Aug 17 2009

Disposable Tampons

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In 1550 B.C. some Egyptians described how a lint plug inserted in the vagina was used as contraception. This is quite likely the first description of an ancient tampon, and it is not inconceivable that women also used this method to stop menstrual flow. Later the ancient Egyptians made tampons from softened papyrus (old form of paper). In ancient Greece tampons were made from lint wrapped around a small piece of wood. This was recorded as early as 500 B.C. by Hippocrates. Other early tampons were made from wool (Rome), paper (Japan), vegetable fibers (Indonesia), sponges, grass (Africa), and later cotton.

In 1929, the modern tampon (with applicator) was first invented and patented by Doctor Earle Haas from Denver Colorado who wanted to invent a tampon that could be effectively mass produced. Earle Haas filed for his first tampon patent on November 19, 1931. His patent (# 1,926,900) description was for a "catamenial device," derived from the Greek word for monthly. He later trademarked “Tampax” as the brand name for his tampon product.

Gertrude Tendrich founded the Tampax company for the mass production of tampons after buying the patent and trademark rights from Earle Haas. The Tampax company is known for making and selling the first tampon with an applicator (early 1930s). Other US companies sold tampons without applicators before 1936 (Wix, Nunap and Fax tampons).

Dr. Earle C.Haas invented the applicator tampon to create something better than the “rags" his wife and other women had to wear. He got the idea for his tampon from a friend in California who used a sponge in her vagina to absorb her menstrual flow.

He developed a plug of cotton inserted by means of two cardboard tubes to help his wife avoid having to touch the cotton tampon. After Haas failed to get people interested in his invention (including the Johnson & Johnson company), he sold the patent and trademark to a Denver businesswoman, Gertrude Tenderich, for $32,000 on October 16, 1933.

Gertrude founded the Tampax company and served as its first president. She was an ambitious German immigrant who made the first Tampax tampons at her home using a sewing machine and Dr. Haas’s compression machine.

Haas tried to improve his invention until his death in 1981 at age 96.

Applicator Tampon (Author Shuttonbury, Licence: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0)

Applicator Tampon (Author Shuttonbury, Licence: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0)

Digital Tampon (Author: KaurJmeb Licence: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)


Wix, Nunap, Holly-Pax and Fax digital (non-applicator) tampons dates from the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. It is not clear which tampons were the first commercial tampons. The release of commercial tampons came about 40 years after the invention of the sanitary pad. Tampon’s design stayed basically the same throughout the years – a wad of cotton or rayon fibers attached to a cord. Applicators changed somewhat but the actual tampon is still basically the same.

Statistics from 1943 shows that Tampon sales were about 10% of pad sales and 6 times what it were in 1936.

Tampons have been plagued by medical questions throughout its history. Young girls still grow up not understanding that a tampon can not change her virginity status. Hymens can prevent a girl from using tampons, often earlier that their mothers feel comfortable talking about sex and virginity. Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) has been a problem with highly bleached and absorbent tampons.

In the United States, tampons are classified as Type II medical devices by the FDA since 1980.

Scented or scented deodorized menstrual tampons are defined as "a device that is a plug made of cellulosic or synthetic material that is inserted into the vagina and used to absorb menstrual or other vaginal discharge. It has scent (i.e., fragrance materials) added for aesthetic purposes (scented menstrual tampon) or for deodorizing purposes (scented deodorized menstrual tampon). This generic type of device does not include menstrual tampons treated with added antimicrobial agents or other drugs."

Unscented menstrual tampons are defined as "A device that is a plug made of cellulosic or synthetic material that is inserted into the vagina and used to absorb menstrual or other vaginal discharge. This generic type of device does not include menstrual tampons treated with scent (i.e., fragrance materials) or those with added antimicrobial agents or other drugs."

Class II medical devices require more than the “general controls,” which are sufficient for class I devices, in order to ensure their safety and effectiveness. Devices classified as such, like menstrual tampons, require “special controls” to provide assurance. If the FDA perceives a great enough risk, it may require/perform “the promulgation of performance standards, postmarket surveillance, patient registries, development and dissemination of guidelines . . . recommendations, and other appropriate actions as the Secretary deems necessary to provide such assurance.”

There are two main classes of tampons:

  • Applicator tampons
  • Non-applicator Tampons (also known as digital tampons)


Use of Tampons

Tampons are used mainly in the western world (Americas, Europe – East and West). In Asia and East it is hardly used. Just like pads are viewed as ‘diapers’ and dirty in the west, tampons are viewed as dirty and the act of inserting it by finger as dirty. Asian women are also generally physically smaller than their western counterparts. making everything but the smallest tampons difficult to use. In Eastern and Asian countries, sanitation services and toilets also works somewhat differently. It is much easier and cleaner to roll back a used pad into its wrapper than handling a used tampon.

Tampons are ideal for woman participating in sport and other physical activities. It does not shift during physical activities, and it is totally concealed inside the body and will thus stay hidden. It is also the only disposable form of sanitary product that can be used for water sports. Because water does not enter the vagina during water sport, it can safely absorb menstrual debris while the wearer is in the water.

Tampons also provides a certain level of protection during sexual activities. Fingering, masturbation and oral sex are all activities that are possible with a tampon in.

Tampons are also used in the entertainment industry. These women will often insert the tampon upside down. This means that the string is at the very top end and hidden where it cannot fall out.

