When I first saw a pair of period panties advertised I was super-sceptical. Panties that actually absorb your menstrual blood and don’t look hideous? Sounds fake but okay.
But the more the adverts popped up (and by ‘popped up’ I mean followed me onto every website I ever visited until I gave in and clicked) the more interested I became. The only thing stopping me from giving them a go was the price. They start at around R300 and I didn’t want to risk my money on something that didn’t work. I was wrong, though. They totally work and they are pretty life-changing. Here’s my experience of using them:
Why wouldn’t you just use tampons?
By now we have realised what a terrible idea tampons and sanitary pads are. Their environmental impact is devastating, with about 7-billion of these products ending up in landfills every year. Also, pads are gross and sound and feel like you’re wearing a nappy. If you care about the environment (and aren’t keen to get toxic shock syndrome) you’re probably considering the move to the way more sustainable Mooncup. While I’m totally planning on getting a Mooncup and am definitely not scared of how big they look (right? Like, way too big?!) the idea of using period panties really appealed to me.
What’s the deal with these panties?
I got my pair from local online store Feel Good & Co who stock the Australian brand of underwear Modibodi. There are a few different shapes and colours to choose from, but I got the Classic Bikini which promises light to moderate absorbency and look like a basic pair of black panties.
The first thing you’ll notice when feeling up your new pair of period panties is that they look totally normal. Not at all like the cloth nappy you might have imagined. The fabric is like a thick T-shirt fabric, except way softer. The gusset part (aka where the magic happens) is a bit thicker but not so much that it bothers you.
All the gory details
Okay, let’s get gross. The first day of my period is pretty heavy. Like, ‘changing my tampon every two to three hours for the first half of the day’ heavy. The panties I got promised to absorb about two tampons worth of blood but I had my doubts because I’d only just met them and needed more time to build my trust. For the morning I wore the panties but also used tampons like I normally would. The difference was that I wasn’t constantly running to the bathroom or subtly checking my chair’s pillow to see if I’d leaked because I knew it’d be absorbed by my the panties.
For the second half of the day I let the panties take over. I wore them for six hours, only taking them off because I wanted to wash them so I could wear them the next day. There was no leaking at all and, best of all, no smell.
You can wash them like you would wash a regular pair of panties in the washing machine. The next day they were dry and ready to be used again. The second day of my period is moderate to light, and I wore them for the entire day with no leaks.
The overwhelming feeling was suspicion. Where is all the blood going? Why aren’t the panties soaking wet? Am I even bleeding? The panties are black so everything looks clean down there; there’s no wetness or visible blood. It’s really weird, but in a good way. I had to keep going to the toilet to inspect them because I was so suspicious.
These are the best for the last day or so of your period where you’re half-heartedly bleeding. You know when you think you’re done, but then you risk it with a pair of light-coloured underwear and totally ruin them forever with some light spotting? They’re better than pantyliners because they don’t smell, you don’t have to look at blood every time you pull down your panties, and you don’t throw them in the bin.
I would say having just one pair of panties more than halved my tampon usage. This made me feel better about my contribution to the earth’s waste and also meant less flushing (which Cape Town’s drought appreciates, I’m sure).
And the downsides?
The only downside for me is the cost. I spend about R50 a month on tampons, which is R600 a year. Two pairs of period panties (which can last between 6 months and two years depending on how well you look after them) would cost about R800. But as I get older my priorities are shifting from always going for the cheapest option to going for the most ethical and sustainable option that is best for my body, so I think the price is worth it.
Would you wear them again?
Absolutely. I’ll be getting one or two more pairs so that I can alternate between them and totally eliminate tampons from my vagina/life. The high-waisted ones are calling my name because having something lightly hugging your bloated stomach while you’re bleeding is super-comforting, in case you didn’t know.
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