What Do Tampon Absorbency Ratings Mean?

Choose the Absorbency Needed to Change Your Tampon Every Four to Eight Hours

Menstrual Blood
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Tampon absorbency ratings have been developed by the FDA in response to evidence that linked high absorbency tampons to toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Because there are so many brands of tampons to choose from, the FDA mandated absorbency ratings to help you select the safest tampon size needed to manage your menstrual flow.

Standard Tampon Absorbency Ratings

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.

Here is what they mean:

  • Light absorbency tampons: These tampons absorb 6 grams of menstrual blood or less. Light absorbency tampons are good for the last days of your period when your blood flow is lightest.
  • Regular absorbency tampons: These tampons hold from 6 to 9 grams of menstrual blood. Many women find that regular absorbency tampons are good for most of the days of their periods.
  • Super absorbency tampons: These tampons hold from 9 to 12 grams of menstrual blood. Super absorbency tampons provide the extra absorption that some women need the first day or two of menstruation when their flow is heavy.
  • Super plus absorbency tampons: These tampons can absorb between 12 to 15 grams of menstrual 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: These 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.

    Choose the Right Absorbency to Change Your Tampon Every Four to Eight Hours

     It is important to use a tampon with the lowest absorbency rating possible during your period.

    To reduce your risk of toxic shock syndrome, you want to change your tampon at least every four to eight hours. While it may seem inconvenient to change your tampon during the school day or work shift, it will reduce your risk of this deadly condition. If you sleep longer than eight hours, it is wise to not use a tampon overnight.

    You may need to adjust the size of your tampon depending on your menstrual flow. Once you get to know how heavy your flow is at the start, middle, and end of your period, you can have the right selection of products on hand. But if you use one that is more absorbent than needed, you must still change it every four to eight hours.

    By using a tampon with the correct absorbency for the volume of your flow and changing it as often as recommended, you can help reduce your risk of getting toxic shock syndrome.

    Sources:

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

    Menstruation and the Menstrual Cycle. Office of Women's Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/menstruation-and-menstrual-cycle.

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