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Menstrual underwear: what are the pros and cons?

Menstrual underwear fits just like the menstrual cup and washable sanitary pads in the list of sustainable menstrual products. It is special underwear that you wear during your period and reuse it over and over again. Read below how menstrual underwear works exactly, when you can wear it and what the advantages and disadvantages are.

What is menstrual underwear?

Menstrual underwear is underwear that collects your menstrual blood. It looks like normal women's underwear, but you can do it wear without other protection during your period. This is due to the special materials it is made of.

Menstrual underwear has been known in America for a little longer than in the Netherlands, but also in our country period panties on the rise. Because they are washable, it is a sustainable alternative to disposable menstrual products. And that's great, because tampons and sanitary towels create a lot of residual waste: On average, a woman uses about 10,000 menstrual products in her life. From an ecological point of view, sustainable products are therefore a very good alternative.

Often these products are also more comfortable and better for your body. Tampons and sanitary towels contain residues of harmful substancessuch as bleach and pesticides. Not a nice idea!

NB: In addition to special menstrual underwear, there are also so-called 'period pants'. This is underwear that contains a different kind of leak-proof layer than menstrual underwear. You can therefore not use these panties without other menstrual products. In addition, the leak-proof layer is only effective for 5 to 10 washes. So be careful with this.

When can you use menstrual underwear?

You wear menstrual panties during your period without needing extra protection. However, you can do it too in addition to other menstrual products use, for example if you have a very heavy period or simply want some extra security. For example, women sometimes combine menstrual underwear with the menstrual cup if they still need to get used to it.

However, you can use menstrual underwear in even more situations. The underwear is suitable for:

  • During your period
  • In combination with another product, for extra security in case of heavy periods
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Light urine leakage (incontinence)
  • After you give birth
  • When you have your first period (there are mini pants for girls from 8 years old)

You can also wear menstrual underwear while exercising. Some brands have special 'activewear' for this. The underwear is unfortunately not suitable for swimming. So you will have to look for an alternative for this.

How exactly does menstrual underwear work?

Menstrual underwear is available in different versions, both in terms of model and material. You can buy them as normal, high or low slip, thong or boxer shorts. The material differs per brand and version.

Usually the slip itself consists of (organic) cotton, bamboo, elastane (spandex), nylon, polyamide, lycra or micro polyester. The cross (which collects the blood) consists of several layers.

  1. The top layer, which sits against your vagina, consists of a soft and comfortable materialsuch as cotton or bamboo. The purpose of this layer is to let the moisture through, but to dry up quickly. This prevents it from scalding.
  2. The second layer is (often) antibacterial, which ensures that odors are neutralized.
  3. In the third layer, the moisture collected and retained. The thicker this layer is, the more blood or urine it can absorb. Sometimes it consists of several layers.
  4. The bottom layer consists of polyurethane laminate polyester, abbreviated as MONEY. This PUL layer is moisture repellent and protects against leakage.

How much blood does menstrual underwear collect?

Menstrual underwear can be used during both light and heavy periods. The amount of moisture a panty can absorb varies from 2.5 total 20 ml, depending on the model of the underpants and the material of the gusset.

For example, underpants with a larger surface area can absorb more than, for example, a thong, as you can see in the image below:

Also, some materials absorb better than others. For example, bamboo absorbs more moisture than cotton. In addition, the degree of absorption depends on the thickness of the absorbent material and how many layers it consists of. The manufacturer will provide guidelines on how much moisture it can absorb with each slip.

A good guideline is:

  • 2.5 ml = 0.5 tampon = 0.5 teaspoon
  • 10 ml = 1-1.5 tampons = 1-2 teaspoons
  • 15 ml = 1.5-2 tampons = 2 teaspoons
  • 20 ml = 2 tampons = 3 teaspoons

Want underwear that absorbs more? Then it is smart to search for incontinence underwear.

Wash menstrual underwear

Washing menstrual underwear is not difficult, but it is slightly more work than changing a tampon or sanitary towel or rinsing your menstrual cup. You can find the exact washing instructions on the label of every brand of menstrual underwear, but in principle you proceed as follows:

  • Immediately rinse the panties with cold water after use. Wash them immediately after this or let them dry until you wash.
  • Wash them by hand or in the washing machine at a maximum of 30 degrees.
  • If you put them in the washing machine: only wash them together with other delicates, such as bras and lingerie.
  • It is advisable to purchase a special bag for your panties, so that they remain better protected in the washing machine.
  • Do not use bleach or fabric softener.
  • Do not put them in the dryer, but let them dry on a clothesline.

NB: before the first use it is recommended to wash the underwear 1-2 times.

Experiences

Many experiences of women with menstrual underwear can be found on the internet. especially it sustainable aspect and the fact that they comfortable being is considered positive by many women. However, there are also some negative points, for example that the briefs pricey and that changing is not always easy when you are on the road. In addition, they can feel dirty if you don't have a chance to change.

Here you can read an interesting review about menstrual underwear and other modern menstrual products: Tested: 5 environmentally friendly alternatives to the classic sanitary towel and tampon.

In short, some of the pros and cons that users mention in various reviews are:

Advantages:

  • Comfortable
  • Body-friendly
  • Sustainable
  • Ideal to use in combination with (for example) the menstrual cup.

Cons:

  • Wash after each use.
  • More difficult to change when you are on the road.
  • You carry the menstrual blood with you in your panties until you can change yourself.
  • Investment to build up a stock.
  • Some women experience a psychological barrier because they are afraid of leaking without a 'regular' menstrual product.
  • Not suitable for swimming.

Menstrual underwear: where to buy?

Would you like to buy menstrual underwear? Then you have several options.

You can do the best online looking around.

Thinx is a popular American brand that sells various types of menstrual underwear, but unfortunately these panties quite pricey. In addition, you pay €8.46 shipping costs per order.

on bol.com you will find various (Dutch) brands of menstrual (and incontinence) underwear, such as Kikes, Garant-o-Matic, Conni, UnderWunder and Birdie Rock (Pay attention: the latter are period pants and can therefore not be worn without another menstrual product).

You can order menstrual underwear on bol.com here:

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