Can I go swimming on my period?
Periods are a fact of life for around half of the world's population, but there's no doubt they can be a bit of a nuisance and raise all kinds of questions. For example, is swimming on your period safe? Does your period stop in the water? Will you leave a trail of menstrual blood in the water, and how can you work around the menstrual cycle while on vacation?
Let's look a little but more at the facts!
Can you swim on your period?
Yes, if you'd like to, you absolutely can! There's nothing worse than feeling like you have to change your plans just because your period started. While there is a popular belief that you can swim on your period, or that it will make cramps worse, this is simply not true.
Your body releases endorphins -natural painkillers!- when you exercise, so swimming exercise is a great natural way to treat period pain. Gentle exercise from swimming can actually ease menstrual cramps and the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome as well. One study of women who suffer primary dysmenorrhea (period cramps) showed that regular aerobic exercise over a 4 week period helped to reduce pain.
It's really common to worry about your menstrual flow in swimming pools, but if you arm yourself with knowledge and an awareness of the period products available to help you, swimming on your period doesn't need to be so scary!
It is not unhygienic to swim while menstruating
One fitness centre in Georgia recently made headlines for handing a sign in the ladies changing room stating "Dear ladies, Please don’t swim with your period". The centre claimed that this advice was brought in to minimise any risk for other swimmers after to a recent incident where menstrual blood contaminated water.
The water in public pools will always contain traces of bodily fluids, including sweat and urine. However, it's important to remember that public pools have strict guidelines when it comes to water quality, with chlorine keeping the water clean and safe for the health and well being of everyone. Please be assured that swimming during your period will not carry any risk for endangering anyone's health.
Is swimming on your period safe?
In terms of your own health, there is no reason to believe that swimming on your period is unsafe for you. In fact, there is more risk of you contracting an ear infection than a vaginal infection from swimming. Skin infections and stomach illnesses are much more common complaints, and these apply to everyone, not just menstruating women. To reduce any risk of vaginal infection such as yeast infection or Bacterial Vaginosis, simply shower after every swim and ensure to change in to clean dry clothes right after.
All of these risks are general, and nothing at all to do with swimming on your period!
Will I leave a bloody trail in the water?
This tends to be one of the bigger worries! Interestingly, the water pressure in the pool will work against gravity, effectively counteracting your blood flow. So you may notice when you get in to the pool that your menstrual flow temporarily stops or slows, though this may be interrupted if you cough laugh or sneeze, which changes the water pressure.
So in actual fact, it's not that your period stops- just that the blood doesn't flow outside the vagina while you are in the water. In the event of the pressure changing, leak a small amount of blood, however this is not likely to be seen. As soon as you get out of the pool, you will also find that your flow returns to normal, so it's important you are wearing an effective menstrual product such as a menstrual cup or tampon to save any embarrassment.
Can you swim with a period pad?
Pads work by readily absorbing fluids, so wearing a period pad in to the pool is not a good choice! The pad will immediately absorb water, become heavy and sodden and not much good to you for absorbing period blood! Thankfully there are many alternative period products out there to choose from, a menstrual cup or tampons being the most popular options.
However, if neither of these options suit, you can also now buy period swimwear, which look just like normal bikini bottoms or swimming costumes but have a leak proof lining to helps absorb menstrual blood.
Can you go swimming with a tampon?
Tampons are the most popular menstrual products to wear while swimming, these are worn internally to absorb period blood so you don't have to worry about leaving a blood trail in the pool! Tampons do a great job of absorbing menstrual blood while you are swimming, and are discreet too(just keep the strings in check!)
Some women have concerns about tampon use and Toxic shock syndrome (TSS), if you are looking for a reliable way to manage your period when you go for a swim but don't wish to wear tampons- perhaps for health or environmental reasons, a menstrual cup is well worth looking in to!
Are there sustainable alternatives to using tampons when I go for a swim?
Yes! Menstrual cups are growing in popularity and are a great alternative to tampons. Menstrual cups are worn inside the body during menstruation to collect period blood for up to 12 hours, and can be emptied at a time suitable for you. These are much more environmentally friendly than tampons and can also save you lots of money!
The Lancet public health have conducted a systematic review of the effectiveness and safety of wearing a menstrual cup, and the research suggests that TSS risk is lower when using a menstrual cup compared to tampons. If you choose to use a menstrual cup, follow the instructions to ensure you clean and use the product properly. We've written a great blog post about the safety of menstrual cups which is a great read!
Swimming can relieve period cramps
Swimming can actually ease the aches and pains of menstruation and reduce fatigue. When you exercise, this triggers your body to release endorphins which act as natural painkillers. Some gentle exercise is also great for your mental health!
Provided that you eat well and stay hydrated, it's perfectly healthy and a good thing to go swimming during your period.
Can I delay my period until after I go swimming?
This one will involve a trip to the doctor! You can visit your gp if you would like to delay your period til after a holiday or trip to swimming pools. We always advise thinking carefully about natural ways to manage your period, but ultimately this is your choice!
If you are on the combined pill, under doctor supervision, you can skip your placebo pills and move straight on to another pack in order to skip your period.
Will I be eaten by sharks?
This is a surprisingly common fear, stemming from a fear that a shark's sense of smell- which is notoriously powerful- might attract sharks if you go swimming while on your period. First of all, shark attacks happen very rarely in the first place. And, in fact, there have been no recorded cases in the international shark attack file suggesting sharks are more likely to attack women on their period.
Marie Levine, the executive director of the Shark Attack Institute, spoke out about this, stating she has been out swimming with Hammerhead sharks while on her period and that the sharks showed no interest at all. More research is needed for sure, but it looks to be unlikely that you need to worry about sharks attacking just because you are on your period!
What's the best way to manage periods while swimming?
This is most definitely a matter of personal choice! However, it's great to see that more and more options for managing periods are appearing- currently, the popular option would be tampons but menstrual cup use seems to be steadily on the rise as we become more aware of the impact our plastic use has on the environment. Period swimwear and menstrual sponges are also great environmentally friendly ways to manage periods.