If you're not into tampons and pads — or if you are but also want something else to try during your monthly flow — period underwear is here for you. Brands like Thinx sell a variety of cheeky, shorts, and leotard designs. Vannita Simma-Chiang, MD, assistant professor of urology at Mount Sinai, told POPSUGAR that she thinks they're a good alternative to menstruation products on the market. "With tampons, there's always a risk of getting toxic shock syndrome or an infection, and the fact that you don't have to insert anything is really great; it helps preserve your vaginal flora and keeps everything healthy. I like the fact that it's external," she said.
She pointed out that there's a carbon footprint we leave, especially with pads, but period underwear is reusable: "you can wash it, and I think it's very environmentally friendly." We also spoke to Adeeti Gupta, board-certified OB-GYN and founder of Walk In GYN Care, who said that she's not sure they can "completely replace a pad or a tampon" on heavy days (they "can be used in addition"), but they're good for light days by themselves. (Our executive editor talks more about this in her review of Thinx.)
Can You Work Out in Period Underwear?
Yes, you can work out in these undies, but both doctors had some pro tips they want you to keep in mind. They each emphasized that sanitation is key. "It's really like wearing a highly absorbent and thin layered diaper. So, even if it's highly moisture-wicking and absorbent, would you want to stay in it for up to 12 hours straight if you work long hours?" Dr. Gupta challenged. "In short, if you have a heavy or normal flow, I would say it can be unsanitary if you are staying in the same panty for an entire day." You should do the following: "Stay dry. Change frequently. Clean appropriately."
Dr. Simma-Chiang supported that advice. "If you just stick to the basic hygiene principles, then I think it should be OK," she said. "Just urinate, and keep the area clean." But she also pointed out that it can depend on your flow. "Some people have really superlight periods, and they can probably wear it while working out, but if there's a lot of discharge, then maybe that might not be the most hygienic thing to do or the most comfortable thing to do." And, she said it could depend on the length of your workout and the exercise you're doing. When swimming laps, for instance, you might want to think about doubling up with a tampon or a menstrual cup.
"I always say, for lack of a better term, your vagina is like a self-cleaning oven; it really doesn't need that much help," Dr. Simma-Chiang reminded us. "It cleans itself out, and menstruation is just a part of being a woman, and it's a part of nature." So, if you're practicing basic hygiene while wearing period underwear, you'll be good to go.