Instructions To Use Tampons the First Time

  • Make sure you have the smallest tampon that will suite your needs. It is often the easiest to just use the smallest one you can find the first few times
  • Wash your hands (always do this before you touch your vulva)
  • Make sure you are actually flowing, not dry or only spotting
  • Read the instruction pamphlet that came with the box
  • Make sure you know where the tampon should go in, and the direction you should push it in. This direction is normally at an angle to the back, not straight up. If you need to, push a finger into your vagina first to understand the direction that it goes into your body.
  • Open the tampon and take it out of its wrapper. If it is an applicator tampon, make sure the applicator is
  • Find a way to stand, sit or squat that does not cause your vaginal floor muscle to close around your vaginal entrance. Keeping one foot on the floor and the other one on the bath edge or toilet bowl will do it. Standing with both feet on the ground, your feet about 2 feet (60 cm) apart, move your behind down by bending your knees outwards.
  • Open your inner labia with the fingers of one hand, put the tip of the applicator or tampon in your vaginal entrance
  • Push it in all the way. If it is an applicator tampon, make sure it is inside before pushing the tampon out.
  • Wrap the applicator in the packaging that the new tampon came from. throw away in the trash, do not try to flush it away.
  • You can push the string back inside your vagina, keep it inside the inner lips or pull it forward lightly and make sure it is inside your panties.
  • Wash your hands
  • Note the time, you need to remove this tampon in 4 to 8 hours or before it starts to leak. The preference it to take it out after 4 hours, rather than 8 hours. This will lessen the already unlikely occurrence of toxic shock syndrome (TSS)
  • To remove the tampon, wash your hands
  • Hover over the toilet (Make sure you are over the toilet. Some menstrual debris might flow out when the tampon is removed)
  • Pull on the string and pull it out. you might have to pull hard and it might be painful if the tampon did not absorb enough fluid.
  • Wrap the used tampon in toilet paper and dispose of it in the trash. Do not flush used tampons down the toilet

Some tips:

  • Use the smallest tampon that will fill up in 4 to 8 hours (slender/light/teen)
  • Use one with the smooth plastic applicators (Pearl/Silk/Gentle Glide)
  • For sport, Platex Sport may be the best choice, but you still have to try different ones to find out which one is most comfortable.
  • Remember to start with the smallest ones until you are more comfortable.
  • Wait until you flow enough. If you are dry, tampons are difficult to insert and even more difficult to remove
  • Put one foot on the edge of the toilet or bath, or sit on the toilet or squat slightly. This will open your vagina so that it is easier to go in.
  • Push your finger into your vagina first to make sure you understand the direction its got to go.
  • Push it in as far as it will go, and then give it a little extra push. Do not worry, there is nothing you can break or damage up there. Then push it out of the applicator and remove the applicator
  • If it is in correctly, you will not feel it.
  • It is ok if the menstrual flow absorbed by the tampon is lopsided. Most woman will fill the tampon more on one side than another.
  • Remember, if you are not flowing enough, you will be dry and it will be difficult to get in. Use some water or lubricant if you are not getting it in, you might still be very tight up there.
    If you want to, you can first feel around inside with your finger. Once again, there is nothing you can break. You will feel your cervix at the top of your vagina. It feels like the tip of your nose. Its got a little dimple in the middle. This is where the menstrual flow comes out. The end of the tampon’s got to be close to it.
  • Remember to remove the last tampon.

The following drawing shows you where the tampon should go. If it is not in deep enough, you will feel the tampon and it will irritate you the whole time it is in, it will leak and you will be able to see it in a mirror after you inserted it. After inserting it, only the string should be visible from outside

File:Tampon inserted.svg

Inserted Tampon (Licence: GNU Free Documentation License)

Tampon Alternatives

Many alternatives to disposable tampons are available:

  • Disposable pads
  • Reusable pads
  • Reusable menstrual cups
  • Disposable menstrual cups
  • Menstrual sponges
  • Extended cycle birth control hormones

Tampons in the USA market

The US market is different to the rest of the world in that women in the USA mainly use applicator tampons vs. the digital tampons (tampons without applicators, inserted with the finger).

FDA Regulations

The following absorbency levels and labels are enforced by law. It is measured by the weight of of the fluid absorbed by the tampon, not by the size of the unused tampon:

Size Capacity
Junior < 6 g (< 6.25 ml)
Regular 6 – 9 g (6.25 – 9.4 ml)
Super 9 – 12 g (9.4 – 12.5 ml)
Super Plus 12 – 15 g (12.5 – 15.65 ml)
Higher 15 – 18 g (15.65 – 18.78 ml) Needs to be approved by the FDA first.



Original/Cardboard (Cardboard Applicator)


Size Capacity
Lites/Junior <6g
Slender <6g
Regular 6-9g
Super 9-12g
Super Plus 12-15g


Perl Plastic (Plastic Applicator)


Size Capacity
Regular 6-9g
Super 9-12g
Super Plus 12-15g


Compac (Plastic Compact Applicator)


Size Capacity



Playtex Gentle Glide

Size Capacity
Slender Light <6g
Slender Regular 6-9g
Regular 6-9g
Super 9-12g
Super Plus 12-15g
U;tra 15-18g

Playtex Sport

Size Capacity
Regular 6-9g
Super 6-12g





Size Capacity
Regular 6-9g
Super 9-12g
Super Plus 12-15g
Ultra 15-18g




Min g

Max g













Junior 1 6 Lites/
Slender Light
Regular 6 9 Regular Regular Regular Regular/
Slender Regular
Regular Regular
Super 9 12 Super Super Super Super Super Super
Super Plus 12 15 Super Plus Super Plus Super Plus Super Plus   Super Plus
Over 15 18 Ultra Ultra



US Patent 1,962,600 – US Patent Office

Tampax Tampons – P&G

Playtex Gentle Glide Tampons – Playtex Brands

Playtex Sport Tampons – Playtex Brands

O.B. Tampons – McNeil-PPC

Regulations – FDA

Using Tampons

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