Background Heavy menstrual bleeding affects up to one third of menstruating individuals and has a negative impact on quality of life. The diagnosis of heavy menstrual bleeding is based primarily on history taking, which is highly dependent on traditional disposable menstrual products such as pads and tampons. Only tampons undergo industry-regulated testing for absorption capacity. As use of alternative menstrual products is increasing, there is a need to understand how the capacity of these products compare to that of standard products.
Methods A variety of commercially available menstrual products (tampons, pads, menstrual cups and discs, and period underwear) were tested in the laboratory to determine their maximal capacity to absorb or fill using expired human packed red blood cells. The volume of blood necessary for saturation or filling of the product was recorded.
Results Of the 21 individual menstrual hygiene products tested, a menstrual disc (Ziggy, Jiangsu, China) held the most blood of any product (80 mL). The perineal ice-activated cold pack and period underwear held the least (<3 mL each). Of the product categories tested, on average, menstrual discs had the greatest capacity (61 mL) and period underwear held the least (2 mL). Tampons, pads (heavy/ultra), and menstrual cups held similar amounts of blood (approximately 20–50 mL).
Conclusion This study found considerable variability in red blood cell volume capacity of menstrual products. This emphasises the importance of asking individuals about the type of menstrual products they use and how they use them. Further understanding of capacity of newer menstrual products can help clinicians better quantify menstrual blood loss, identify individuals who may benefit from additional evaluation, and monitor treatment.
- reproductive health
Data availability statement
All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.
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Contributors BSB, ACC and AE contributed to conceptualisation and methodology. ED, BSB, ACC and AE contributed to investigation, data curation, formal analysis and project administration. BSB was responsible for funding acquisition. ED wrote the original draft and BSB, ACC and AE contributed to review and editing. BSB is the guarantor.
Funding This work was funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of award H30MC24049. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the US Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov. This work was also supported by the Office of Research on Women’s Health and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the NIH (K12HD043488).
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.