Evaluating the Microbiological Quality of Select Sanitary Pads Sold in Akure Metropolis, Ondo State, Nigeria

Research Article

J Bacteriol Mycol. 2023; 10(3):1212.

Evaluating the Microbiological Quality of Select Sanitary Pads Sold in Akure Metropolis, Ondo State, Nigeria

Opeyemi B Lawal; Daniel J Arotupin; Adenike A Akinsemolu*

Department of Microbiology, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria

*Corresponding author: Akinsemolu AA Department of Microbiology, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria. Tel: +234 814 777 4444 Email: [email protected]

Received: August 24, 2023 Accepted: September 28, 2023 Published: October 05, 2023


This study conducted microbiological evaluations of various brands of sanitary pads sold in Akure metropolis in Ondo State, Nigeria. The sanitary pads from different brands, including Always, Everyday, Ladycare, Ladychoice, Lovina, Rosemary, and Softcare, were collected and analyzed to determine the presence of microorganisms. Microorganisms were isolated from the sanitary pads using appropriate media such as Nutrient Agar and Potato Dextrose Agar, employing standard methods. The study revealed a diverse range of microorganisms, including bacteria such as Bacillus cereus, Clostridium perfringens, Staphylococcus aureus, Veillonella parvula, and Lactobacillus antri. Additionally, fungal species like Rhizopus stolonifer, Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus niger, Fusarium oxysporum, and Trichoderma sp. were isolated from the sanitary pads. The presence of microorganisms on sanitary pads underscores their non-sterile nature. While some of the isolated microorganisms have the potential to cause infections, the vaginal pH and the presence of beneficial microorganisms like Lactobacilli sp. in the vagina may counteract the risk of infections from microorganisms present in sanitary pads. Thus, sanitary pads are considered safe for use. Nonetheless, maintaining a healthy lifestyle remains crucial.

Keywords: Sanitary pads; Microorganisms; Bacterial isolates; Fungal isolates; Vaginal pH; Women’s health; Hygiene


The sanitary pad, a fundamental element of women's menstrual health management, serves as an absorbent device used during menstruation and other situations necessitating blood absorption [1]. Beyond menstrual hygiene, sanitary pads find application post-vaginal surgeries, childbirth, and abortion [2]. From a historical and technological perspective, sanitary pads mark the inception of gynecological sanity and hygiene practices [3]. These products come in diverse variants, with winged disposable pads preferred for their added protection against leakage and enhanced stability [1]. Prior to disposable pads, reusable cloth pads made from various absorbent materials was the norm, underscoring the evolution of menstrual hygiene [4]. Sanitary pads encompass a range of types to cater to distinct needs. These include ultra-thin pads, regular pads, maxi/super pads, night pads, and maternity pads. Ultra-thin pads, characterized by compactness, deliver absorbency without bulkiness. Regular pads cater to the average flow, while maxi/super pads offer larger absorbent capacity for heavier menstruation. Night pads provide extended protection during recumbency, and maternity pads, slightly longer than maxi/super pads, manage post-childbirth, surgical, or abortion-related bleeding [5]. Sanitary pads are composed of three layers—the surface, absorbent, and underlying layers—each with specific considerations in material choice and functional attributes. Surface layers necessitate rapid absorption to prevent skin wetness, while the absorbent middle layer requires effective absorption agents.

Microorganisms are ubiquitous and exist even on everyday objects, including sanitary pads, especially the widely used disposable varieties. Despite a common misconception that microbes are confined to clinical settings, they are present on various surfaces and materials frequently touched by hands, including sanitary pads [6]. This study illuminates the presence of microbial communities within sanitary pads, an aspect often overlooked but significant.

While sanitary pads are a staple in women's lives, the issue of their sterility has not garnered sufficient attention. These products, though clean, lack sterility and are not recognized as medical items, allowing manufacturers to abstain from listing their contents on packaging [7]. With compositions comprising wood fibers, cotton, rayon, polyester, polyacrylate, absorbency enhancers, chlorine compounds, and fragrances, sanitary pads could potentially harbor agents that cause infections [8]. Proximity to the skin, particularly the vulvar region, raises concerns about sanitary pads' involvement in various health issues, from vulvovaginitis to cancer [9].

