Ever wondered about period protection while swimming, surfing, or scuba diving? Have questions about things like safety, sanitation, or (gulp) sharks?
Whether you swim casually or competitively, are into sport diving, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), rafting, or surfing, if you enjoy these activities as someone who menstruates then you have every reason to get out there during your cycle.
Here we’ll answer some common questions surrounding periods and watersports, explain exactly why menstrual cups make the best companions, and include some helpful tips for water activities while menstruating.
Common Questions Around Menstruating and Watersports
Can I swim on my period?
YES! There are a lot of myths surrounding swimming and watersports during your period, but know that most of them don’t hold water. You’re not going to contaminate the pool or increase your chance of being attacked by a shark (we’ll get to that), and sometimes light activity can even help relieve unwanted menstrual or premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms.
Does your period stop while you’re in the water?
Not really. While water pressure around you can cause your flow to slow or stop, there’s no guarantee that a certain stroke or dive won’t shift and release that pressure, potentially allowing a little blood to come out.
Am I at risk for infection if I swim on my period?
Since the vagina opening is generally closed due to pressure, it’s unlikely that much water will get in whether or not you’re on your period. You’re more susceptible to infection from staying in a wet bathing suit. Some people are sensitive to chemicals used in pools, like chlorine or bromine, in which case showering after swimming is a good idea.
Are sharks attracted to menstrual blood?
No, they are not. It’s widely believed that sharks can smell blood in water miles away, but the scent they’re really looking for is gastric acids secreted by fish. The amount of blood that might get out while swimming on your period is minuscule, and gets diluted by the water anyway. Sharks are no more dangerous to you on your period than at any other time.
Will swimming on my period make cramps worse?
Sometimes the thought of any activity while menstruating can induce dread, but there’s evidence to suggest that low-intensity exercise like swimming can actually help reduce cramps and ease the discomfort of bloating. Listen to your body here and make the right decision for you.
Why Menstrual Cups Are The Best Option for Watersports
Less chance of leakage
Menstrual cups provide better leakage protection in a few ways. The first is by creating a seal with the vaginal walls, collecting blood instead of absorbing it. The second is that menstrual cups hold more volume than a tampon, further preventing the chance of overflow. A well-fitting menstrual cup will stay put and keep you leak-free all day.
Stay in the water longer
While tampons require changing every 4-6 hours, cups can stay in for up to 12 hours. This means no cutting activities short for tampon changes. Because cups collect rather than absorb blood, you’re not at risk of water or bacteria being absorbed, or for toxic shock syndrome.
No frequent bathroom trips
There aren’t always bathrooms at the beach, and if you’re out on a boat or an all-day scuba diving excursion it may be hours between bathroom access, or any privacy with limited quarters on deck. Getting in and out of a wetsuit multiple times mid-adventure for tampon changes is a pain, and worth avoiding with the protection of a cup!
Helpful Tips for Swimming and Watersports On Your Period
Listen to your body
If you’re not feeling good, don’t go! The water will be there another day, and there’s no shame in resting any time of the month, but especially if you’re not feeling 100% during your period.
It’s easy not to feel thirsty when the water around you is keeping you cool, but continuing to drink water during your period is essential due to hormones that can cause your hydration levels to fluctuate. Some research has suggested that when scuba diving during your period, decompression sickness can be more likely to occur and is thought to be related to hydration. If you’re a diver, keep this in mind and really pump the fluids.
Don’t stay in your wet bathing suit
This is true for people with vaginas anytime, as your wet bathing suit can hold bacteria which can lead to the overproduction of yeast cells and cause discomfort or infection. When you’re done in the water it’s best to take a shower or rinse with freshwater, but it’s a good idea to at least get out of your suit.
Check on water quality
Also true for whether you have your period or not, it’s important to know the quality of the water you’ll be in. You can usually check with local officials to see if areas have been recently tested or had anything come up, like testing positive for certain algae blooms that can irritate the skin.
Everyone has a different period experience, and sometimes taking it easy or totally vegging out on the couch is exactly what we need. For those who still want to get out and enjoy the water during their cycle, rest assured knowing you’ll be safe, sanitary, and protected with your trusty menstrual cup. So take that rafting trip, book the snorkel excursion. If it feels right to you, don’t let your period slow you down!