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One of the latest innovations in North American personal healthcare is the amazing oxygenating maxipad. Tampons and menstrual soft cups and absorbent undies are fine, the makers say, but the new oxygen-producing maxipad, they also say, has other benefits.

Americans have always been at the forefront of menstrual hygiene products. Long before women in other parts of the world had heard of tampons, women in the United States had tampons. And when American women, how to put this, noted deficiencies in the performance of tampons, American innovators produced soft cups and maxipads and absorbent underwear.

The latest innovation in women's personal hygiene products, however, comes from Asia. The TOM or the Total Oxygen Movement maxipad was developed for use in mostly East Asian countries where many women make heavy investments in skin lightening products. The marketing plan for the pad in Asia emphasized vaginal bleaching. In the United States, where relatively few women are interested in vaginal bleaching, the marketing emphasis is on comfort and health.

Why would women want an oxygenating maxipad? The manufacturer explains it like this:

  • Many women find they are less likely to experience a leak when they use a pad instead of a tampon during their periods. Some women just prefer the way the pads feel.
  • One of the problems with using pads during menstruation is that they can feel itchy, humid, and uncomfortable. This stuffy, damp, low-oxygen environment encourages bacteria and yeasts to grow. That's why some women get yeast infections every time they have their periods. It's also why some women have infections with anaerobic (oxygen-hating) bacteria that just won't go away.
  • Oxygen breaks down pheomelanin, the pigment that makes the skin of the vagina relatively dark. If you can somehow oxygenate the vagina during the menstrual period, then natural bleaching will occur.

How would these new total O2 maxipads deal with these problems? The manufacturer claims that they break down water into oxygen. The oxygen kills both pathogenic, disease-causing bacteria and the bacteria that cause odor. The new pad keeps the vagina at an optimal pH. With this product, the vagina is at the "perfect" pH of 4.5. Healthy skin needs a pH of 4.5 to 5.5, the makers say, and a healthy vagina needs a pH of 3.8 to 4.5, so the pad fights off both the bacteria that cause vaginosis and the bacteria that cause skin infections?

How do the pads generate this oxygen? It turns out, that's the tricky part. We don't really have an answer to this question. There are some possibilities:

  • The pad contains itty bitty batteries that generate oxygen from water in vaginal secretions.
  • The pad is impregnated with sodium perchlorate, which generates hydrogen peroxide that turns into oxygen in water-rich, slightly acidic environment. It's worth noting that this chemical is what DNA labs use to dissolve cells to collect DNA.
  • The pad contains a tiny radio transmitter that sends out radio waves at 43 megahertz. And some people talk about getting television in the fillings of their teeth.
  • The pad generates ultrasound at about 40 kilohertz. At least one study, cited below, associates this with a "hypersonic effect," which alters brain waves.
  • The pad heats the vagina to 1000 degrees Celsius. That would smart.
  • The pad emits laser light that photodissociates water into hydrogen and oxygen, which would also smart, because hydrogen is flammable.
  • The pad somehow selectively allows oxygen to flow in from the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, none of these things is going on in the pad. The claims about oxygen production are false. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Increased oxygen in the vagina and vulva is one of the causes of toxic shock syndrome. And the vagina isn't naturally oxygenated. OB-GYN Dr. Jen Gunter says that the natural oxygen pressure in the vagina is 4 to 7 mm Hg. The natural oxygen pressure in the atmosphere is 160 mm Hg. In other words, the vagina is supposed to have about 2 to 4 percent as much oxygen as room O2.

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