On September 2, 2019, a team of women took to Twitter v a challenge: Ask her boyfriend or partner what castle think the tiny “R” noting on tampons means.

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They were referring come the little letter, one of two people “L,” “R,” or “S,” in a circle on the wrapper.

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The results were comical, come say the least.

“My girlfriend left a tampon at my apartment and also idk wherein the left one is,” joked Twitter user Evan J Worthen as he guessed the the “R” represents “right.” ~ above a much more serious note, Worthen later on told boring Panda that “the gap in male expertise of women’s health and wellness is huge but over there are also a many women and girls who don’t obtain adequate expertise of their very own bodies.”

Whether you’re one of those clueless boyfriends or a human who actually has to resolve periods first-hand, you might not understand what those letters actually mean.

Put simply, those letters represent tampon absorbencies, meaning how lot blood a tampon deserve to hold in one eight-hour period without leaking. Knowledge what this markings stand for — and how tampon absorbencies influence health — can assist women have healthier, more secure and more worry-free periods.

What perform the letter on Tampons Mean?

Tampons space thin and compact wads of noodle that, when placed into the vagina, staunch the circulation of expression blood. Choose all absorbent materials, they can only organize so much liquid at a time. The letters on tampons reflect these standard absorbencies: L way light, R method regular, and also S means super.


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There are federal requirements that govern how much blood each classification of tampon holds. Irradiate tampons deserve to hold increase to 6 grams that fluid, consistent tampons deserve to hold between six and also nine grams, and also super tampons can hold in between nine and also 12. There are larger tampon size for human being with exceptionally heavy flows, consisting of super plus, which hold up to 15 grams of expression blood, and ultra absorbency, which hold in between 15 and also 18 grams.

Scientists test absorbencies in laboratories using a device called a “syngyna,” or man-made vagina. These gadgets are expected to mimic the moistness and also body temperature that a person vagina, however they use saline solutions fairly than blood to test absorbency.


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The exact an interpretation of the letter is eventually less essential than the an accurate fluid every tampon is able to hold. The necessary thing, follow to Jennifer Conti, MD, MS, a professor at Stanford University’s college of Medicine and also co-host that The V indigenous Podcast, is to identify your personal absorbency needs.

“The names room arbitrary, however the differentiation helps recognize the right absorbency because that you depending on where you room in her cycle,” Conti said.

Why room Absorbency Ratings Important?

Knowing the appropriate absorbency for her menstrual circulation is important because using bigger than crucial tampons, or leave tampons in the vagina for too long, deserve to be bad for her health.

Inappropriate tampon absorbency is associated with toxicity Shock Syndrome (TSS), a dangerous and potentially deadly infection. If tampons aren’t the only cause of TSS, they have historically been a major culprit the the disease in menstruating women.

There’s no must panic around TSS risk. You just need to monitor some an easy guidelines.

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

In 1980, the Centers for disease Control and Prevention (CDC) i found it an uptick in unusual cases of acute, occasionally fatal, infections among menstruating women. Symptoms included high fever, short blood pressure, a sunburn-like rash and damage come multiple body organ systems. In the beforehand 1980s, approximately 5% that women that contracted this illness, i beg your pardon scientists referred to as Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), had died.

Scientists soon discovered a usual thread in this infections: plenty of of the women who had TSS were making use of tampons, specifically with the brand Rely, a extremely absorbent variety that mixed synthetics v the timeless cotton for longer use.

The mix of synthetic materials and long-term wear noted a perfect residence for Staphylococcus aureus, a bacter that normally lives in some people’s vaginas. When S. Aureus is harmless as soon as its population is managed by organic microbiomes, high-absorbency tampons — an especially those that incorporate synthetics — administer a perfect “petri dish” for these bacteria to multiply.

Tampons aren’t the only objects the can reason TSS. Expression cups, which stay in the body for approximately 12 hours at a time, deserve to also administer the perfect conditions for harmful S. Aureus to grow.

This is why picking menstrual commodities with the right absorbency for her flow, transforming tampons regularly, and alternate insertable commodities like tampons and also menstrual cups with sanitary napkins is therefore important.

“The reason we don’t recommend utilizing the biggest available tampon, also if it buys you an ext time before transforming it, is since of the danger of toxicity shock syndrome,” Conti said.

Vaginal Irritation and Discomfort

Tampons don’t just absorb term blood, they additionally absorb herbal discharge. This fluid regulates vaginal pH to save a healthy balance and prevent the complications that arise as soon as vaginal pH gets also acidic, like bacterial vaginosis.

During menstruation, vaginal pH regularly rises, and tampons deserve to exacerbate this effects. This increase deserve to lead to vaginal drying, and also can likewise cause slight quality tearing or irritation.

Tampons have the right to be physically uncomfortable for some users, and also others may uncover them complicated to insert. These risks all increase with larger absorbencies, so some users may be more comfortable making use of tampon sizes with smaller absorbency.

How have the right to I phone call What Absorbency is right for Me?

To minimize TSS and irritation risk, friend should choose as short an absorbency as feasible to enhance your flow.

“The ideal fit happens once your tampon lasts a pair of hours before needing to be changed,” Conti said. “If you’re soaking through constant size tampons every hour, you can need to size up come a Super, and additionally if her Super tampon is lasting 6 hours, you likely need to dimension down come a Regular.”

If you’re still worried, you can select alternate duration products or border tampon use. Because menstrual cups room insertive, they still come v some TSS risk, though they do resolve other problems related come tampons, such together reducing waste. Girlfriend can choose to give up tampons altogether and choose non-insertive expression products, prefer pads, toilet napkins, or period underpants, to limit TSS risk.

Using non-insertive methods of expression protection have the right to also help eliminate quality discomfort and dryness linked with tampons. Friend should also avoid assets that use man-made materials, and also scented tampons, i m sorry can also cause irritation and throw off vaginal pH.

How Worried have to I Be?

TSS risk can sound scary, however it’s not as prevalent as you may think. To put it into perspective, only 1 in 100,000 people who menstruate will certainly contract the disease.

So, as long as you’re matching your flow with the correct absorbency, an altering tampons regularly, and avoiding assets with synthetics, you have nothing to fear from tampons. Have actually a happy — as much as possible, still — period!


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