Róisín Ingle: Period knickers? A bloody great idea if you ask me

I can bang on about period underwear the way other people enjoy discussing the merits of certain lipsticks or football teams or air fryers

Lately, I’ve found myself at the centre of a lot of lively conversations about the inexorable rise of period pants. Admittedly, I was the one who started most of those conversations, usually after a few glasses of wine. I’ve found most people are keen to join in especially if they’ve ever menstruated themselves or if they care about people in their lives who do.

Since learning about this alternative to tampons and pads, I’ve been fascinated by the products and endlessly curious about them. Period knickers are a massive gamechanger for girls and women when it comes to menstruation. For those who might be unaware, in the past when women talked about period underwear, they were often referring to the greying or otherwise ugly knickers kept in the back of the drawer to wear on period days, knowing they would inevitably get soiled to some degree at that time of the month.

But these days, period pants mean something else. They are cleverly designed underwear brands that absorb blood and can be thrown in the washing machine to be used over and over again. Not only are they more convenient, they are far more sustainable than more widely used plastic-filled menstrual items that are flushed down toilets – a staggering two billion a year in Britain. According to the Women’s Environmental Network which runs an “environmenstrual” campaign, just one pair of period underwear can replace 100 or more single-use disposable pads or tampons. Talk about a heroine product.

I'm not going into school with those things and having to make sure I don't forget them and hiding them when I go into the toilet and worrying about having to change one when I'm out playing in the yard

I’ve discovered, to my surprise, that I quite enjoy a conversational deep dive into period underwear. I can bang on for several minutes about them the way other people enjoy discussing the merits of certain lipsticks or cordless drills or football teams or air fryers.


The very first conversation I ever had about period knickers was not actually started by me. That one was prompted by a young person of my acquaintance who had recently begun menstruating. She was staring down the bloody barrel of her future, trying to come to terms with her new menstrual existence. She did not like what she saw.

Her mother, by the way, thought she’d done a decent job preparing her for menstruation but clearly, she had not. When her first period arrived this young girl was under the mistaken impression that “the blood only came out of you when you went to the toilet”.

The discovery that she was, all being well, going to bleed for pretty much 24 hours a day, five days a month, for the next several decades with a flow that might be light, moderate or heavy depending on the vagaries of her system, shook her to the core. She was raging, quite frankly. But the thing that got her raging most of all was her mother handing her a packet of – I’ve always despised these words – sanitary towels and telling her she’d need to bring them into school while she had her period.

“No,” she said. “I won’t be doing that.”

“What do you mean, no you won’t be doing that?” her mother replied.

“No. I’m not going into school with those things and having to make sure I don’t forget them and hiding them when I go into the toilet and worrying about having to change one when I’m out playing in the yard.” The reality had finally dawned. It did not look pretty.

Her mother was perplexed and said nothing. “Bloody hell,” she muttered to herself. The next day the young girl told her mother that she had solved the problem of the unwanted period paraphernalia. “I saw this thing on Tik Tok. Period knickers. Get me some of them. No offence, but I won’t be needing your pads.”

Period knickers swiftly procured, the girl is happily menstruating every month with her reusable and highly effective period knickers. She’s made peace with her period and there are no environmentally dodgy products around to cramp her style.

Having now completed extensive online research, I know my own way around most of the well known brands. They range from the extremely pricey, Thinx or ModiBodi for example, that can cost more than €30 to the ones you can get from fast fashion retailers that are three for about €15. I've seen examples of sexy period knickers and sturdy period knickers and period pants that look no different from any of the others you'd spot in the knicker section of Marks and Spencer which, incidentally, stock a very good range. You can even get them in Boots and Tesco.

I admit I was sceptical at first. Would they work? They absolutely do work. The science bit is that period underwear usually has three layers – one of an absorbent material that holds around two tampons worth of blood or sometimes more, a moisture barrier layer to keep the wearer comfortable and another layer to prevent leaks or staining.

Sadly, being a perimenopausal woman, my periods are unpredictable and irregular so I don’t get to use these products as often as I’d like. But it makes me happy that young girls and women can go around the place bleeding freely into period knickers without the added environmentally unsound irritation of tampons or pads. Hopefully they can also play a part in the campaign to end period poverty and go some way to reducing the stigma and shame that still exists about this completely natural and vitally important bodily function.

After one of my tipsier recent period knicker chats, a friend WhatsApped me with details of the reasonably priced Australian brand she uses. They’re called Bonds Bloody Comfy Period Undies. The bleeding obvious concept of that brand is that even when you are menstruating, you should still be confident that you can be as comfortable as possible. And why bloody not?