Regular, super, super plus? Compact or full-size? Dr. Jessica Shepherd breaks down how to select the right tampon to manage your period.
It’s a question I hear from my patients quite often – “How do I manage my leaks?” and “Why won’t the tampon fit right?” If you prefer using tampons while on your period, finding the right absorbency, as well as knowing how to correctly insert a tampon, is key to feeling worry-free and leak-free.
Anatomy of a Tampon
First, let’s review some tampon basics. The anatomy of a tampon is comprised of an applicator (made up of barrel, plunger and finger grip), a tampon and a string.
Using U by Kotex® Click® Compact Tampon as an example, we can apply these terms. You will pull out the plunger until it clicks into place to create the full-size applicator. Once you hear the click, the tampon is ready for insertion. The only difference in a full-size tampon is all pieces of the applicator – barrel, plunger and finger grip – are fully extended with the tampon ready for insertion. With both products, the string will extend outside the vagina for removal.
Know Your Flow
So how do you know which tampon is right for you? Of course, this varies from woman to woman, but it is also extremely common to vary during your own cycle. I always recommend patients keep a period journal or follow a period tracker to make note of their light, moderate and heavy days. Is your period heavy in the beginning and particularly light after day three? Is it light a day or two in and then gets heavy on day three? Keeping track of your flow is helpful to answering some of these questions.
Try testing what these terms (light, moderate and heavy) mean for you with a regular absorbency tampon:
Matching Flow to Absorbency
Tampons come in a variety of absorbencies for a reason – women have different flows! When choosing the right absorbency for you, remember that absorbency is linked to the tampon itself, not the applicator. This means that absorbencies are consistent whether you use a compact or full-size applicator.
Typically, your options for tampon absorbencies are regular, super and super plus. A regular tampon absorbs six to nine grams of fluid, a super tampon absorbs nine to twelve grams of fluid and a super plus absorbs twelve to fifteen grams of fluid. These absorbency ranges and their corresponding terms are required to be used by all tampon manufacturers to indicate the amount of fluid absorbed using a standard laboratory test.
Once you’ve tested your flow on a regular tampon, I suggest going for a lower absorbency tampon if there’s still a lot of white space on a tampon after removing it between 4 and 8 hours. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are noticing overflow on a tampon string or underwear, you might prefer a heavier absorbency to mitigate any leaks. In any case, remember to change your tampon every eight hours, at most. Leaving a tampon in for more than eight hours can increase your risk of infection and irritation.
In general, I recommend choosing the minimum absorbency necessary to control your menstrual flow to ensure a comfortable fit and to reduce any risk of infection. It’s also recommended not to use tampons to help manage vaginal discharge, when you’re not on your period or after giving birth.
Check out the U by Kotex products page for more details. Using the navigation menu along the top, you can sort by product type, absorbency and more to explore the best option to fit your needs!
About Dr. Jessica Shepherd: Dr. Jessica Shepherd is an OB/GYN, women's health expert and the founder of Her Viewpoint, an online women's health forum that focuses on addressing taboo topics in a comfortable setting. She currently practices at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX.
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This is not intended to be medical advice. Everybody is different so please make sure to consult your physician if you're having issues. Do not delay or refrain from seeking professional medical advice from your physician because of something you have read on this site.
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