Period undies have hit the mainstream in a big way recently, with Thinx and Dear Kate becoming buzzwords in the social media feminist landscape. Recently, an Australian company called Modibodi released ‘heavy absorbency’ period undies that seemed to be comparable to anything available on the US market – undies with a full lining that claims to absorb up to 20ml of blood, which is equal to a small menstrual cup or two tampons. So, tempted by Australian prices and free shipping, I took the plunge and bought a few pairs to road test.
I’ve been using cloth pads for years, and I love them – I love that I get less irritation, that I’m producing less waste, and that I am taking the time to care about myself when experiencing the much-maligned and poorly-understood ‘disease’ that is menstruation. The general idea of period undies is that they are meant to replace pads and tampons for most of your period, and can be used as backup for tampons or menstrual cups on really heavy days. I can’t use menstrual cups because I have vaginismus, so I want to see if I can make these undies work for my whole period.
Modibodi is an Australian company that has been around for a few years, although I’d say that it’s only this year that they’ve had a full collection of products to cater for all the weird leaky situations one might find themselves in. Modibodi products are designed in Australia by a female-owned company, but manufactures overseas.
I bought five pairs of the ‘Sensual Hi-Waist Bikini’ in black with heavy absorbency – this was the only heavy absorbency style available when I was buying, they now also have a seamfree full brief in heavy absorbency if lace ain’t your thing.
The undies are essentially a soft bamboo pair of pants, with an absorbent pad partially sewn into the crotch and right up to the waistline at the back; there is also a little rectangle of extra padding right in the gusset of the undies. The lace is very comfortable and doesn’t itch at all. Both of the heavy absorbency styles are high-waisted, and on me they sit about an inch below the belly button. They are a bit bigger than your average pair of hipster bikinis from Target, but they don’t look outrageously daggy – especially the lace ones. They are cut quite high in the leg, and somehow I feel like I’d prefer a boyshort style for more coverage; but the padding is about 42cm long, which is roughly 12cm longer than any disposable pad I’ve seen in Australia.
The coverage of the pad was the main appeal to me. I am constantly leaking high up on my back, especially at night, and one of the reasons I switched to cloth pads is that they come in obscenely large sizes. It’s wonderful that I can now get that kind of coverage permanently sewn in to my undies.
Note: I followed the sizing instructions on the Modibodi website, and the undies fit perfectly – I usually wear size eight – 10, but bought a size 12 as recommended, and it all worked out great.
Day one – three:
I’ve been wearing these undies for a couple of days now, in nervous anticipation of my period. I know it’s weird to be wearing what is essentially an overnight pad all the time, but previous experience has made me a bit paranoid about the butt-leakage thing. You can definitely feel the extra padding, but you can hardly see it – it’s only 3mm thick, and not visible through leggings or skinny jeans. They just feel like super comfy undies at the moment. The only time I had a slight issue was after a jog, as I felt like I wasn’t getting my usual *airflow* down there, but it was nothing to rage about.
Day four – five:
… do period undies have magical period-delaying powers or something? Like a lot of younger people my period is irregular, but it never ceases to surprise me.
My period finally came just before I went to bed!
I woke up with clean sheets and felt fairly comfortable. I changed into fresh undies, but leaked about 4.5 hours in. The Modibodi website doesn’t say how frequently to change your undies – probably because it’s a pain in the ass to change them if you’ve got lace-up shoes and/or skinny jeans on – but the undies can theoretically hold 20ml of liquid, which is about ¼ – 1/2 of an entire period’s blood loss. It looks like on my heaviest day I should change undies about every three hours, but your mileage may vary.
I’ve found a small fault in one of my pairs – one of the layers in the absorbent pad has pulled away from one of the seams. It is just a manufacturing error that could happen to anything, but I’m hoping that Modibodi delivers on their 30-day fault replacement policy.
I’ve been washing the undies in a laundry bag on a cold delicate cycle with whatever random laundry that needs doing, but tonight I also washed a couple by hand. I agitated the undies a little in cold soapy water, left them to soak for a few minutes, and then rinsed them clean under the tap. Dead easy. I would consider these undies pretty travel and camp friendly. If you use an eco-friendly detergent, the washing water could also be used to fertilise your plants.
Despite one leaking incident (and a few almost-leaky incidents where the outside of the undies felt a bit damp when I changed them), the undies held up for about nine hours overnight.
These are definitely great for replacing overnight pads. When you’re lying down your period goes all over the undies instead of just in the gusset, plus you don’t get the pressure from sitting or walking for long periods of time. The undies are great because the absorbency goes right up to the waist elastic and won’t randomly shift out of the way.
I’m briefly switching back to cloth pads because I have work and I don’t feel like half-stripping in the toilets during my shift. Also, none of my undies are dry. I think keeping a few cloth pads around for when I go out on my heavy days is a good idea, but they’re definitely bulkier and not as comfortable as the undies.
Day eight – nine:
Now that my heaviest days are over I can wear the undies for up to six hours at a time during the day with no risk of leaking. In completely unrelated news, somebody should write a feminist horror movie called Bloodclots in the Bathtub. Bleurgh.
I sent a photo of my faulty pair to Modibodi, but it’s taking them a while to decide whether I can get them replaced or not.
It’s towards the end of my period and I’ve been wearing the undies for about 10 – 12 hours a time – changing when I wake up and when I have a shower in the evening. Modibodi do offer a range of different absorbency levels, but you can save money just by having a stash of heavy absorbency.
It’s taken me a little while to get through to the Modibodi Customer Service team; the website claims that all faults are covered by a 60-day replacement guarantee, and all emails are replied to within 48 hours, but living up to those promises is another story. Nine days and 10 emails later, I have finally secured a replacement and $5 credit for the faulty item (although in a different style because the lacy style I have is out of stock). Things at Modibodi go out of stock quickly, so snap them up while you can.
Like all products for menstruation care, period undies have their pros and cons.
Modibodi underwear look and feel just like normal underwear, which is a plus if tampon strings or pad wings don’t fit your sexy aesthetic.
They are thinner and more comfortable than both disposable and cloth pads, and are easier to launder than the latter – you don’t have to worry about stains on black fabric. Even considering the use of resources for washing, period undies are much more environmentally friendly and cost-effective than disposable options. They would also be great for travelling because they don’t take up much space and can be washed by hand.
They are most convenient when you can wear them for 6 – 12 hours at a time, but that doesn’t seem feasible on heavy days. You can, however, get through a period with just these, provided you have enough so you always have a couple that are clean and dry. (Given I had to change every three hours on my heaviest days, I would like at least eight pairs so I don’t spend my entire period doing laundry).
I especially loved using them at night, because they are far more comfortable and reliable than bulky overnight pads. They are also handy on the days before and after your period to catch any little leaks, and would be excellent as backup for menstrual cups or tampons.