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J Pediatr. 1994 Jul;125(1):153-60.

Hymenal findings in adolescent women: impact of tampon use and consensual sexual activity.

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Division of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115.


We undertook a prospective study of 300 postmenarcheal female subjects (median age, 18.0 years) to examine (1) the relation of tampon use, sports participation, prior gynecologic examination, and consensual sexual activity to hymenal anatomy, (2) the factors leading to choice of tampons by girls not sexually active, and (3) factors related to ease of gynecologic examination. The sample included 100 subjects in group 1, who denied sexual intercourse and used only pads for menses; 100 subjects in group 2, who denied sexual intercourse and had used tampons; and 100 subjects in group 3, who gave a history of sexual intercourse. Sexually active subjects (81%) were significantly more likely than tampon users and pad users to have "complete clefts" in the lower hymen between the 2 o'clock and 10 o'clock positions (p < 0.001); tampon users were not significantly different from pad users (11% vs 5%). In subjects who were not sexually active, the presence of these complete clefts was not related to participation in sports or to prior pelvic examination. Although median hymenal opening diameter differed in the three groups (1.2 cm for group 1 vs 1.5 cm for group 2 vs 2.5 cm for group 3; p < 0.0001), the ranges of measurements were wide. Tampon users were significantly more likely than pad users to have mothers and friends, but not sisters, who had a favorable attitude toward tampon use. The best predictors of tampon use in a multivariate model were a favorable maternal attitude (odds ratio (OR), 5.3; 95% confidence interval (CI), 2.4, 12.1) and friends' use of tampons (OR 7.9; 95% CI 3.5, 18.1). Only 26% of speculum examinations in pad users were rated as easy compared with 56% of examinations in tampon users and 81% in sexually active young women (p < 0.001). The best predictors of ease of speculum examination were sexual activity (OR 15.9; 95% CI 1.9, 135.3) and tampon use (OR 3.6; 95% CI 1.0, 12.7). This large sample should provide useful data for physicians who testify in sexual assault cases and gives new information on the predictors of tampon use and ease of gynecologic examination in young women.

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