Menstruating and swimming tends to be one of those inquisitive topics that I get from some of my male readers. I suppose given that many men are oblivious to the differences of a “pad” and a “tampon” – it would not be a surprize to have them ponder how exactly does a woman on her period, swim (or maybe I should say, swim without menstruating everywhere)? Indeed, when it comes to a girl’s period and swimming, almost one exclusive thing comes to mind – a tampon. Nevertheless, there are other options and maybe this will give both boys and girls, a different way to look at water-activities during a period.
I think it goes without saying, that using a pad while fully submersed underwater isn’t going to be a very reliable form of protection. That’s not to say it will be “useless” – but it won’t work the way it was intended to work. Because a pad is like a sponge, it will absorb any liquid, including the water – whether it be in a pool or open-waters. If you’re planning to have your lower-body fully submerged in water at any time during your water activities, I would highly suggest an internal form of protection, such as a menstrual sponge, cup or tampon.
Now of course, if your water activities do not involve lower-body submersion, it’s quite possible to use a pad for your menstrual protection needs. For those who wear a swimsuit, you can optionally wear underwear or an underwear-like article underneath your suit (i.e underneath your bikini bottoms or swim-shorts) to secure your pad onto and of course, you’d want to choose a colour which wouldn’t show through your outer-material. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but some might consider it a bit of fashion faux pas. Because a swimsuit tends to be a closer fit to the body, you may want to use thin pads to avoid any bulging unless that is not a concern for you. Depending on how revealing your crotch-area is on your particular swimsuit, it may also be good to avoid winged pads. My own personal thought before talking to a few of my friends is that when I think of “beach” and “period” – it automatically makes me assume a tampon is involved. However, in places like Japan or even most Asian territories – because tampons aren’t the ‘common’ method of menstrual protection – many girls learn to make do with pads and modifying their water activities. It is quite common for a girl to wear a pad under a swimsuit and just make sure she wades thigh-deep into water at most, to prevent the pad from properly absorbing her menstrual flow rather than water. The more common alternative then, would just be to skip the swimsuit, stay in some shorts and wear your pads as per normal.
I know there’s a lot of talk about whether your period “stops” or not in the water. While I understand the concept of water pressure in play here, your period does not stop in the water and just to make my point firmer, your period (a biological function) doesn’t “cease” just because you are in water. Do you stop feeling the need to go pee or poop on a full bladder when you’re in the water? No – so neither does your period. Some people who think their period stops might either have a light enough period where the blood might not necessarily show or that there’s enough water/polluted colour not to notice (such as in open-waters). A girl with a heavy-flow and not using proper protection will likely not last long in a swimming pool before someone begins to notice. Mind you, you could always “free bleed” in open-waters and people may not notice, but it really has to do with your own conscience and whether you feel it’s hygienically correct for your menstrual flow to be floating around in water that everyone else is enjoying themselves in. If you’re in your own pool, then hell, do whatever you feel like. I should make mention that conventional pad materials aren’t very friendly with drainage systems, so using a pad in the water and allowing it to “fall apart” might cause issues in common pool drain/water systems.
I know that when it comes to swimming (full-body submersion) that it really is a pain-point for girls who don’t use internal protection. One of my girls was an avid swimmer and was pursuing her lifeguard certificate. However, in her mid-teenage years, she reached menarche and at the time she didn’t use tampons, she gave up much of her training and potential career/certification due to her period being an impediment in her being able to attend courses and required training. Pads are still a very large part of Asia and Asian culture, so it’s not unusual for an Asian girl to decline water activities when she’s on her period or will only do some knee-deep wading and water-splashing. Even if they don’t want to use tampons (fully in their rights), I give them extra kudos for being a good sport and still attending beach/water-related outings. Many girls have also found interesting way of using pads and actually submerging their lower body in the water, so you can always try. However, there are always potentially embarrassing consequences when your pad gives out and everything that was “locked” comes leaking out or when your pad fully soaks up water instead of your flow and your period & clots just leave a trail on the water surface.
On an anecdotal note, I have swam with a friend who’s period started unexpectedly while she was racing me and I can verify the whole concept of whether the water pressure is enough to keep the flow in the vagina – it doesn’t. Your period was meant to be expelled from the vagina and while underwater, gravity still exists. I know it can be quite hard for a girl who really wants to attend submersion water activities and having her period, this is just one of those instances where I have to say, “suck it up buttercup” because there’s not many options when it comes to dealing with an active flow while under water without some kind of surgical assistance or internal menstrual protection. Anyone who’s read this blog for a while will know I’m not a big fan of tampons, but sure enough, tampons were invented for a reason and one of them, being a great form of menstrual protection for water-sports! If you’re lucky enough to own your own pool facilities, I suppose you could freely bleed in it – although I’m not sure if it’d be that easy to be swimming with others with that happening.
So to shorten the entire post down, how to deal with swimming and your period?
- Use an internal form of protection (tampons, sea sponges, cups, etc.)
- Don’t swim
- Swim without protection (not recommend for public areas)
In closing, I’d like to add that swimming is a great activity to carry out while on your period if you can do it. Exercise is essential to maintaining good health, but also has great effects on alleviating period-related pains such as cramps or discomfort. If you’re not under so much pain that you’re ready to keel over, then some moderate exercise during your period will get your mind away from the pain, help you get your body in shape and not coop yourself up in the house!