Periods are an awkward thing to discuss. Even though it is a natural process of life, women do not talk about periods openly. This may be the reason why some myths linked to the period persist to this date. From leaving a bloody trail in the pool water to attracting sharks when on your period, there is too much misinformation out there. Read on as we answer all your questions about your period and swimming.
Does the period stop when you get into the water?
Your period does not stop when you go into the water. Period blood just doesn’t flow outside the vagina like it usually does due to the counter-pressure of the water. Just because your menstrual blood is not flowing out of the body at the same rate, does not mean that it has stopped entirely.
You still need to wear some a tampon or a menstrual cup to avoid getting into a sticky situation, especially if you are frequently getting in and out of the water.
Is it unhygienic to swim while menstruating?
No, it is not unhygienic to swim while menstruating. If you wear a tampon or a menstrual cup, it is highly unlikely that any blood will come out while you swim. Even if some blood does come out while you swim, it will dilute in the swimming pool water.
Swimming pools also contain some small amounts of other bodily fluids like sweat or urine. The pool water contains chlorine, which helps to prevent the spread of disease, so you are unlikely to spread any disease.
Can I catch an infection if a swim during periods?
The chance of you catching a vaginal infection while swimming during your periods is very low. Wearing a wet suit for a long time, friction from the fabric and the chemicals in the swimming pool can cause infections even when you swim during regular days.
The chlorine in pool water can also irritate your vulva and vagina. You have a higher chance of getting a skin infection or a stomach infection from swallowing contaminated water.
Swim in pools with good water quality to avoid infections. Change out of a wet swimming costume as soon as you can and take a shower. If you notice any itching, burning, or vaginal discharge, contact your healthcare provider.
Are women on periods more susceptible to shark attacks?
No. Just because you are on your periods does not mean you will attract sharks if you go swimming in the ocean. There is not a single recorded case where sharks had attacked women when she was on her periods.
Sharks indeed have a good sense of smell. They can pick up on small amounts of blood in the water. They can sense the presence of urine and other bodily fluids in the water as well. Menstrual blood is not just blood alone; it contains mucous, secretions from the uterus, and other components.
There is no evidence to suggest that sharks are attracted to any of these. According to the Florida Museum, there is no definite evidence that menstruation plays a role in shark attacks (1).
Can swimming make my period cramps worse?
No, low-intensity exercise like swimming can help relieve menstrual cramps. When you exercise, endorphins are released in the body, and they act as natural painkillers.
Studies have shown that physical exercise can help prevent PMS. Swimming helps to take your mind off the pain. The water in the pool and its buoyancy also has a calming effect.
What are the safe options to prevent leakage when you are in the water?
There are many safe options for preventing leakage while swimming during your periods. These include –
Tampons are the most suitable menstrual product that you can use if you want to go swimming on your period. They are discrete and easy to use. Just insert a tampon before you go into the water. The tampon will absorb any blood and prevent it from coming out into the water. Just make sure the string of the tampon is tucked away into the swimsuit.
Change your tampon after you get out of the pool. Make sure you wash your hands first. It would help if you frequently change your tampon and never keep one longer than eight hours to prevent toxic shock syndrome (2).
2. Menstrual cup
Menstrual cups are also an effective option to prevent leakage while swimming. Menstrual cups are made out of rubber or silicone, and they collect the menstrual blood instead of absorbing it. Menstrual cups also do not absorb any water that you are swimming in.
On a day when you have a light flow, you can use a menstrual cup for 12 hours. If your flow is heavy, you can remove it and empty it before using it again. Always wash your reusable menstrual cup properly before reinserting it.
3. Menstrual discs
Menstrual disks are similar to menstrual cups as they also collect blood instead of absorbing it. Unlike menstrual cups, menstrual discs are disposable. Some people find these discs more comfortable than tampons or menstrual cups.
Wearing a menstrual disc can be tricky, so you need to practice before you attempt to use it while swimming.
4. Period friendly swimwear
Period friendly swimwear looks like regular swimwear but contains a hidden absorbent lining, which helps to absorb menstrual fluid and prevent any leakage.
These swimsuits provide three layers of protection. The outermost layer is waterproof, and it prevents any leakage. The middle layer absorbs the menstrual blood and locks it in. The top layer is designed to sweep the moisture away from the skin and prevent bacterial infections and odors.
Period- friendly swimwear is also designed to dry up quickly after you come out of the water.
5. Pads or liners
While pads are not the most comfortable swimming options, no rule says that you can’t wear one. It would help if you took a few precautions to make sure it stays in place.
Wear a swimsuit that fits snugly to your body. As your pad gets wet, it won’t be sticky anymore, and a tight swimsuit will keep it in place. Pads absorb water and become ineffective, so make sure you change your pad whenever you come out of the water.
Choose a pad without wings and wear a dark-colored suit. You can also wear swimming shorts on top of your swimsuit to make sure the pad’s wings don’t show.
What extra precautions do I need while swimming on my period?
Women often overlook other aspects and only worry about preventing leakage while swimming during periods. You are more prone to dehydration when you are on your period, so you need to carry a bottle of water with you when swimming. The fluctuating hormones before and during the period can affect hydration, so keep sipping on water when you are out of water.
Use an oil-free sunscreen when you are swimming outside. Both sunshine and periods can increase your risk of breakouts and aggravate existing acne.
Menstruation is a natural process that shouldn’t stop you from swimming and having fun. Neither is it unhygienic to swim during periods and nor is there any heightened risk of catching an infection. Swimming can also help provide relief from period cramps.
You can wear a tampon, menstrual cup or disk, period-friendly swimwear, and even pads when you swim. Make sure you stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.