What Tampon Absorbency Ratings Mean

Rating helps you select the safest tampon option

Tampons
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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.

While there are tampons that can absorb more than 18 grams of menstruation, they are not assigned an absorbency rating. Even if you experience a heavy flow, speak with your doctor to ensure that they are the appropriate and safe choice for you.

Choose the Right Absorbency

 It is important to use a tampon with the lowest absorbency rating possible during your period. The aim is to find the tampon that offers the right absorbency for your flow rather than the longer absorbency.

Keeping a tampon in place for too long a period of time increases the risk of toxic shock syndrome. While it may seem inconvenient to change your tampon during the school day or work shift, it prevents the overgrowth of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that can release harmful and potentially deadly toxins into the body.

To reduce your risk of toxic shock syndrome, you will want to change your tampon at least every four to eight hours. If you sleep longer than eight hours, you should avoid using 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 toxic shock syndrome.

Understanding Toxic Shock Syndrome
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Article 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.