Stephanie Hallett
June 28, 2017 10:30 am
Stephanie Hallett / HelloGiggles

I’ve been using a menstrual cup for nearly 15 years (thanks to four friends who pooled their money to buy me one for my 16th birthday — love y’all). So switching to period underwear was not a totally scary idea to me, since I’ve been a member of the ~alternative menstruation~ gang for some time now. Nonetheless, I knew it would be significant change for me. Especially when you consider the fact that I would essentially be free bleeding for the first time ever.

I initially purchased four pairs of THINX period underwear: two pairs of hiphuggers (black and beige); one pair of the sport; and one pair of the hi-waist. THINX also sent me its leotard and unitard to try out, since I’m a dancer and dance instructor and am always on the hunt for ways to “period better” in the studio.

And honestly? I didn’t hate my period underwear experiment. It was actually kind of awesome.

I received my leotard and unitard first, so when I started my period, I pulled on the leotard with a pair of sweatpants and wore that — and only that! — to teach my kids’ hip-hop classes. I was freaking out, because what could be worse than leaking period blood all over my gray sweats in front of a bunch of kids?!

But I was actually fine! I danced hard, bopping, jumping, and hair-whipping around for two hours with my kids, no leaks in sight.

HelloGiggles/Stephanie Hallett

The leotard itself was fairly comfortable, wide through the bum for maximum coverage and featuring sheer panels on the sides for breathability. As far as bodysuits go, I found that this one was well-made. I did find the straps to be a bit too thin to hold up my chest, though, so I added a sports bra beneath the bodysuit for some extra coverage.

But the unitard? Freaking awesome. I felt like Wonder Woman when I put it on, and knowing how well the leotard dealt with my period blood, I felt totally confident dancing in it. To dress it up (and make it feel slightly less, you know, unitard-y) I wrapped a shirt around my waist. But the garment itself is solid, comfortable, flattering, and basically the only thing I ever want to wear again.

HelloGiggles/Stephanie Hallett

Truth be told, I have since worn this on non-period days — and even out to a bar! — because I love it so much. Highly recommend for anyone who’s ever wanted to feel like Catwoman (or Kim Kardashian — pick your poison).

Now, about those underwear…

The underwear were amazing on the lighter days of my period — I felt so comfortable, and completely dry. After seven days of taking my Diva Cup in and out, I’m usually pretty tired of it. So not having to worry about that was a nice change, and it turns out free bleeding is very comfortable for my vagina.

I also took an extremely full-out hip-hop class while wearing the hiphugger undies and had no leaks, or even a fear of leaks. I actually felt more at ease than with my Diva Cup, because I often worry that it will leak and leave stains on my pants. Not so with my THINX underwear.

On heavier days, though, I felt slightly less secure.

I purchased only four pairs of the underwear (they’re pricey — between $32 and $39 for the styles I chose) so when I bled through all four pairs in the first two heavy days of my cycle, I wasn’t thrilled. I was washing my undies in the sink constantly (you have to rinse them out thoroughly before they can go into the washing machine), and I had to do a load of laundry mid-week just so I could wear my period underwear for the rest of my cycle.

The good news is, I never bled through to my clothes, but as the underwear reached their maximum absorbency I did start to notice blood beginning to seep through to the outer layer of the underwear. This was okay for me because I work from home and could change my underwear easily, but I imagine I’d be pretty uncomfortable if I worked in an office and was bleeding through my underwear by mid-day.

By comparison, I usually empty my Diva Cup two to three times on my heaviest days (once in the morning, then at lunch, and again before bed) and wear a panty liner if I know I’ll be doing a lot of activity or might have to go for a longer period without emptying the cup. It’s easy to empty a menstrual cup in a public bathroom, wipe it out, and reinsert it.

With period underwear, on the other hand, I know I’d have to keep a spare pair on hand, and a Ziploc bag to carry the wet pair home. It takes a little extra effort and attention.

It’s worth noting that THINX does bill its products as a good backup method, and an alternative to panty liners. This seems fair for heavy days — I could wear my menstrual cup with a pair of THINX and not have to worry about emptying the cup mid-day because I know I’d have that extra layer protection.

So what’s the verdict?

Overall, I enjoyed the switch to period underwear. They were super comfortable (they fit true to size), they covered me in a way that made me feel confident, and I didn’t get blood on any of my clothes, despite having to change my underwear multiple times on my heaviest days.

One of the biggest differences I noticed was that, with period underwear, I could really feel the blood leaving my body. So if you’re a menstrual cup or tampon person, and not a regular pad-wearer, this will probably be as alarming for you as it was for me — the sensation immediately signaled “leak emergency imminent!” in my brain — and is something to be aware of before making the switch to menstrual underwear.

I do think I’ll continue to use a menstrual cup as my primary period-collection method, but swapping it out for period underwear after my heaviest days sounds pretty appealing, too. The best of both worlds!