A woman’s monthly cycle can require specific products to help manage menstruation. Pads, tampons, ibuprofen, and heating pads are a few everyday items women may use to help with bleeding and cramping during their period. Another method for preventing leakage with menstruation is period underwear.
Period underwear is an excellent alternative to pads, tampons, or menstrual cups.
Period underwear is designed with moisture-wicking materials, like microfiber polyester, to help prevent leakage.
Aside from menstruation, period underwear can be used for vaginal discharge, bladder leakage, and postpartum bleeding.
While period underwear is comfortable and eco-friendly, it can be costly and require frequent cleaning to prevent odor, leakage, and infection.
Many gynecologists recommend period underwear for managing menstruation.
Although these products have been around for years, they have become more prevalent in the mainstream, with big-name brands promoting “leak-free” panties to their consumers.
So what exactly is period underwear, and what do gynecologists think about them?
What is period underwear?
Period or menstruation underwear is reusable and can absorb menstrual blood to prevent leakage onto clothes. These types of underwear can be worn without needing a tampon, pad, or menstrual to catch menstrual blood. However, the user can wear period underwear with other menstruation products.
“Menstrual underwear can be used as a stand-alone menstrual product or in combination with others for confidence as it pertains to fear of leakage,” said Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, a practicing gynecologist in New York and author.
These absorbent undergarments have several layers of microfiber polyester. This fabric contains quick-drying and breathable materials to comfort the wearer and keep blood from leaking onto clothes.
Women can purchase period underwear based on their preferred size, style, and absorbency. Every woman’s menstruation period is different, which is why some period underwear have lower absorbency levels for lighter periods, while others have a higher level for heavier flows.
Most companies recommend that period underwear is not worn past 12 hours to prevent leakage or odors from happening with extended wear. Thankfully, most pairs of period underwear contain antimicrobial material, which helps to eliminate odor and prevent yeast infections.
Aside from managing menstruation, period underwear can be used for postpartum bleeding, vaginal discharge, and urinary incontinence.
Pros of period underwear
Here are some of the benefits of wearing period underwear.
Period or menstrual underwear is made of washable materials, allowing women to wear them multiple times. In addition, some period underwear can be reused for six months to two years. Compared to disposable menstruation products like tampons and pads, period underwear is an eco-friendly alternative that limits waste.
“They are usually machine washable and reusable. Many women opt for period underwear for environmental purposes; there is less product waste,” said Prof. Tanja Premru-Sršen, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Medical Advisor for Bellabeat.
Period underwear is made of soft, breathable material that can comfort the wearer. Many companies design period underwear to be more comfortable than wearing a pad or tampon throughout the day.
3. Prevention for toxic shock syndrome (TSS)
Using period underwear can aid as a prevention method for toxic shock syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare disease that can occur when harmful bacterial toxins enter the bloodstream. Wearing tampons for an extended period or using “super absorbent” tampons is a potential cause of TSS.
4. There is period underwear for active women
Some companies offer period underwear, like athletic shorts, for women engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity if they play sports or go to the gym.
Cons of period underwear
Listed below are some of the cons associated with period underwear.
1. They’re pricey
While period underwear is an excellent alternative to other menstrual products, pricing is a significant concern with these undergarments. One pair of period underwear can cost between $10-65 dollars based on the brand and style.
However, if a user purchases a few pairs of period underwear, they could save more money compared to the boxes of pads or tampons they’d buy over a year.
2. Can require 24-48 hours of drying time
To prevent tearing of period underwear, it’s recommended that they are air dried. With this in mind, women may need to purchase a few pairs that can last throughout their entire period.
3. Changing in public may be a hassle
Women with heavier flows may need to change their underwear while at school or work. However, since handwashing is the preferred method for cleaning menstruation underwear, this may pose an issue for women who aren’t comfortable washing their undergarments in a public restroom or carrying their “used” underwear around.
Do gynecologists recommend period underwear?
The gynecologists share their opinions on period underwear.
“I find in my practice that they are particularly helpful for super heavy days of flow or for those who have restricted access to the bathroom (i.e., teachers, drivers, outdoor workers). In general, this technical product is well-tolerated,” said Dr. Dweck.
“Some find themselves sensitive to materials or psychologically turned off due to the thought of ‘sitting in their menstrual blood,’” Dr. Dweck added.
“Because period underwear is reusable, they are more affordable in the long run than traditional menstrual products, particularly with current inflation and the well-known pink tax on women’s products,” said Prof. Premru-Sršen. “They can be a comfortable and simple way to manage your period. Some brands of period underwear come with lovely benefits, like wicking away odors.”
“My patients using period underwear love it,” said Dr. Sam Rahman, a board-certified OB/GYN, clinical assistant professor of OB/GYN at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, and founder of the Center for Gynecology and Cosmetics. “It absorbs the bleeding, is comfortable and cost-effective, as well as environmentally friendly.”
“Some underwear absorbs as much as five tampons worth of blood,” Dr. Rahman added. “There is usually a moisture-wicking layer that prevents it from feeling wet.”
For women who may be concerned about whether or not period underwear is right for them, they should consult with their gynecologist for professional medical advice.