Teen Breathe

Swimming when you’re on your period

Prepare for an elite swimmer, who’s competed internationally, to bust some of the myths about periods and water sports
WORDS: Amber Keegan

Should you go swimming when you’re on your period?

There’s no denying that swimming when you’re on your period can be a little nerve-racking. Whether you’re plunging into the sea on holiday, joining in the fun at a pool party or simply doing your usual swimming session, it’s normal to feel a bit bloated, worried about leaks or self-conscious in a costume. Periods are individual and there’s no one answer for how you should or shouldn’t exercise when you’re on yours. There might be times when you find your cycle inconvenient, but it doesn’t have to stop you from doing the activities you love and that are good for your health.

Why it’s good to talk about periods

Part of the problem is that the concerns you might have about it are rarely discussed. It’s possible that, along with everyone around you, you’ve absorbed the message that chatting about periods isn’t something people ought to do. But not talking about them might mean missing out on learning about your body and how to manage your monthly cycle more effectively.

Understanding your period – how often it comes, what it feels like and what products you prefer to use – is helpful to make it a better experience for you. By chatting to friends and family about it you’ll get some good advice from real people and be helping to break some of the myths about swimming during a period. After all, we should all feel free to exercise whenever and however we like.

Myths about periods and swimming

MYTH 1 You shouldn’t exercise while on your period

The reality:  Exercising during your period is perfectly OK, and it’s even fine to participate in competitions as well. There are times when you might not feel your best during your period and at these moments, sport might be the last thing you want to do, which is also totally fine, too. If you can bring yourself to move around a little, though, even gently, your body releases endorphins, which might help reduce period pain.

Water sports can be a great choice because they don’t put as much strain on your legs, especially if they feel heavy during this time. Remember to keep drinking plenty of water, though, because periods can make dehydration more likely.

MYTH 2 Exercising will make you leak

The reality:  If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. Exercise has nothing to do with it. Once upon a time, tampons seemed like the only option for doing water sports on your period, but thankfully times have changed. Loads of cool period products exist now.

Period cups are one option. They might seem tricky at first, but they have the advantage of not soaking up any water like tampons can while you’re swimming. They’re also more budget-friendly and better for the environment.

Another great option is period swimwear, with brands like WUKA and Modibodi offering some cute choices. These have an absorbent lining that soaks up the same amount of blood as one to two tampons, then a second waterproof layer that keeps the pool water out. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, so investigate. Whatever works best for you is the right choice.

MYTH 3 It’s normal for periods to be irregular or absent if you’re an active person

The reality:  Sport should not delay the start of your period, stop your periods or make them irregular. This is a myth that many active people take as truth – and sometimes doctors do, too. Missing a few periods might seem convenient at first, but it can be a sign that you’re expending more energy than you’re taking in, causing your body to shut down some of its systems. If it’s happening regularly, tell a parent or guardian and get advice from a medical professional.

MYTH 4 It is what it is, and you just have to deal with it

The reality:  This is not true where periods are concerned, and there are many ways to manage unpleasant symptoms. Tracking your periods from whenever they start is a great way to work out what normal looks like for you. Keep a note in your diary of when your periods start and finish. Once you know this, you can see if there are any symptoms that need managing and work out the length of your cycle, so you’re less likely to be caught by surprise at the pool.

Amber is not a medical professional. Her thoughts come from her experience as an athlete competing at international level. This article should not be taken as medical advice but is meant to break the stigma about talking openly about periods.