Swimming on Your Period (And Why You Should)

Swimming on Your Period (And Why You Should)

It’ll happen to you sooner or later. You’re ready to get into the water when you feel that all too familiar feeling of your period starting. Joys. The good news is that swimming on your period is possible. 

Whether you’re a competitive or leisure swimmer, it’s perfectly fine and normal to swim during your period.

DisclaimerThese are only my opinions, thoughts, and observations contained in this post. They are provided only for informational purposes and shouldn’t be used or considered as medical advice. I’m not a doctor or medical practitioner. I encourage you to speak with your doctor or health care provider if you have questions regarding swimming on your period.

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Swimming and Menstruation Stigma

Let’s break the stigma at the start, shall we? 

Yes, you 100% absolutely can swim while on your period. It’s not gross or unhealthy. You’re more likely to encounter urine in the pool first before you come across menstruation fluid. 

Being on your period shouldn’t deter anyone from swimming.

With certain products, such as tampons or menstrual cups, you can enjoy swimming year-round! Much like you can do other aspects of your life while still on your period 🙂

Products for Swimming on Your Period

In terms of products, there are two best-suited options to use for pool or water use. A menstrual cup or a tampon. 

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are my go-to for swimming on my period. Or any day-to-day activity, really!

For those unfamiliar with menstrual cups, they’re a safer alternative to tampons. Which is one of the reasons I recommend them to my teammates and coworkers whenever I can. 

Related article: A Swimmer’s Review of the Diva Cup

Unlike tampons, which use cotton fibers, menstrual cups are made of medical-grade silicone. These cups are shaped like a small cup/bell and hold any menstruation fluid instead of absorbing it like a tampon. 

Best Menstrual Cup for Swimming on your Period

DivaCup

The DivaCup comes in three different sizes to accommodate for various flows. It’s soft but still firm enough that there’s no worry about leaks.

Menstrual cups are safe to use in and out of the water, and are a safer alternative to tampons.

Perhaps the only downside of menstrual cups is the small learning curve. They can be a bit tricky to insert and remove and can lead to frustration.

However, they’re safe to use while you’re swimming. You don’t have to worry about tampon strings exposing you and if you have the cup placed right, the chance of leaking is lessened.

Tampons

Tampons are the usual go-to for periods for most individuals, not just swimmers. They’re typically easy to insert and remove. And someone almost always has one that you can use if you’re in need.

While I currently use a menstrual cup, I used to use tampons while swimming and going about other activities. For the most part, they’re comfortable and safe to use while swimming.

Three concerns about tampons that I should note. 

While tampons are helpful at absorbing blood, it won’t guarantee that you won’t ever leak. If you’re on a heavy flow and don’t change out your tampon frequently, chances are you’ll probably leak.

Additionally, everyone’s vagina is different. Surprise! What tampon fits and works best for you might not work best for your friend. Tampons come in all different sizes and absorbency. It’s important that you pick a brand and type that works best for you.

While tampons rarely fall out, if you don’t insert it correctly, there is a chance that it could slip out. 

Finally, know and watch your body. Follow the instructions on the box of tampons and ensure that you’re changing your tampon frequently. Leaving one in too long can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrom (TSS).

Best Tampon for Swimming on your Period

Playtex Sport Tampons

Tampons are safe to use in and out of the water. Just remember to follow the suggested guidelines to avoid TSS.

Playtex Sport Tampons are designed to move easier with the body for comfort and a leak free period.

What Not to Wear

Swimming With a Pad or Panty Liner

Pads and panty liners will only absorb the water itself and do you little good in terms of protection. It won’t take long before that pad looks more like a diaper within minutes of getting into the water.

It’s also incredibly uncomfortable to swim with a pad filled with fluid. You’ll also run the risk of someone noticing, as some pads aren’t exactly discreet.

You should also know that water will work away at the adhesive backing to a pad. Once that’s gone, you run the risk of it floating away.

Period Swimwear

Newer to the period scene is period swimwear. Personally, I’ve never used them and as a competitive swimmer, I don’t think they would work well.

But for those who swim leisurely, these might be an option. Just note that they’re designed more for light days and/or to protect against leaks.

I wouldn’t recommend them on their own. Instead, pair them with either a menstrual cup or tampon for more ease of mind.

Swimming Without Any Menstrual Products

Short answer. You shouldn’t.

Yes, people can and do swim without using any products. Lower gravity and water pressure means that your menstruation flow slows down. It can even stop for that time you’re in the water.

However, once you get out of the water (and you’re vertical again), gravity will welcome your period with open arms. Ever have blood running down your legs at the pool? Yeah, it’s not fun for anyone.

