Debating Whether Smart Tampons Are a Smart Choice

Traditionally, a tampon is a cotton plug that absorbs menstrual blood, and it has a string attached.

Smart tampons are tampons that can monitor certain aspects of health using a technological connection.

But are smart tampons really useful, or are they examples of technological overreach? Learn more about what smart tampons are, what they could be used for, as well as their limitations.

Tampons on pink background.
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The my.Flow Tampon Monitor

This smart tampon consists of a long tail that connects to a monitor by means of a medical-grade conductive thread. The monitor can clip to a waistband or underwear and connects to a smartphone or other Bluetooth-enabled device. The monitor can also function as a keychain.

The my.Flow app can be configured to send text messages to the user indicating how full the tampon is. These alerts could be used to make decisions about when to change a tampon. The my.Flow app can also analyze and provide data on menstrual flow.

The makers of my.Flow claim that their product will help relieve menstrual anxiety and let a woman know exactly when to change her tampon so as not to soil her clothes.

The manufacturer provides information about the product on their website and a brief video,

NextGen Jane Tampon

NextGen Jane is a startup that is developing a smart tampon. Most of the information about the product is available through secondary-source reporting, with the invention being covered in Marie Claire, the Harvard Gazette, and The New York Times. The website for NextGen Jane says that the product entered clinical trials in the spring of 2016, so we may learn more about it in the near future.

The manufacturer says that the NextGen Jane smart tampon would enable blood to be extracted from a tampon and tested for a variety of biomarkers indicative of sexually transmitted infections, endometriosis, reproductive status, and certain cancers.

A Case Against Smart Tampons

Proponents of smart tampons argue that they empower women. However, there are problems with receiving information without guidance. For example, the information could be falsely reassuring or unnecessarily alarming.

Additionally, unlike drugs, it's not necessary for the makers of these plugs to do clinical research. So the validity of the information might not be clearly communicated to consumers.

Another problem with smart tampons is the potential inconvenience. The my.Flow system connects the tampon in your vagina to an accessory that doubles as a key holder on your clothing. What happens if you’re in a rush to use the bathroom, the my.Flow is attached to your pants and you pull down without detaching it?

As for the NextGen Jane, its use invariably involves dealing with a soiled tampon. Most women are relieved by the disposal of a dirty tampon and throw it away as quickly as possible.

Furthermore, many women may balk at the thought of paying more for a tampon and all the premium subscription services that comes with it. In fact, lots of people think that tampons should be free and freely available, and many universities have begun providing free tampons in women's bathrooms, and sometimes men's bathrooms.

Finally, smart tampon technology like my.Flow closely tracks menstrual flow and then sends this data to a Bluetooth-enabled device. For people who are sensitive about their private information, nothing is more private than graphs of your menstrual blood flow. This information could potentially be hacked.

Smart Tampon Takeaways

The technology of smart tampons is just emerging. If routinely adhered to, blood draws, pap smears, and other screening measures work well to detect gynecologic illness and fertility. However, it's still too soon to know whether smart technology could be beneficial and convenient, without being intrusive and costly.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • my.Flow website.

  • NextGen Jane website.

  • Smart Tampon Technology: The Future of Reproductive Health (a Q&A With the Founders of Illumina Accelerator Startup, NextGen Jane).

  • USPSTF Final Recommendation Statement. Ovarian Cancer: Screening.

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS
Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, is a medical writer and editor covering new treatments and trending health news.