Period underwear: The alternative to tampons and pads

To stop using tampons, pads or menstrual cups during your period? Easily done with the help of period underwear! At first glance, period panties do not appear to be a typical menstrual product, but they meet the same requirements as other products. But they are colourful, sexy and comfortable! In the US period panties have been established on the market for a long time, in Germany they have only recently conquered the hearts of customers. In the end, it is still a fairly new innovation in the world of sustainable period products and a great alternative to tampons and pads. From my perspective it is an important step towards sustainability, product variety and comfort during menstruation.

What is period underwear? 

The concept of period underwear is actually quite simple: Like normal underwear, only a little bit different and more functional! In the end it is a normal pair of underwear with a sewn-in fabric pad. Menstrual underwear is washable and can be reused again. It is therefore also one of the environmentally friendly period products that can be used for years. Zero Waste Menstruation here we come! With period briefs, countless disposable products such as tampons and pads can be saved every month. Good for your wallet, good for the environment, good for us all! For me personally, period underwear is a really great innovation! Besides the menstrual cup, my absolute favourite product during my period (of course only if I’m not free bleeding or as a backup…). And I wish I had tried menstrual panties way earlier. Sometimes you just have to be 28 years old to discover new cool products.

How does period underwear work?

Menstrual underpants have an integrated membrane system in the crotch area, which catches and absorbs the menstrual blood. Period panties therefore have a little more fabric in the crotch area. The briefs usually have a three- or four-layer system that makes them leak-proof. The sewn-in layers are not noticeable when worn and the briefs look like other underwear from the outside. It is a well thought-out technique that is integrated into the underwear in a very small area. Each layer fulfils a different task:

  • The first layer absorbs the blood directly and transports it further into the inside of the underpants. Here the task is to keep everything dry!
  • The second layer absorbs the menstrual blood. Depending on the model, the underwear should hold up to the equivalent of one to three full tampons.
  • The third layer ensures that the undies are leak-proof and no liquid can escape to the outside world.
  • The fourth layer is then basically the normal underwear.

Sometimes there are only three layers and two different functions are combined in one layer. Or there are five layers and some layers are double to make the briefs even more absorbent.

What does period underwear feel like?

You wonder what it feels like to wear period underwear? And if you feel the blood in your panties? Since the menstrual blood does not flow out of our vagina continuously, but is only expelled in batches, you only feel a moist feeling every now and then. However, the flow is absorbed into the panties quite quickly and the underwear does not feel wet. Alternatively, you can ‘pat dry’ your underwear with some toilet paper when you go to the toilet. You might also be wondering if it doesn’t feel like a diaper? When you hold the period underwear in your hand for the first time, they actually feel a bit thicker than normal underwear. Depending on the model or brand, the crotch area of the layer system can vary a lot. Some will rustle quietly when you touch them. But when you wear them, you can no longer hear anything. My tip: Take a close look at the description of the period panties to see how the layer system is designed. Personally, I don’t like it that much when the extra layers are sewn in at the back covering the whole butt up to the hem.  But when you wear them, you quickly forget about the extra layers and menstrual underwear does not stand out more than other underpants through your regular clothes. 

How are the menstrual panties being washed?

After using them, the worn panties must be washed once with cold water. It is best to leave them to soak briefly in the sink and squeeze them with your hand to wash out the blood. This may be a bit strange for some people in the beginning, but you get used to it quickly. Afterwards, the period underwear can be put into the washing machine at 40° Celsius together with other clothes (no fabric softener needed). It is best to wash them together with dark laundry and let them dry on the clothes drying rack. The dryer should be skipped. A quick note: Due to the layer system in the crotch area, the panties take a little longer than the rest of the clothing until they are completely dry. So this is quite normal. And voila, your period underwear is clean again and can be used again!

How long can they be worn?

