Some people are surprised when I mention that I've never used a tampon. Although 'never' is technically untrue if you count that one time my period caught me off-guard and I had to ask my then-boss for some emergency help, which to my delight came in the form of a maxi tampon, the likes of which my vagina had never welcomed or housed before.
Challenge accepted. I cocked my leg up on the toilet, instructions illuminated on my phone and tampon brandished in hand, ready for what the illustrated woman on screen promised would be an easy and pain-free motion.
Let's just say I got it in, but standing over the bog basin with my legs akimbo and the potential for jam-stained fingers was not a comfortable situation to be in. I very quickly conceded that sanitary towels - as much as they sometimes felt like an adult diaper emitting a faint rustling whenever I walked - were always going to be my preference. As electricifying as it was, my tampon era had come to an end.
When menstrual cups were then introduced to the market as a more sustainable option for periods, I was uninterested. And subsequently annoyed at the repeated insistence that I’d ‘get used to them’ and it was worth the discomfort for the sake of the planet. Of all the things, now my coochie was up for debate? Now my menstrual flow was the subject to scrutiny? As if periods weren’t enough of a pain already, now I had the insidious guilt of knowing a more eco-friendly option was available and conciously choosing not to buy it. For the luxury of my vaginal comfort - my vaginal zen.
Then period pants started gaining more traction. At first they were met with suspicion: how on earth could that work? Surely a gimmick. But their reputation quickly bloomed and the part of me - the very large part of me - that no longer wanted to feel like I was wearing a chubby wad of cheap tissue during those first heavy days of flow decided to try them. I bought two sets of the ModiBodi pants and I haven’t looked back since. Not only have the products and processes of my period changed, but my attitude towards my own bleeding too. It feels more natural; I’m not plugging holes or yanking plastic from plastic. I’m just bleeding, flowing - a stream from the source. It’s my blood. My body’s rhythm. The moving cycle.
I no longer buy sanitary towels so if for whatever reason I can’t find my ModiBodi pants (my memory is dreadful so it happens), I don’t have an alternative to stem the bleeding. So… I just don’t. It’s only during the first day/night or so that I stand up to be greeted by escaping globules of crimson fury - after that my flow is fairly consistent and steady, predictably more erratic during the night thanks to being a restless sleeper.
For someone like me, I don’t truly need period products. I don’t mind seeing blood in my underwear, on my jeans, in a natural ink-stain on my bedsheets. It all washes out. It’s just blood. My blood, which up until to this point I’ve dedicated an enormous amount of money and waste into desperately hiding. When I’m not at home then it’s slightly different; it is uncomfortable to feel self-conscious about the the blood leaking through or feeling unhygienic or worrying about the smell, but when I’m at home, who am I answering to? Periods do smell. They can be messy. Leaking happens. If I understand all of this, and even more than that, if I believe that the hushy-hushy-pinky-adverty-bluey-liquidy-bullshit approach to periods in pop culture is both archaic and boring, then why not occassionally free bleed. It's liberating.
*triumphantly steps off soap-box*
And now, let the review beginneth.
Disclaimer: For the purpose of clarity, I purchased the first few sets of ModiBodi pants myself and then they offered to send me a few more pairs of the types I already owned to complete my collection. I wasn’t asked to review, post or share them, but I think they’re bloody decent (excuse the pun) and well-worth investing in.
How sustainable are they really?
According to the ModiBodi website, the average lifespan of a pair of their period pants is between 6 months - 2 years. The better you care for your pants, the longer they will last.
I'm not entirely sure if that is 6 months/2 years of use, i.e. a 6 month span of 1-week periods or 6 months literally, but I found this slightly... disappointing. I'm sure it's not ModiBodi's fault - probably the technology isn't at a stage where the product can be used for longer, but as far as I know the pants aren't made from recycled materials and they can't be recycled post-use (although ModiBodi recommends using them as cleaning cloths but how many cleaning cloths do you realistically need), so technically a single-purchase menstrual cup would be the most sustainable option. It's worth bearing in mind however that this 6 month - 2 year average may have to be given for legal purposes; elsewhere on the website, ModiBodi state that their pants can last 2 years or more, so how you care for the pants is the key aspect.
How do ModiBodi pants work?
There are four different layer combinations available depending on the product and use. I use the Light-Moderate Absorbency and the Heavy/Overnight Absorbency for periods and pee.
The top layer draws away liquid, fights bacteria and prevents odour. The middle layer absorbs the liquid and holds it there securely. The bottom layer adds an additional waterproof barrier to ensure against leakage. Essentially the various layers absorb the liquid and then lock it in place, keeping you dry and fresh.
How much do period pants cost?
How often do you need to change them?
They heavy/overnight absorbency holds around 4 tampons worth of blood and the light-moderate absorbency holds around 2 tampons worth of blood. For someone who has never worn tampons this is pretty useless information, so I'll say that on my heavy days I'll wear one pair of pants during the day and then change to another pair for the evening/sleep. On a lighter day, I'll wear them as I would any other pair of underwear - one a day.
Do they smell?
Occassionally you might smell that familiar metallic odour if your flow is quite heavy and you're towards the end of your wear for that particular pair, but outside of that I've found them to be excellent for keeping period smells at bay. This was one of my gripes with wearing pads, especially on a hot day. Heading to the toilet to change to a fresh one wasn't always a pleasant experience and sometimes I'd feel self-conscious about wearing skirts or dresses in the fear that the blood smell would become quite apparent. The period pants definitely get a tick in this department.
Do they leak?
No, they've never leaked for me. This seems to be a pretty universal verdict judging by other people's reviews too.
Can you see the blood?
You might see a little blob of blood in the pants if your flow is heavy but this can easily be wiped away with a tissue without leaving a residue on the surface of the gusset. For the most part they stay entirely dry, and there is no transfer if you wipe a tissue across expecting to see a red stain. Very clever.
How do you wash them?
Rinse them under the cold tap until the water runs clear. Don't leave them to soak - this might not get all of the blood out and soaking them for too long can effect the performance of the pants.
Once rinsed, pop them in the washing machine on a cold cycle but leave out the detergent or fabric softener. Again, this can effect the performance of the pants and possibly shorten their lifespan. Ideally you'd wash them in a GUPPYFRIEND wash bag or equivalent too.
Then simply hang them up and leave them to dry. Don't machine wash or place on the radiator - just pop them on a clothes horse or something similar and let them dry naturally.
And finally, are they comfortable?
Yes! Very comfortable. They look and feel like a normal pair of pants and it's refreshing to not feel like a part of your weekly routine has to change because of your period. I always found pads a little 'meh' when it came to sleeping and I'd often wear a pair of trousers just in case there was a risk of leaking, but with these you can starfish to your heart's content and wake up feeling fresh. The ones I have are quite high waisted too so there's a little extra support for the friendly period bloat.