Periods are big news these days. From widespread protests on tampon tax and a renewed fight to end period poverty, to the first TV ad to correctly display the fact that we do not, in fact, bleed blue like a Smurf, but red like a human.
Yet, off the political stage, there is also a revolution happening in our pants. Literally. The humble menstrual cycle now has tech innovations aplenty all asking you to re-think the way you menstruate. Could it be pain free? Could you track your menstrual cycle on an app? Could you actually just wear a pair of granny pants and not bother at all with a tampon? These are the questions.
The latter is : period-proof underwear. These high-tech adult nappies come in a range of gender-neutral shapes and styles, as well as a thong (yes, a thong) and many can hold up to two tampons worth of blood. The Thinx team is quick to dismiss the immediate assumption that wearing them will feel like sitting in your own blood, citing the science behind them: four tech components of the material that keeps them anti-microbial, moisture-wicking and absorbent- moving liquid from one layer to the other.
In practice, the Thinx pants are actually surprisingly comfy, and the hi-waist pair are so snug that they can double up as spanx. As to replacing your tampon, on lighter days I gave it a try with success but not without a hard-to-shake icky feeling. On heavier days, I wasn't quite brave enough. However, Thinx does its best work at night, when doubling up with your tampon. Because nothing is getting through these pants on to your new Zara Home sheets.
Leakage aside; the greatest menstrual complaint is often the pain. My period cramps and I have a very special relationship. Largely it's this: they decide to turn up and dictate my every move for at least 48 hours and I, in return, resolve to curl into the foetal position and cry until it's over. So, I am particularly keen to see if works: the gadget that promises a drug-free solution to menstrual agony.
First things first: major props to Livia's website for, quite rightly, parodying every tampon ad ever that foolishly suggests you might be running a marathon/cycling/on the beach/doing anything except crying into a pillow when you're on your period. After all, menstruation feels, for 91% of UK females, like allowing your uterus to go five rounds with Floyd Mayweather. As a result, worrying numbers of us are relying on pain killers for several days a month- something that Livia aims to combat. Instead, it provides gel pad electrodes connected to a vibrating device which you attach to the affected area and which stimulates the nerves: making it impossible for pain to pass.
After poring over the lengthy manual (full of terrifying disclaimers and warnings that made me suspect that I was about to electrocute my vagina) I attached the device when I was suffering the most. It's an odd, tingling sensation that, once you acclimatise to it, is surprisingly soothing. As soon as I detached it, however, I was dashing for my painkillers. My reticence to connect to the machine for too long (honestly, the manual's warning list is terrifying) is perhaps what didn't let me reap the full benefits of Livia. But I'm prepared to try again next month, and ready to believe that, for women with less severe cramps than mine, this could be an addictive little godsend.
It's all very well making periods easier for us, but what about making them healthier? Enter , stage left. The eco brand (full name: Time Of The Month), provides 100% organic. biodegradable tampons and liners which are devoid of rayon, chlorine, synthetic fibres and fragrance. TOTM's mission is to lay bare the truth about tampons; namely the fact that tampon brands do not list their ingredients, so you're none the wiser about what materials you are putting into your vagina. TOTM claims that cotton and rayon- two of a tampon's most fundamental components, can contain traces of pesticides (some carcinogenic) and dioxins which have been linked to endometriosis.
Though the levels of these harmful ingredients are regulated, the average woman will use 12,000 tampons in her lifetime, and the accumulated effect of this is unknown. TOTM offers a safer solution, and even an easier one as they'll deliver these organic menstrual treats to your door via their subscription service. Trying them, they feel no different from normal tampons, except that your vagina does feel a bit smug- especially seeing as 10% of profits go to the Gynaecologcal Cancer Fund.
Perhaps the most interesting new development is . It isn't a tampon, a liner or a moon cup but a totally new period product- unbelievably the first new one since 1937. As its founder, Lauren Schulte, says: 'We live in a time where robots are taking our jobs but we're still using the same products our great-grandmothers used.'
The idea behind Flex actually came from Schulte herself, who was suffering terribly from the yeast infections tampons were giving her every month. She created a menstrual disc, a malleable circle, which boasts a lot of plus points over its aged predecessors. The material is designed to move with your body, preventing leaks, easing cramps and making you feel more comfortable. It's also hypoallergenic, maintaining a healthy vaginal PH and has no links to TSS: two of tampons biggest problems. Oh: and shockingly: it's the first female-engineered menstrual innovation: the first period product created by someone who actually has periods.
Using it has been a learning curve. Inserting it was mildly terrifying and half-convinced me I would be visiting A&E. But once it was in, it was weirdly comfortable and after having read reams of 'tampons will kill you' research, I also felt rather reassured about it all. Technically it can stay in for 12 hours, as it collects rather than absorbs blood, and technically you can have sex with it still inside you. But I'm not quite there yet. Call me old fashioned, but leaving a blood-filled disc inside me for half a day is not my idea of foreplay.
5. NATURAL CYCLES
From the freshest innovation to a new take on the oldest of them all. is a fancy app version of the good old Catholic church-approved rhythm method. But it's the first app to be certified for contraception in Europe so it must be doing something right. The app comes with a thermometer which, when you take your temperature, is able to identify your ovulation to let you know when you're fertile or not, and even when you are menstruating or spotting.
It's a successful, non-hormonal, non-intrusive innovation and one that, to my mind, will be most effectively used if you're actually trying to get pregnant, rather than to successfully prevent it. The science may support it, but I remain cynical. So, even when Natural Cycles gave me the green light for unprotected sex, I declined to field test it. Sorry, not sorry...