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June 10, 2024 19 mins

Recently, there has been a lot of conversation speculating that the size of tampons (and pads) have shrunk while the price has remained the same. We unpack how the claims and response measure up.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hey, this is Annie.

Speaker 2 (00:06):
And Samantha and welcome to Steff.

Speaker 1 (00:07):
We never told your prediction of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:18):
And welcome to another Monday Mini where I talk about
well my social media corner. Yeah no, so on my
usual daily viewing of TikTok, don't start with me. A
video popped up on my for You page FYP, and
in it, the creator compares an old manufactured tampon so
like she probably bought it ten years ago, not really sure,

versus a tampon produced today so recently manufactured, and claimed
that the sizes have shrunk. So here's some context of
that video from Cafe mom dot com. Quote. In her video,
Melissa Simonson showed a tampax chart showing that minstrel flows
aligned with which absorbency level. I'm calling you out, Tampacs.
She said, these sizes that you normalize so that we

all as women know about which ones we use for
about which period of time during our periods. These are
not accurate anymore because you shrunk them. The video has
since attracted more than two point three million views and
over two hundred and ninety three thousand likes, not to mention,
thousands of women in the comments confirmed they too noticed
a stark difference. So she kind of brings out the

two different tampons and puts it in her hands and
shows the differences and sizes, and she goes with it
that they different the flows, like you know, it's the
junior or the small, medium, large, and then Super I
had to be the super just go ahead and give
this heads up. I do not have a period anymore.

Thank god. I'm very happy i'd gotten IUD. I first
got them, I don't want to say like twenty thirteen,
twenty fourteen, maybe twenty fifteen. I know it was before the
Trump administration for sure, and since then my period has stopped.
And I've been very very grateful to this. In my world,
my periods were awful, heavy, flowing, very painful, all these things.

So after the first initial year of having an IUD,
because I know there's a whole debate, there's so many
things that we could talk about ID as in fact
Caroline christ and already have. But with that, for me,
in my experience, the first year was really rough and
trying to regulate. After that, it's been lovely and beautiful
and I love everything about it. Thank you IUD. So
with that said, I haven't had a period in a

long time, so I don't know myself. I have not
had to buy a tampon. I do keep small like
pandyliners around just in case someone needs them. I don't know,
it's not bad to have. But so I'm gonna put
my little disclaimer here so I cannot attest to this myself.
This is all coming from different sources. So this attention
has brought a lot of period has to comment on

this issue. Again, many people are saying they feel the
same way. And two the point that many women thought
they were having problems, like they were having such heavy
flows and changing out their tampons so frequently or paths
that they were freaking out, like, oh my god, what
was wrong with me? Something is happening with my body?
And here are some of those comments from the sun
It says one of them said, I knew I wasn't crazy.

I was wondering while I was going through them so
much quicker. Another said, so it's not just me, dude.
I thought my flow was getting worse because my tampons
soaked through way faster. Now another one, I wondered why
I went from using super plus tampons to needing to
use Ultra on my heavier days. Actually, I was like,
why do I need super like every single day except
the days I need super Plus or Ultra? Now we know,

Simonson responded, regular is trash made for no one. I
felt that way, and another user said, oh my god,
this makes so much sense. I was like, how do
I go through two boxes now in one cycle? It
used to be one and one fourth boxes? And Simonson
commented I had the same question. Truly thought my body
was changing over time, and another woeman was like, I

thought it was me as well. So a lot of
these things have been concerning many women, and we've already
kind of had this conversation about how much they cost.
We talked about the pink tax, and it's still just
as bad. Only a few states and areas offer free tampons.
Twenty states, according to one site, still tax these products

as well. Pink tax. Tampax, who was the main focus
of this TikTok, even though other commenters were like, it's
not just Tampax, y'all. My other tampons brands are the
same way, but they they were the focus for Simonson's video,
and they responded and said that they have not shrunk,
although the amount available per box has definitely gone down,

