What Do Tampon Absorbency Ratings Mean?

Menstrual Blood
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Question: What Do Tampon Absorbency Ratings Mean?

Answer: Tampon absorbency ratings have been developed by the FDA in response to evidence that linked high absorbency tampons to toxic shock syndrome, or TSS. Because there are so many brands of tampons to choose from, the FDA mandated absorbency ratings to help you chose the safest tampon size needed to manage your menstrual flow. All tampon manufacturers are required to measure the absorbency of their tampons using the Syngyna test which determines the amount of fluid measured in grams that the tampon can absorb.

  • Light absorbency tampons meaning that these tampons absorb 6 grams of blood or less. Light absorbency tampons are good for the last days of your period when your blood flow is lightest.
  • Regular absorbency tampons hold from six to nine grams. Many women find that regular absorbency tampons are good for most of the days of their periods.
  • Super absorbency tampons hold from nine to 12 grams of menstrual blood. Super absorbency tampons provide the extra absorption that some women need the first day or two of menstruation.
  • Super plus absorbency tampons can absorb between 12 to 15 grams of blood. Some women who experience extra heavy bleeding at the beginning of their periods may need to use super plus absorbency tampons.
  • Ultra absorbency tampons absorb from 15 to 18 grams of menstrual blood. Most women will never need to use ultra absorbency tampons.

Although tampons that absorb more than 18 grams of menstruation are available, there is no absorbency rating term for these tampons.

If you need to use this type of tampon, you should talk to your doctor about the amount of blood flow you experience during menstruation.

 It is important to use a tampon with the lowest absorbency rating possible during your period. You may need to adjust the size of your tampon depending on your menstrual flow.

You may need a different size tampon on some days of your period. By using a tampon with the correct absorbency for the volume of your flow, you can help reduce your risk of getting toxic shock syndrome, or TSS.


Updated by Andrea Chisholm, MD


FDA; Labeling for Menstrual Tampons; http://www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/98fr/04-19488.htm; accessed 01/12/16.

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