PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Oregon Health & Science University researchers said they’ve found alarming gaps when it comes to understanding current menstrual technologies – both traditional products like tampons and disposable pads, and new technologies like reusable underwear and menstrual cups. 

Scientists said understanding current technologies is essential to ensuring menstrual wellbeing and improving women’s health outcomes. 

New technologies, things like reusable underwear, menstrual cups and discs, have helped address more diverse needs and are more sustainable, but they often aren’t routinely integrated into clinical care and research. 

Instead, researchers typically evaluate menstrual flow based on the use of specific products, like the traditional tampon or pad. 

OHSU scientists published a review study on Feb. 15 in “Obstetrics & Gynecology” that outlines things physicians and researchers should consider with menstrual technologies and focuses on how new menstrual technologies can allow health care professionals to more accurately assess for heavy menstrual bleeding. 

Whether a person has heavy menstrual bleeding can be determined in a number of ways, depending on the product being used for menstruation. For example, for a person using tampons, it’s determined by how frequently a tampon becomes saturated. However, for reusable pads or underwear, a user might need to weigh them to determine how much liquid they’ve absorbed. For reusable cups, heavy menstruation can be determined by how full the cup gets. 

Obstetricians and gynecologists are expected to educate patients on normal menstruation and help treat abnormal uterine bleeding. However, if they only know how to determine what is normal using certain products, they might not be able to help all their patients.

“To provide these assessments and guidance, it is important for obstetricians and gynecologists to ask patients about the type of menstrual products they use and to have up-to-date knowledge of all of the menstrual product options to answer questions, provide counseling related to their use, and understand what kinds of experiences… may signal a problem,” OHSU researchers wrote in their published review study. 

The scientists would like to see improved data on new menstrual technologies’ absorbency and how many people are using them. 

With data like this, clinicians could adapt how they evaluate and guide patients. 

“Individuals deserve to understand the options available to them so they can make informed decisions about their menstrual health, and it’s crucial that clinicians have the knowledge and resources to be able to support their patients in these conversations,” said OHSU’s Dr. Abigail Liberty, who co-authored the study. 

This research is one of OHSU’s most recent efforts to support reproductive rights and women’s health.