like literally at one point it was like thirty six
in the box and now the thirty two. Why why
for more money? We know that and that the actual
I guess capacity to hold is regulated by the FDA.
So a spokesperson from tamp box responded to buzfeed after
the initial backlash, saying, no, we have not changed the

size for always in tampacts. Our pads are available in
multiple absorbencies designed to fit different knees, body types, and flows.
They went on to say tampons are regulated by the
US Food and Drug Administration FDA and adhere to industry
observancy or size ranges as listed on the side of
each package. The FDA absorbency ranges have not changed since

its introduction more than thirty years ago. So they've been
saying that repeatedly to different comments because I think people
magazine got onto them as well and they were like, no, no, no,
this is not true. Of course, then the question lies,
why are women using more? Have they truly not changed
or have they stayed within the boundaries of the FDA,

which has like a listing that are arranged by doing
the least possible amount. That's my question. You know how
they kind of get away with wording and I'm wondering
maybe this is it, so People Magazine rights. According to
a Federal Register, the official journal of the Federal Government,
in nineteen eighty nine, the FDA published a rule amending

tampon labeling regulations, which standardize the absorbency terms and sizes.
They are junior which is less than six grams of fluid,
Regular six to nine grams of fluid, Super nine to
twelve grams of fluid, and super plus twelve to fifteen grams,
and an ultra tampon absorbency size is fifteen to nineteen

grams of fluid, and that was added in two thousand
and The junior was labeled as light in two thousand
and four. I don't know why that happened, So my question,
my thought is maybe they're just keeping it instead of
like the larger range, they're just keeping it as a
minimal and saying they're still guidelines because they didn't say
they didn't change it right.

Speaker 1 (06:49):
Right well, being guess lit and so many of those
like terms. I've never really thought about it before, but
the kind of strange, yeah, I feel like a lot
of food companies get away with using terms terms that
have a legal meaning, but they're not necessarily using it
in the legal sense, right, So yeah, I wonder if

there's something like that going on here.

Speaker 2 (07:12):
Right. Also, there's this conversation about how they're testing these products,
so BuzzFeed actually talks about it, about the fact that
they don't actually use blood. They use like a saline solution,
which is not as thick as blood. So you've got
to wonder what is being absorbed in what isn't. But
before we jump into that, just as a reminder, this

leads to the still disturbing facts of period poverty, which
is still very prevalent all over the world. And just
for a refresher, an update of where we stand period
poverty as explained by the Unwoman dot org and this
was from twenty twenty four. Period poverty refers to the
inability to afford and access menstrual products, sanitation and hygiene facilities,

and education and awareness to manage menstrl health. Simply put,
period poverty costs women and girls too much, and it
doesn't have to be this way. I feel like this
is just this has been a conversation for the last
thirty years and we're still not hardly getting anywhere. Well,
there's some places that are like, yes, we've got it,
some workplaces that are like, yeah, we understand, we're here

for you. But the fact that it's still so prevalent
that people cannot afford, afford this or get access to
this as a problem. And they go on to explain
the causes, which quote stigma, the high cost of mintral products,
and lack of water and sanitation facilities drive a period
poverty around the world. Minstrual products are prohibitively expensive for

millions of people worldwide. Ginger blind policies and tax laws,
for example, the pink tax on feminine products, are in
part to blame, but such policy decisions go together with
a stigma and taboo attached to minstruation. For example, in
many states within the United States, by Agra for erectile
dysfunction is classified as a tax exempt health product, while

sanitary products are claified as luxury goods and texts at
the highest rate, which is I really want to throw
the computer every time I read something like that. Why
is viagrass so much more important? I'm gonna throw this computer. Additionally,
more than one point five billion people still lack basic
sanitation services such as private toilets, which is a huge deal.

