One afternoon when I was in the fourth grade, the girls were taken to watch a video on periods, sanitary napkins and tampons. This is pretty much where my public education on menstruation began and ended – a secret discussion the boys couldn’t be aware of. It was, from that point on, ingrained in us that it is sort of embarrassing to have your period.
It isn’t, of course, and some of us at WIRED have spoken at length about our menstrual flows and habits, and tested new menstrual products to find the best economical and environmentally friendly alternatives. It can be scary to try something new, but it’s actually a great time to turn things around because the pandemic has created a reality for many of us. If you are distance learning or work from home, you won’t have to worry about being uncomfortable or potentially running away in public until you have a downed system.
Update February 2021: We added several more vintage underwear brands that we tested. We have also added the Nixit menstrual disc.
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Senior reviewer Adrienne So and reviewer Louryn Strampe also tested and contributed to this guide.
Menstrual underwear absorbs blood without feeling wet and does not transfer it to your clothes. This is a good place to start. Most menstrual underwear doesn’t come cheap, but you can save money in the long run by not having to stock so many tampons or sanitary pads. Start with a pair to see which styles you like; eventually, you can have enough to last your entire cycle.
I’ve tried menstrual underwear from six brands, and they generally feel like any other pair of underwear. Even when I was using the heaviest protection, I didn’t feel like I was wearing pull-up layers (or even a cushion for that matter). Menstrual underwear can also be used for mild incontinence, regular discharge, or postpartum bleeding. I love it so much that I don’t go back to my old routine.