Let’s have some real talk about periods for a second. Yes, even the parts no one wants to talk about. I think most people with periods can agree that having one isn’t fun, and the stigma surrounding menstruation doesn’t help at all. From the second we start having periods we’re told that it’s disgusting, and some reactions from the people in our lives can make us feel like having a period is unnatural. If you don’t like graphic period and sex talk, don’t read beyond this point. You’ve been warned. Any comments about how nasty this post is won’t be approved because I’m absolutely not in the mood for it and I don’t want other people to read it and think there’s something wrong with them.
First of all, having a period is one of the most natural things your body can do. Reproduction literally drives our entire world, and although many people with periods choose not to take advantage of that ability (myself included), it doesn’t take away from the fact that periods are just as normal as any other bodily function. Imagine if there was a ton of stigma around peeing and people were ashamed to buy toilet paper or pee in a public setting. If that sounds ridiculous to you, you can see why period shame is so stupid to me.
Now while periods are natural and nothing to be ashamed of or grossed out by, they do come with some undesirable side effects. Cramping, acne, mood changes, food cravings, bloating, oily hair and skin, bowel irregularities, stomachaches, and tons of other symptoms can come with a period. Some women also struggle with irregular periods and irregular flow while on their period, which can make it difficult to choose and stick with a designated collection system. Some women have disorders like endometriosis or PCOS that make having a period absolutely unbearable. I’ve always said that if men had to deal with periods, there would be a pill you could take to just stop having your period without any side effects and collection methods would be 100% free.
I think most girls start out using pads because it’s the least scary option, but lots of women end up switching to tampons or cups for a variety of reasons. All of these collection methods are linked with tons of possible side effects that are heavily debated among the medical community. Some of the most common ones are the risk of TSS, UTIs, yeast infections, increased bleeding and cramping, and some social side effects like embarrassment and shame. I’ve overheard girls in high school insulting their friends for needing to use tampons larger than “regular” absorbency, implying that needing a larger tampon means you’re a “slut.” I’ve seen countless threads on the internet where young girls are afraid to use tampons because they think it’ll take their virginity (although the concept of virginity is a topic for another day.)
I won’t discuss those possible side effects in depth because everyone is different and I am not a doctor, but one thing I think we can all agree on is that it sucks to use a tampon you feel is appropriate for your current blood flow, only to pull it out later and find that it’s either dry or absolutely saturated and leaking through your underwear. It’s also uncomfortable to be in the middle of foreplay with your significant other (because some people have an increased sex drive during their periods!) and have to scurry off to the bathroom and take out your tampon, leaving your vagina dry and the mood ruined. There’s also that awkward time where you’re expecting your period and never know when it’ll come so you wear pads every day for 4 days until the night you don’t and end up soaking through your sheets. The options are to either risk undesirable side effects or experience discomfort from using an unneeded collection method.
This is where period panties come in to play for me. I was always curious about them because I’ve had a horrible history with my periods. Ever since I started getting them at age 12, they were ridiculously heavy and sometimes kept me from going to school due to the cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting I’d experience. When I first started having my period I was so ashamed that I wadded up toilet paper and stuffed it into my underwear and never told my mom until she saw my stained underwear in the laundry. My periods always came too late or too early, so I never knew when to wear pads to prepare. I always thought these side effects were completely normal. When I was 15 I went on the pill and took it on and off for 5 years. While on the combination pill, my periods were nonexistent and I loved it. If I did have a period, it would last 1-3 days with no side effects and not even enough blood flow to use tampons. Unfortunately, the pill didn’t work out for me and caused a ton of horrible side effects.
I had an IUD inserted when I was 20 years old and my periods stayed the same, I just had a little more cramps than I did on the pill. Going off the pill made myself and my doctors finally realize that I had PCOS, and being off the pill made my cysts go out of control and rupture. I’ll link some stories if you’re curious about my experience. When my IUD rejected and shifted out of place, I started taking the progestin only “mini pill” which isn’t causing the same side effects as the combo pill. Of course life is never fair, so the mini pill is giving me a ridiculously heavy blood flow with tons of cramps and the same nausea I had when I was much younger. It’s getting better over time, but it sucks to have easy periods for 5 years and suddenly deal with a massacre every couple of weeks. It’s really hard for me to remain positive about my periods, but I admit that period panties are definitely helping me cope with it.
The benefit of wearing period panties is that it’s literally as easy as wearing underwear and blotting as needed. If you’re not comfortable with period panties alone, you can also use them as a backup for a tampon or cup so you never have to worry about catastrophic leaks. If you’re a very sweaty person and you tend to get really sweaty or full of discharge down there, period panties can make you feel a little more sanitary. While 100% cotton panties are better for your overall vaginal health, they absorb fluids way too easily which can make for some embarrassing situations if you’re in public. I can’t tell you how many times it’s been really hot outside and I noticed my panties were soaked. Nobody ever wants to mention it, but vaginal discharge and sweat is just as normal and sometimes difficult to deal with as menstrual blood. I’ve worn period panties to work on days where the heat index reached 115 degrees and remained completely dry down below.
I tried the THINX Boyshorts in a XXXL, and I’m officially hooked. This post was meant to be a review, but instead I’ll be separating the review into a different post to keep this one from being too long. Stay tuned for the review.