Vulvar epithelial tissue, distinctive in structure and function, plays a role in safeguarding against harmful agents [10-12]. Research underscores the potential impact of synthetic underwear, tight pants, menstruation, and sanitary pad use on vulvar health, making the area prone to vulvovaginal diseases [13,14]. Notably, even individuals with normal and sensitive skin experience skin irritations due to the occlusion and humidity associated with sanitary pad use [2,15].

Against the backdrop of the non-sterile nature of sanitary pads and their potential implications on women's health, this study aims to quantitatively assess microbial presence in different brands of sanitary pads available in Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria. By establishing the sterility and safety of these products, the study aims to contribute to the understanding of microbial infections' epidemiology and pathogenesis, particularly concerning vulvovaginitis, contact dermatitis, and skin irritation, during and after menstruation. Given their close proximity to sensitive areas, sanitary pads must be devoid of microorganisms that pose health risks to users. The diverse microorganisms present in these products raise concerns about potential health implications. This study addresses this critical aspect of sanitary pad usage, contributing to the broader discourse on women's health and hygiene.

Materials and Methods

Sample Collection

Sanitary pad samples from brands including Always, Everyday, Lady Care, Lady Choice, Lovina, Softcare, and Rosemary were obtained from Oja Oba and NAO supermarket in Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria.

Materials Used

The laboratory equipment included an autoclave for sterilization, an incubator for controlled growth conditions, and a microscope for observations. Glassware such as McCartney Bottles, Test Tubes, Disposable Petri-Dishes, Conical Flasks, Beakers, and more were used. Sterilization techniques, a Bunsen burner, and culture media like Nutrient Agar, MacConkey Agar, Blood Agar, and Potato Dextrose Agar were employed.

Laboratory Setup

To ensure the validity of our findings, we employed state-of-the-art laboratory equipment and techniques. Sterilization was executed using an autoclave, while incubation of cultures occurred in controlled conditions. Microscopic observations were made using advanced microscopy technology.

Sample Preparation

The collected sanitary pad samples were dissected into individual layers, and aliquots were soaked in sterile distilled water for microbial release.

Isolation and Characterization of Bacterial Isolates

The microbial samples were cultured on different media, including Nutrient Agar and Potato Dextrose Agar. The colonies were then characterized based on morphology, growth characteristics, and other features. Biochemical tests such as Catalase, Coagulase, Oxidase, Indole, Methyl Red, Urease, and Starch Hydrolysis were performed for identification according to the methods of Benson [16].

Isolation and Characterization of Fungal Isolates

Fungal isolates were identified based on colony characteristics and microscopic observations. Pure fungal cultures were obtained by transferring spores to Potato Dextrose Agar [17]


In this study, a total of twenty-eight (28) samples were collected and analyzed. Analyses of seven (7) sanitary pads from different manufacturers were carried out. Three (3) samples were collected from each sanitary pad. The samples collected included the Surface Layer (SL), Absorbent Layer (AL), and Underlying area (UL) of each sanitary pad.

Bacteria Isolates

After the isolation of bacteria from the different sample materials used, the isolated bacteria were characterized based on their cellular, morphological, and biochemical properties. The details of the cellular, morphological, and biochemical characteristics of the bacterial isolates are shown in Table 1. These characteristics were employed for the identification of bacterial isolates. Biochemical tests, such as gram staining, catalase test, coagulase test, sugar fermentation, citrate test, and starch hydrolysis, were utilized for identification, with microorganisms testing positive or negative. The distribution of isolated bacteria on the examined sanitary pad surface layer is presented in Table 2. Seven different brands were analyzed for the presence of bacteria. Various bacterial species were isolated from four brands of sanitary pads analyzed, including Ladycare, Ladychoice, Rosemary, and Softcare. No bacteria were isolated from other brands of sanitary pads under analysis, such as Always, Everyday, and Lovina. Table 3 illustrates the distribution of bacterial isolates from the absorbent layer of the sanitary pads under analysis. Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Veillonella parvula, Corynebacterium xerosis, Clostridium perfringens, Lactobacillus antri, and Bacillus licheniformis were isolated from all the brands of sanitary pads.