Menstrual Discs Better Than Tampons, Pads for Heavy Periods: Study

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Aug. 8, 2023 – A new study shows that innovative new period products like discs can hold more than two times as much as the most absorbent tampon, while period underwear holds just a fraction of what a pad can absorb.

The findings, from researchers at Oregon Health & Science University, are important because health care providers need to know when someone’s period is so heavy that it might be a sign of a serious medical problem.

From period underwear to discs and cups, the period product market offers more options than ever. But the variety is making it difficult for health care providers to diagnose whether their patients have a clinical condition called heavy menstrual bleeding. That’s because the capacity of these new products hasn’t previously been well-documented. Traditional pads and tampons are regulated or generally known, so people can tell their doctors that they use a certain number of products each day and the volume of period blood can easily be calculated.

The new comparison of 21 period products was published Monday in the online edition of BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health.

The products tested included pads and tampons with a variety of absorbency levels, plus multiple brands and sizes of discs, three sizes of cups, and three sizes of period underwear. The size small period underwear held just 3 milliliters, and the medium and large sizes held even less.

Heavy-rated tampons held between 31 milliliters and 34 milliliters, depending on the brand. The heaviest-rated pads held between 31 milliliters and 50 milliliters, depending on the brand. Among the cups tested, the largest size held 35 milliliters. Discs ranged from a capacity of 40 milliliters to 80 milliliters. The greatest capacity was in the Ziggy brand period disc.

Heavy menstrual bleeding affects as many as 1 in 3 women and adolescent girls, the authors wrote. The condition is usually marked by having to change a pad or tampon after less than 2 hours, or passing clots the size of a quarter or larger. Anyone with this type of period flow should seek medical care, the CDC says.