Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Red blood cell capacity of modern menstrual products: considerations for assessing heavy menstrual bleeding


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.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.