Not having access to safely managed toilets keeps many girls
away from school and women away from work during their period.
At least one in ten women and girls in rural
areas across twelve countries did not have a private place
to wash and change during their last period. That is
so disturbing. Yeah, and as ongoing crises all over the

world has caused a bigger deficit in period poverty, it's
worrisome that companies may be skimping on the products which
have been inaccessible to many. Here's another quote from unwomen
dot org. There's growing consistence that managing administration is a
health rather than hygiene issue, and above all, a human
rights and gender equality issue. Today, six hundred and fourteen

million women and girls are living in conflict affected areas,
and the number of women and girls fleeing conflict, crisis
and disasters is rising. The United Nations Refugee Agency estimated
in twenty twenty three that women and girls accounted for
fifty one percent of all refugees. Menstruation does not stop
during crisis yet menstrual hygiene management and women's girls' health

and dignity are low priorities during a crisis response. During
transit and in camps, displaced women and girls often lack
privacy to change and wash internally. Displace women and girls
in me and Mar preferred a disposable sanitary paths to
clause once they learned how to use and dispose them
and u WIN Women's recent report from Gaza, more than

five hundred twenty thousand women and girls of reproductive age
lack access to items to support their hygiene, help and dignity.
They are resorting to using cloth or sponges because they
cannot access menstrual products. You and Women estimates that ten
million disposable mintrul pads are needed each month to cover
the knees and preserve the dignity of women and girls

in Gaza. In Lebanon, during the economic crisis, the prices
of minstrl pads and other hygiene items made within the
country increase by ninety eight to two hundred and thirty
four percent. In April twenty twenty, sixty six percent of
girls said they could not afford to buy menstrual products,
and since menstruation is a taboo topic. Most girls and
women do not talk about it. So there's so much

to be had about this conversation that the fact that
they are again tampax is saying that they have not
done this. It is FDA regulated all these things. But
from the testimony of those who are having periods that
are saying their going through so many boxes and having
to pay so much more because they have to have more,
it seems us.

Speaker 1 (12:06):
It does, especially because they're a big company. One, yes,
but two, we just have so much evidence from companies
that have been doing this right. And during the pandemic,
there was a whole there was this question of they've

gotten more expensive and it seems like I'm getting less
Like there was that whole thing about I'm finding them
on eBay for hundreds of dollars, right, which is a yeah,
if it's a health need, that's ridiculous.

Speaker 2 (12:41):
It's silly. So all these things and again with those
who can't access it, and that's just the conversation in general,
like we don't even think about the fact oftentimes people
don't even think about the fact that this as a need,
and the fact that yes, this is a health issue
is becoming a health issue when it's not excess and
it's not available, and then that people don't want to
talk about it or don't want to help, and the

fact that it's not affordable everywhere just because it doesn't
affect everyone. Still fifty one percent is a pretty high
number that they don't care about it. There's so many
things as well as the fact that it ostracizes many
people if they're on their periods. We know this taboo
has really really up a whole society, like a whole
community of people of women and those who have uteruses.

We know this. So there are a lot to still
be wanting when it comes to period products anyway, and
overall uterine health, and as well as we need to
be questioning the corporations and what they're doing to increase profits. Again,
I think I wonder if they're trying to gaslight us

about these products and about the fact that women are
going through them so much quicker, and if there's a
whole ongoing crisis that so many women are affected by this.
We need to have a bigger conversation about what is
happening that's true like one or the other. Yah, someone
needs to be looking into this in fact, just as
a reminder when it comes to testing, and I've said

this earlier, these products are often often can lead to
inaccurate information. As BuzzFeed reports, there's another factor that can't
be ignored. Traditionally, we haven't tested tampon absorbacy with real blood,
so the absorbency data would come to rely on doesn't
accurately reflect how well a tampon works in real world conditions.