Longer answer. If you’re finishing up your period and not bleeding heavily, go for it. 

Benefits of Swimming on Your Period

Has your doctor ever told you that exercising reduces period cramps? Guess what? They’re right!

While swimming and working out won’t stop your cramps altogether, it can help reduce them. You’re also less likely to think about how awful you feel during your period while training. Your mind and body are too busy focusing on making it through practice instead!

Exercising, in general, helps your overall mood in addition to the cramps. 

So while you may want to curl up in bed and curse your body, you should actually be heading to the pool to help with the cramps. Yes, they hurt and everything feels like crud. But usually, you leave practice feeling better.

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Competitive Swimming and Being on Your Period

Competitive swimmers have been swimming on their period for years. It’s no secret, even though some people would prefer to keep it that way. 

Most coaches will keep a box of tampons in their office just in case a swimmer starts at the pool. And it’s not uncommon for a team to cycle up and all start around the same time. Spoiler alert, the same thing happens at work, too 😉

Related article: Swimming on your Period FAQ

One thing a competitive swimmer might not know is that you can skip a cycle or two during periods of intense training. This can occur due to a low level of body fat or stress. Personally, it’s never happened to me. But it has happened to other teammates of mine. 

During swim meets, some swimmers might find that they get intense cramps directly after a race.

This varies by the swimmer. Much like skipping a cycle. 

However, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t swim or compete while on your period. Don’t let your period dictate what you can or can’t do. If needed, see your doctor about any painful cramps that you might have.

Cramping is normal, but painful cramps that leave you sick or dizzy aren’t. Whenever you’re not sure, check with your doctor.

Tips for Swimming on Your Period

Don’t overthink it. 

The stigma against periods tells us that they’re something to be ashamed of because they’re gross. I don’t know about y’all, but I can think of a few things that are far grosser than a period.

That said, you have nothing to feel ashamed about. And you should definitely not let it stop you from swimming. Competitive, leisure, or otherwise.

8 Suggestions to Help You While Swimming on Your Period:

  1. Always keep tampons or your menstrual cup with you. In your swim bag, your car, your backpack, etc. Not everyone follows an exact calendar and while you might have a general idea, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact day you’ll start bleeding. Carry extras just in case!
  2. Prior to getting in the water, use a new tampon or menstrual cup. Especially if you plan on being in the water for a couple of hours. This will help lower the risk of leaking or needing to change it halfway through practice.
  3. You should also keep an eye on the clock. Menstrual cups and tampons have a limit on how long you should wear them. Make sure you don’t go over this time. You risk either Toxic Shock Syndrom (TSS) or leaking. 
  4. If wearing a tampon, make sure the tampon string is tucked inside your swimsuit 🙂 No one will judge you for checking
  1. Know your body. If you have a heavy flow, know how frequently you need to change your product. This will help avoid leaks and ease your nerves
  2. Wear and use dark-colored fabrics. Keep a dark towel handy during your period to help with any blood you might spot. Some suits already have a dark inner lining, which can help with any leaks. If yours doesn’t, try looking at a darker suit, instead. For those that wear white during your period, we salute you, brave soul!
  3. You should remove your tampon after you leave the water or when you’re done with practice. This helps reduce leaks and is also a good hygiene practice to get into. 
  4. Relax. You’ve got this! If Olympic swimmers deal with their period during practice or competition, you can do this too!

Having a support system around you of your friends and teammates can also help more than you realize. Even if it’s just to complain about cramps. They know what you’re going through and probably won’t be shy about complaining as well.  🙂

Related articles:

In Closing

Oh, Aunt Flo. How we dread your monthly visits and look forward to seeing you leave in a week or so. 

But just because you’ve started your period doesn’t mean that you need to stop swimming. Or stop any activity in your life. Swimming during your period is possible. Any competitive swimmer will tell you that in a heartbeat.

Yes, it might take a bit more time out of your daily routine to adjust for it. But don’t let that stop you. By using a menstrual product, such as a tampon or menstrual cup, you can swim during your period no matter how heavy it is.

So get out there and enjoy the pool!

As always, to happy swimming!

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Bonus Content:

Swimming on Your Period FAQ: Yes, you can swim on your period! From one menstruating swimmer to another, here are some frequently asked questions I get about swimming on your period.

A Swimmer’s Review of the DivaCup: As a swimmer, menstrual cups offer an array of benefits. The most important being that you can train and compete in them with ease.


Want to Improve at the Pool?

Join swimmers and swim parents to receive my free newsletter and receive a free Swimming Glossary e-book as a thanks!

Every month you’ll receive tips and coaching to help you find success at the pool.

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