Ultimate Period Underwear Guide
Instead of managing period fluid with a disposable pad or tampon, period underwear is an all-in-one solution to protect you from all types of leaks, from light urine leaks to heavy period flow.
“Does the underwear really absorb it all?” You might be doubtful. We were too. Except when most women try period underwear, they never go back to disposables. We’ll explain why.
If you’re spending more time at home, it’s a great time to give it a test run! It also works for pre-period protection, so you don’t have to worry if your period comes earlier than expected. You will just flow.
Here’s our guide to period underwear basics, and the various styles and brands we offer on our femtech marketplace.
What exactly is a period underwear?
A period underwear looks and feels like a normal underwear, but is made with multiple layers of special fabric to make the gusset absorbent, breathable, and leak-proof. Some also use fabric that is deodorising. They are a reusable solution that help women ease their worries while going through their period.
Some women prefer to wear them only on lighter flow days; some wear them as a double protection (with a menstrual cup, tampon, etc.) on heavier flow days; some strictly change from their day underwear to their night-time pair. Whatever combination you choose, find the one that fits your flow.
Do they really work?
Yes! They can replace liners, pads, tampons, and cups, or worn in combination for extra protection. Different brands use different fabric to make the period underwear absorbent, but all of them consist of layers designed to do the following:
- Prevent any leaks for peace of mind
- Fight odors and growth of bacteria with antimicrobial fibers
- Dry quickly to pull moisture away and keep you comfortable
- Prevent blood stains so they can be washed, dried, and re-used
“I like to test out the quality of the underwear by wearing them right before my period arrives or overnight towards the end when my flow is at its lightest,” says Viracha, Marketing Manager at fermata Singapore.
How do you wash them?
Just like most lingerie, how long they last depends on how well you care for them. Period underwear usually last between 2-3 years on average. Be sure to follow care instructions informed by the brand you have, to help your undies last longer.
How many pairs of period underwear should I have?
If you’re trying them out for the first time, you may want two or so pairs to replace your current period product on your lighter days. When you decide to commit, you’ll need a set of light to heavy flow pairs to cover the duration of your flow. You can even designate certain styles for night-time, like boyshorts for extra coverage, or styles to support the lower belly during cramps.
Can I use period underwear everyday, or just on my period?
Period underwear can actually be worn just like normal underwear — they can even protect you from accidental leaks that just happen! Many individuals wear period underwear for protection against other types of leaks, like bladder leaks, vaginal discharge, sweat, and maternity and postpartum bleed.
The environmental impact
Traditional single-use period products like sanitary pads and tampons generate a huge amount of waste. Most women will menstruate for about 40 years in total. That’s about 2,400 days of bleeding — adding up to about six and a half years.
Given this large period of their lives spent bleeding, a single menstruator will use somewhere between 5,000 to 15,000 pads and tampons, where the vast majority are likely to end up in landfills as plastic waste.
Pads, liners, and tampons contain nonrecyclable plastics, which can take up to 800 years to decompose. Many organic options still have hidden plastics and nonbiodegradable components that do not readily decompose (watch out for synthetic fibers and polymers). In fact, a recent study shows that a pack of conventional period pads contains the equivalent of five plastic bags!
The health impact
Besides its negative impact on our environment, we hear lots of complaints from women about conventional plastic-filled pads irritating their vaginal environment.
Disposable pads are typically made from materials that could irritate your skin. The back sheet of pads is usually made from polyolefin, which is produced mainly from oil and natural gas. The top sheet, which comes in most contact with your skin, often includes polyolefin as well as petroleum jelly. According to Reuters, a study of 141 women found that in those who used petroleum jelly internally, 40% of them tested positive for bacterial vaginosis.
Why is this happen? Normally, the vagina is home to a balanced system of good and bad bacteria, which produces acids that protect you against infections and viruses. According to the US Center for Disease Control, when that balance is disrupted by chemicals commonly used in traditional period products, vaginal cleansers, and gels, the environment is more vulnerable to infections.
On top of this, the friction from wearing a pad has the potential to irritate sensitive skin and lead to a rash.
With period underwear, they are often made with breathable, antimicrobial materials —which is important for something that’s going to be in contact with your intimate area for hours at a time.