periods, blood, menstrual cycles, etc, than I ever have.
There shouldn't be anything taboo about it
But it's a positive side effect – taking away feelings of shame around menstruation for myself and hopefully others is surely a good thing. There shouldn't be anything taboo about it.
5. They're not for everyone
While it's safe to say I'm a convert, not everyone I've spoken to who's tried period undies before is convinced.
Some have commented that they felt soggy after wearing them all day. Others have experienced some leakage and simply don't want to go to the effort of finding a more absorbent pair, preferring to use their usual menstrual protection.
And that's OK. Not everyone likes pads or tampons or menstrual cups either. What's important is that there's more choice.
You don't need to 'smuggle' your tampon into the office bathroom.
6. No more hiding a tampon up your sleeve
No one should feel like they need to hide being on their period. But for a long time I was definitely one of those people who'd try to act nonchalant while grabbing a tampon from my bag (in discreet packaging, no less), hiding it up my sleeve and then doing what felt like the 'walk of shame' across the office to the bathroom. Now, once I'm dressed for the day, I can mostly forget about being on my period.
7. You can wear them as back up
That said, there are still days when I use them as an added line of defence in conjunction with a pad or tampon.
I find this particularly helpful on days when my flow is heavy yet I only have lighter absorbency pairs to hand – or when I know I'm going to be wearing them for an extended period of time. Or sometimes just when I don't want to spend as much time pre-rinsing them.
You should pre-rinse your undies before popping them in a cold wash.
8. You need to change up your laundry routine
To help prolong their efficacy and lifespan, it's recommended you follow the manufacturer's washing guidelines. While this differs from brand to brand, generally you'll need to pre-rinse your undies in water before popping them in the wash on a cold cycle and then line drying (no dryers!).
This was the hardest adjustment for me because I hate doing laundry – let alone spending more time in the laundry than usual. So while I do think it's important to follow the washing instructions, there have been many times when I've thrown my period undies in the wash without pre-rinsing – and, yes, even run them through the dryer.
9. I wish I had these when I was younger
When you first start menstruating as a teen or tween, it can take a while to know your cycle, so wearing period undies can take away any anxiety you might feel about unexpected bleeding or leakage. Several brands now offer a specialised youth range of period undies in a range of sizes.
I wish I could go back in time and let a younger me use period undies instead of bulky pads. (You think a tampon up the sleeve at work is bad? Try crossing a busy schoolyard with what feels like a large kitchen sponge hidden in your dress pocket).