Tampons don’t cause endometriosis
CLAIM: Using tampons can cause endometriosis by pushing endometrial cells back up into “your belly cavity.”
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Tampons pose no such risk, gynecologists told The Associated Press. Tampons absorb blood rather than blocking the cervical canal, and research shows that tampon use is not associated with a higher rate of endometriosis.
THE FACTS: A common condition that involves abnormal tissue growth from the uterus and can cause severe pain and infertility isn’t caused by menstrual products, despite social media posts claiming otherwise.
A video viewed thousands of times on Instagram this week pushed the false narrative that tampons cause endometriosis, calling the products “bad” and urging people to use sanitary pads instead.
“You got to stop using a tampon, I’m serious,” the narrator in the video says. “Ladies, you’re potentially pushing your flow back up and those endometrium cells can get misplaced in your belly cavity. If this happens you can end up in tremendous pain with a condition called endometriosis.”
But doctors and other experts who specialize in endometriosis told the AP there’s no truth to this myth, which has resurfaced from time to time over several decades.
“There is no data at all to support this claim,” said Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a gynecologist and professor at the Yale University School of Medicine. “Sorry to hear these rumors are surfacing again, and scaring women.”
“This is completely and utterly just misinformation,” said Dr. Miguel Luna, director of endometriosis for the women’s health institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Experts said the claims seem to confuse a widely discussed theory about the cause of endometriosis known as retrograde menstruation. This phenomenon occurs when some menstrual blood flows back into the Fallopian tubes and into the pelvis, instead of out of the vagina.
But tampons don’t cause this phenomenon, which can happen naturally, Luna said.
“Tampons don’t block anything; they just absorb,” Luna added. “And once their absorption capacity has reached its limit, then you will have leakage around the tampon.”
Not only is retrograde menstruation not caused by tampons, the phenomenon doesn’t only happen in women with endometriosis, said Mary Lou Ballweg, president and executive director of the Endometriosis Association.
Ballweg said research shows the vast majority of women have at least a few endometrial cells that travel into the Fallopian tubes, and yet most don’t develop endometriosis.
She added that studies dating back decades found no association between tampon use and an elevated risk of endometriosis.
Research is ongoing into several theories about what causes the condition to develop, the experts said.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.