In August twenty twenty three, Scientific American reported on a
paper that found that tampon absorbacy numbers can be misleading
because they're typically tested with a salinge solution that's just
slightly thicker than water. When the tampons were tested with
real blood, researchers found they could hold much more or
much less, depending on the brand and size. They tested

twenty one different period products and found that tampons of
various sizes could hold a range between twenty and thirty
four milli laters of blood and they continue saying. According
to study authors, this was the first time tampon absorbancy
was tested with actual blood. The fact that tampons were
invented in nineteen twenty nine and it took until twenty

twenty three for researchers to test them with actual blood
says a lot about how period stigma has hurt our
understanding of women's health. Hopefully the study is a step
toward period products that better reflect how much blood we
lose each month. So literally last year, yeah, yeah, it's
tweet twenty four.

Speaker 1 (15:26):
Yeah. And I will also add for anyone who's had
a period, you know a lot of times it's not
just blood. Yeah, there's clots, there's mucus, there's like thicker
stuff right that I get it might be difficult to test,
but the fact that you just got to doing the

blood part is still not quite capturing the pictures.

Speaker 2 (15:52):
What is happening. And I think that's that conversation again
about like they don't want to learn, they don't want
to help women. Yeah, they don't care, and they just
wanted like, well, wills give it a band aid and
want you to be quiet things quick, complaint and we
don't want to hear about that, and then like when
you actually start talking about it. Literally, I didn't know
until I think I was graduated college that's the amount

of class that I had was not normal. I was like,
oh really, huh? Like it was a midwife. Actually she
was like talking to me and worked at the kind
of colleges, and she was like, Okay, yeah, no, you're
not supposed to have that many claws and if they're
that big, that's probably why you were in so much pain.
I was like, oh, oh, okay, and then like it

just blew my mind because I maybe a couple of
these things were you weren't asked. You don't ask questions
because you don't think to ask if you have nothing
to compare whether you think you're fine and this is normal,
and you find out it's not actually normal, you're like.

Speaker 1 (16:49):
Yeah, And it's incredibly harmful because I feel like every
person I know has a story like that. I have
story like that because we don't talk about it, so
we don't know what's normal. And the really scary thing,
one of the really scary things is like, if we
look at our conversations around abortion in this country, that

becomes a huge deal. But no one who's making these
laws knows anything right at boat periods because none of
us apparently to right.

Speaker 2 (17:26):
And let's talk about the fact that they're trying to
take away birth control in some areas and some people
some women always wonder of them use birth control to
help manage your period again, because it's so awful and
we're not even jumping into indometriosis and all of the
information that's lacking from that, and how painful and how
disruptive it is to many of the people with the

universes and what that's like for them. It's annoy like
this is such a ridiculous conversation. But the fact that
the corporations are backtracking and be like no, no, no, no, no,
no no no, not bad tracking, but possibly possibly like
not giving everything, not giving what is sufficient essentially for

women to sustain good menstrual health. It's just kind of like,
that's not even talking about toxic shock syndrome because people
probably don't want to change out their tampas because they
feel embarrassed and or they don't have them, like I can't,
it's too much. But anyway, this is what I woke
came up on my for you page. If you have

thoughts on this, or if you actually feel like you
can give an example to that, let us know, because
this is interesting. I think it's so newly developed that
I hope this doesn't go away. It's like I want
to hear more conversations and people being held accountable and
then you know, fixing this.

Speaker 1 (18:49):
Yes, absolutely wow. If you would like to send those
thoughts to us, you can Her email is STUFFI your
Mom stuff at i heeartmedia dot com. You might us
on Twitter at Mom's a Podcast, or on Instagram in
TikTok at steff I never told You're on YouTube. We
have a book you can get wherever you get your books,
and we have a cheap bobok store if you want
some merchandise. Thanks as always too, our super producer Christina,

executive producer Maya, and our contributor Joey. Thank you and
thanks to you for listening. Steffan never told you to
direction my heart Radio. For more podcasts from my Heart Radio,
you can check out the heart Radio app Apple Podcasts
wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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