Are period pants right for you?

We put I Am Eva period underwear to the test.

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Period pants are touted as a “revolutionary” way to manage periods, as well as being a better choice for the environment. Is it worth making the switch? We asked five volunteers to try out the pants and tell us what they thought.

Our trial

Period pants look pretty much like regular underwear – the difference is they have absorbent fabric in the gusset. The pants in our trial were from Kiwi brand I Am Eva.

Four of our five triallists said they’d recommend the period pants to friends. They also rated the pants as being stylish and comfortable.

However, there were downsides. Two triallists commented on dampness.

“Being a tampon user ordinarily, I’m not used to the damp feeling I had with the period pants,” said one. The other commented, “after six hours on a heavy flow day, they did get heavy and feel a bit like wearing wet togs”.

Leakage during the day was noted by one of the same triallists. “Nothing too significant, but enough to put me off wearing them on heavier days.” She also experienced leakage at night.

Smell was also a drawback for three triallists. The first “didn’t like the odour” because it made her self-conscious. The second said the pants carried a “faint chemical smell”, and the third said odour was the only issue with the pants.

All of our triallist said the pants would be good to wear overnight, or on lighter days. They’d also be great as a back-up to pads or tampons on heavy days, as well as being ideal for young girls that were starting to menstruate.

We asked I Am Eva co-founder Kylie James about our triallists’ findings. She said the pants were designed to hold up to “two regular tampons’ worth of flow”.

“Some people will be able to comfortably wear the underwear all day without changing, for others it will mean they need to change the underwear at some point.”

As for the chemical smell, Mrs James said she hadn’t heard about this issue from any users, but said this could be due to the “moisture-wicking and anti-microbial application”.

The anti-microbial application in I Am Eva’s period pants is silver zeolite and is certified to an international standard.

To wash the pants, I Am Eva recommends you rinse them, wash in a cold-water cycle, then line-dry.

A greener choice?

Period pants are promoted as a greener choice. I am Eva claims that by choosing its underwear, “you’re helping to reduce the massive number of single-use menstrual products that end up in landfills”.

All our triallists were concerned about waste created from disposable products. And there’s a lot of it.

For example, Wellington’s Moa Point Wastewater Treatment Plant takes 512 tonnes of inorganic matter to landfill in a year. Much of this is products such as tampons and pads – as well as nappies and wipes – that have been flushed instead of being put in the bin.

Switching to period underwear means you’d eliminate some of the waste created by sanitary products. However, with regular use, we think you’ll probably need to replace the pants every two years, which means your old ones will likely end up in the landfill.

I am Eva couldn’t tell us how long the pants would take to biodegrade outside of the landfill. The gusset of the made-in-Sri Lanka underwear is 95 percent organic cotton and five percent spandex. The outer layers are made from nylon and spandex, which are plastics.

While cotton is biodegradable, when other fabrics such as nylon or spandex are mixed in, it takes much longer to break-down.

What about cost?

I am Eva period pants cost $41 for a pair of briefs or $51 for a pair of high-waisted pants. You can also buy three-packs (briefs, $115; high-waisted, $145).

Whether the period pants will save you money in the long term depends on how long your pants last and the cost of the products you use. Supermarket store-brand products cost about $3 for a 20 pack of regular tampons or $2 for pads. Over a year, buying two packs per month would cost between $48 and $72, which covers one to nearly two pairs of period pants. If you buy pricier organic cotton tampons (about $5.50 for a 16 pack), the pants become a more economical option. One of our triallists said, because you have to wash the pants, three pairs would be the minimum she’d need to manage her period.

For you to save money switching, you’d probably need your pants to last at least two years. Mrs James said the first samples of the period underwear were “still functioning to the high standard that they should” after 15 months.

Other brands

Our sister organisation in Australia, Choice, trialled two brands of period pants: Modibodi and Thinx.

The underpants were trialled by five women to see how they stacked up against disposable products. Three out of five participants said they would switch to period pants. Using the pants in conjunction with a menstrual cup was also a popular option for the Aussie volunteers.

They also thought the pants would be good to use if you’re expecting your period and on the last few days. The pants were more comfortable than using a pad, but three triallists noted an uncomfortable “soggy” feeling.

Tampon tax

The Tax Working Group looked at whether GST could be removed from menstrual products. However, it didn’t recommend change, arguing GST exemptions were difficult to manage and benefits didn’t always get to those in most need.

Australia has taken a different approach. Last year, it announced it would drop GST on sanitary products. Canada has also dropped the tax.

Other countries provide free sanitary products. Free sanitary items are available in Scottish schools, universities and colleges. Wales provides free sanitary products for primary and secondary schools, and England plans to do the same from this September.

Bin, don’t flush

Inorganic matter from Wellington's Moa Point Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Every day a skip load of inorganic matter – pads, tampons, wet wipes, paper towels and even nappies – is taken to landfill from Wellington’s Moa Point Wastewater Treatment Plant. This adds up to 512 tonnes every year.

“Part of the problem is that women don’t understand pads and tampons shouldn’t be flushed,” said Caroline Robertson, Wellington Water strategic communications adviser.

It costs Wellington Water $200,000 annually to remove blockages from pump stations and transport waste to landfill.

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