Swim While Menstruating? Yes, You Can!

Summer is coming and the pool, the lake, or the beach is calling you. You’ve got your swimsuit on, a great beach bag, sunscreen, and a book to read while you relax after your swim. The water looks wonderful, and you are so ready to dive right in. But, oh hell, you just got your period. Now you can’t go swimming, right?

Wrong! There is no reason why you can’t go swimming while you have your period. You do not have to skip enjoying the water several days of each month. Take a look at world class and Olympic-level swimmers and divers. They don’t skip training when they menstruate.

Swimming is good for you. It is a great form of exercise. Swimming laps is a great way to burn calories and is easy on your joints. Even if your form of “swimming” is to bob up and down in the three-foot-deep section of the pool, being in the water is very relaxing. As with all types of light exercise, swimming can help ease the pain of your menstrual cramps and the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). A study published in 2018 found that swimming reduced PMS symptoms like cramps, mood changes, headache, and breast tenderness. What’s not to like about that?

There are a lot of myths about being in water or swimming while you have your period. Let’s debunk them.

First, it is not unsanitary to swim during your period. If the water is clean enough to swim in, it is not going to contaminate you. The reverse is also true; you can’t contaminate the water. If you leak a little menstrual blood in a pool it is very unlikely to be noticed. If you leak a little, it is a very tiny amount and is going into a very large amount of water in the pool. The chlorine in a pool is there to keep the water sanitary.

It is a myth that you will attract sharks if you swim while having your period. While sharks are attracted to blood, according to the Florida Museum, there is no evidence that menstruation has ever been a factor in any shark attacks. If you are really worried about the possibility of a shark attack, you can simply avoid the ocean and stick to swimming in pools and lakes.

It is also a myth that your menstrual flow will completely stop while you are in the water. Your flow will probably decrease somewhat, but it will not stop, which is another reason while no one will notice if you do leak a bit. The decrease in flow is due to water pressure on your body. If you have a very light flow, this decrease might be enough that you don’t need other protection, but don’t depend on that being so.

The best way to get yourself into the water at that time of the month is to switch to using a tampon, menstrual cup, or menstrual disc instead of a menstrual pad. These products catch your menstrual blood before it gets out of your body. Even if you don’t use a tampon normally, use it while swimming. You should not use a pad or panty liner while you are swimming. A menstrual pad will only soak up water from the pool, lake, or ocean making it unpleasant to wear.

If you’ve never used a tampon before, they are easy to use, but it can take a little bit of practice. Some brands of tampons use an applicator while others are inserted using your fingers (after you wash your hands!). There are instructions on how to insert tampons at several websites run by tampon makers like Tampax and Kotex.

Change the tampon or switch back to using a pad after you are done swimming for the day. If you use a menstrual cup or disc, you can leave it in for up to 12 hours.

You have another option if your flow is light: wear a dark-colored bathing suit that won’t show stains.

But one of the best things to happen to anyone who menstruates is the creation of special swimsuits designed to be worn during your period. You can wear these without the need to use a tampon. There are several brands of this kind of swimwear, including RubyLove, ModiBodi, and KnixTeen. The suits are available in two-piece or one-piece versions or as just swimsuit bottoms that you can pair with a bikini or tankini top.

The bottom line is that if you love to  swim, dive in! Even when you have your period!

Valerie DeBenedette
Valerie DeBenedette is an experienced health and medical writer who lives about an hour north of New York City with a dog that is smaller than her cat. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and on websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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