Period underwear should be changed every 12 hours during your period. So once in the morning after getting up and again in the evening before going to bed. To avoid having to change the bloody panties in public, do it at home befor leaving the house. You can also change them on the go and carry them home with you in a small leak-proof bag. 
You are wondering how many times you can wear your period briefs? Actually as often as you like and the functionality is still given. Some brands state that period underwear loses its antibacterial effect after only two years, even with proper care. Other brands do not limit the life of their panties. So try them out and as long as everything feels good, just keep wearing them.

INFO-BOX: For whom is period underwear recommended?

Actually for all menstruating people! Whether period underwear is the perfect companion for you depends on many different factors, such as the length and intensity of your periods. Every menstruating person also has different needs in terms of comfort and functionality of their period products. For example, I feel very comfortable in menstrual underwear. Especially if you are dissatisfied with traditional period products, you should give Period Panties a chance. Because they are a great alternative to tampons and pads.

  • If you have been wanting to ditch disposable products for a long time, these panties are a great way to make your period more sustainable and minimize your waste production during your period. #lesswaste
  • Maybe your skin is sensitive to the plastic and tape in disposable pads? If you use pads during your period, you will love period underwear! Why? Comfortable and less waste! Especially at night I love period underwear. Nothing moves and it’s comfortable on the skin.
  • For teenagers and at the beginning of getting your period, when (disposable) pads are used even more often, period panties are a good plastic-free alternative.
  • The insertion and removal of objects is also becoming part of the past with menstrual underwear. They are particularly suitable for people who cannot use invasive period products for health reasons, such as vaginism.
  • Menstrual panties are especially useful on lighter days or for spotting. Because a tampon would unnecessarily make the vaginal flora dry.
  • If you are experiencing menstrual problems, ‘letting the blood flow’ into the panties can be helpful. Personally, I have less pain during my period if I bleed freely or use non-invasive products such as period underwear.
  • Period slips are not only exclusively useful for collecting menstrual blood. They can also be worn additionally in case of slight bladder weakness or during the postpartum menstrual flow.

Is period underwear used alone or together with other products?

If you have your bleeding is on the lighter side, you can easily switch over completely to menstrual panties and replace your previous products with them. The lighter days at the end of your period are also perfect for wearing period panties alone. However, if your period is heavier, a mix of different period products is possible. The combination of a menstrual cup and period underwear may be the perfect sustainable solution for you. In this case the period panties serve as an extra backup to the cup. If you bleed heavier, you may need to change your period underwear at shorter intervals – especially if no other period products are used. Over time you will develop a feeling for when the panties are ‘full’ and should be changed. It is best to change your panties at regular intervals at the beginning and try out how you feel. My tip: Test your period underwear at home for the first few times and see when you are comfortable.

How many panties are needed per period?

This is difficult to say and quite different for everyone, as it depends on the heaviness of the period and whether other period products are used as well. I personally do not feel like having to do laundry during my period. If, according to the brands, it is recommended that you change your panties after at least 12 hours, you will need 10 panties for a 5-day period. However, if you do laundry once during your period, 4-5 slips will probably be enough. If you have a heavy period, it’s better to add 2-3 extra pairs of period underwear. If my period get lighter, I have also already worn period underwear for 24 hours without any problems. Period underwear can (especially at the beginning) also be combined with other products.

Have you ever tried an alternative to tampons and pads?

Which period products have you already tested? Have you maybe already tried an alternative to tampons and pads? If so, please tell me about your experiences in the comments below. What is your opinion about period underwear? Have you ever tried them? And if you haven’t tested period panties yet and you still have questions, please drop me a line.

The look into your cycle

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May 7, 2020
Britta Wiebe ist die Co-Gründerin von Vulvani. Am liebsten recherchiert, schreibt und konzipiert sie den ganzen Tag neue Artikel oder innovative Bildungsformate rund um Menstruation. Wenn sie nicht in der weiten Welt unterwegs ist, genießt sie ihre Zeit mit lieben Menschen im schönen Hamburg. | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter

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