'This Is A Point Where We Can Educate,' OB-GYN Says After Tampon Recall05:48
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Volunteers from Walgreens sort U by Kotex period products on May 31, 2018 in Chicago. (Andrew Weber/AP Images for U by Kotex and Walgreens)
Volunteers from Walgreens sort U by Kotex period products on May 31, 2018 in Chicago. (Andrew Weber/AP Images for U by Kotex and Walgreens)

Kimberly-Clark is recalling some U by Kotex tampons made between 2016 and 2018 after reports that inserts came apart during removal for several women, causing some to seek medical help to remove the pieces and others to report infections or injuries.

Dr. Jessica Shepherd, an OB-GYN at Baylor University Medical center, says a recall like this one is not a signal to women not to use tampons. "It's just something to make sure that they are safe in every aspect," she tells Here & Now’s Robin Young.

As Shepherd (@JShepherd_MD) notes, tampons have been around for decades, during which, "women have seen progress in pads and sanitary napkins and tampons." There is now a society for menstrual cycle research and an ongoing movement called "Menstrual Equality Again" that promotes free access to products.

Still, Shepherd says changes need to be made, and that the recall offers a chance to educate.

"This is a point where we can educate from a health care perspective and a health care provider perspective on how to use tampons correctly, making sure that they're being used at the appropriate time as well," she says.

Interview Highlights

On the chemicals inside a tampon

"There are absolutely going to be additives used in the actual product to maintain that form and make sure that they're actually absorbing as much as they can. Now, when it comes to this particular recall, I don't think that there's any necessary fright that needs to be taken as far as what chemicals or glues that may have been used within the product."

On the advent of new, organic menstrual products

"As we progress and pay more attention to women and menstruation — because again, most women will go through a time frame in their life when they do menstruate — is that more products [should be] available to women. … More options is absolutely brilliant.

"When you think of other products, such as the DivaCup or THINX, that to me is a way of being more forward-thinking about what we can actually use during menstruation and not [be] limited to only certain types of products. That is a way for women to express themselves and how they are individually and also how they approach their menstrual cycle."

On toxic shock syndrome, and how using tampons can be more dangerous for some women than others

"There are some women who should not, or can't use, tampons — women who might have anomalies or abnormalities within the reproductive system that would not allow them to use tampons.

"When you think of toxic shock syndrome, it actually has to do with an infection in your body. What we call a super bacteria is released after having a tampon in for extended generation that allows that bacteria to then go into your bloodstream. ... These women will present with some type of symptoms, anywhere from a very high fever to sometimes a rash and sometimes some pelvic tenderness that really needs to be paid attention attention to, because it really can precipitate more of a shock type of feature, which can kind of have their whole body shut down."


Marcelle Hutchins produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Robin Young. Jackson Cote adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on December 28, 2018.

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