Reducing my carbon footprint: The period undies!

A few weeks ago I posted an article about the tampon tax, where I blasted our government for daring to continue to tax women for an uncontrollable bodily function. I was pretty scathing in the article, and ended up discussing different options to using pads or tampons, not out of any sense of suggestion but to highlight the lengths women would have to go through to not be taxed by the government. And although I was pretty critical, it actually did get me thinking about my carbon footprint, and what more I could be doing to reduce my own personal environmental footprint. So I thought, “Screw it, I’m going to get me some period undies!”

How to begin? Search the internet of course. I was quite dismayed at first then when I typed in “menstrual underwear” into my search engine, that the third top search result was a website for mens underwear.

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But not to be disheartened I continued my search. There were actually quite a few websites dedicated to this increasingly popular trend. Unfortunately all of them had one thing in common: the price. Most pairs of undies looked to set me back at least on average $30 each. Sigh. But as it was pay week I decided to go through with a purchase, telling myself that in the long run it would be worth it. Hopefully.

I settled on ModiBody, an Australian company where the price tag wasn’t too outrageous. The website described at least 6 various types of styles to choose from with varying levels of protection within each category. However, I immediately discovered how popular these undergarments must be, as when I went to purchase on my chosen pairs they were sold out. So I had to go with a slightly different style to what I was after, black and medium absorbency. $99 later (for 3 pairs. I know, ouch) I waited 3 weeks for them to arrive by mail, hoping against hope that they would fit me ok (internet measurements can be tricky at the best of times, and I’m also in denial about my waist size at the moment). Annoyingly, two things that I ordered from America on the same day still managed to get delivered to me at least a week ahead of my Sydney dispatched order.

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Finally receiving the package, I unwrapped them in great anticipation, inspecting them for quality and durability (and size). They fit well enough, and were just as comfortable as any other pair I own (and in some cases, more so). The lining was thick and reminded me of the cloth nappies I’d been using for Stormy those first two years of his life. But would they work?

New undies in hand, I merely had to wait for “P week” to arrive. Luckily my first day happened to be a weekend, so I didn’t have to deal with the stress of going to work and freaking out about having any unfortunate accidents. I did however still worry about the actual act of just bleeding into my underwear. Was I going to feel “wet” all day? Will it just stop working after a while and just run out the sides? What about the smell? Won’t I smell? But as the day progressed I started to feel better about it. Firstly, no there were no leaks. The underwear was quite absorbent and there was never any danger of it running out the sides. There was a slight wet feeling, but no more so than if I were just wearing a pad (I should probably note at the point that I have never in my life used a tampon. I just don’t like the idea of them and have been quite afraid of toxic shock syndrome, so I’ve just never bothered. Each to their own I suppose). Secondly, why would I smell any different? Even if I were wearing a pad, the blood is still just sitting in there. Ok so the difference is that you have the opportunity to change pads throughout the day, where I was aiming to just wear the same pair of undies the whole day through. But the absorbency of the lining (according to their website) is actually designed to eliminate odours, and did so quite well.

As the week went on I become more comfortable and confident. They were also convenient to wear on the last few straggling days, where I wasn’t getting a full period but just annoying discharge. The type of discharge that I would still need to waste wearing a pad for in order to not soil my undies.

It’s been two months now and both times I’ve felt that the underwear have done their job. I may not have got my money’s worth just yet (one pack of off brand pads cost me less than $20 and can usually last me for up to 3 months), but I’m happy to say it was money well spent. The price unfortunately may be the down side, putting most people off who just may not be able to afford to shell out that much in one month. Plus you really do need at least 3 pairs to get you through your cycle even if you’re going to do a wash in the middle.

On the down side is longevity. The website does states that the quality of the underwear can last anywhere between 6 months and 2 years. Not quite long enough to be worth the money spent in my opinion. And when you’re done with them where do they go? Landfill again? I’m hoping there’s some sort of recycling exchange program in place.

One thing I also can’t attest for is the heaviness of a period. I’m lucky enough that after having my son, and with the use of the contraceptive pill, my endometriosis symptoms have calmed down quite a lot, and I no longer have massively heavy bleeds. Whether someone who bleeds extremely heavily would be game to try them I’m not sure. The website does have options to purchase undies specifically designed for heavy bleeders, but you would have to trust your own body I think on that one.

Would I recommend them? Sure, they’ve been good for me so far. Would I shame you if you didn’t try them? Of course not, and nobody every should! Do what you got to do. One thing I do know for sure though, I’m still not game to try the menstrual cup yet.

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