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Illustration by Marta Pucci

Tiempo de lectura: 12 min

Can you swim on your period? Swimmers weigh in

Swimming on your period is a common concern, we’ve got the answers to all your questions.

Top things to know about swimming on your period:

  • Your period should never stop you from swimming

  • It is safe to use a tampon or menstrual cup while swimming

  • Our Clue users shared their personal experiences about swimming and periods with us. Read on to find out what they had to say.

Is it safe to swim on your period? 

Periods can be annoying when they arrive unexpectedly, like when you’re all set for a beach day or a swim. It’s common to worry about whether you can swim on your period, however, swimming while menstruating is perfectly safe and can even offer health benefits (1).

If I swim in the ocean, will I get attacked by sharks?

It’s a common myth that swimming in the ocean during your period will attract sharks. In reality, there is no evidence to back that up. In fact, according to the International Shark Attack File, you can even scuba dive safely while menstruating. Marie Levine, Founder and Executive Director of The Shark Research Institute has never had an issue. She told Mother Jones “I’ve been diving for decades and even got my period while underwater with a school of hammerheads – the sharks were not interested…” So there you have it, sharks don’t care whether you’re on your period. 

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Is it unhygienic to swim on my period?

Concerns about hygiene during menstruation are common. Menstrual fluids, which contain blood, vaginal fluids, and proteins, are easily treated by the chlorine in swimming pools, along with sweat and urine (2). The chlorine prevents the growth of bacteria and other microbes, making it safe for people to swim (3). In short, swimming during your period is perfectly hygienic, especially in well-maintained pools.

Can I get a vaginal infection from swimming on my period?

According to one study, the most common swimming-related illnesses are infections that cause diarrhea, vomiting, flu-like symptoms, and respiratory issues like coughing or congestion (4), not vaginal infections. However, you can develop itchiness, a burning sensation, or a yeast infection from staying in a wet bathing suit for too long (5,6). It’s a good idea to change into dry clothes after you swim, and if you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider. 

Do you still bleed when swimming on your period?

While there is limited research comparing water pressure in the pool to period flow, specialists suggest that swimming could temporarily slow your period flow (7), due to the water pressure causing resistance to the blood flow (8). Don’t worry, even if a small amount of blood is released into the pool, it probably won’t be visible. In other words, you won’t leave a bloody trail behind you. Use a menstrual cup, tampon, or period-friendly swimwear to prevent leaks. Once you leave the water, your flow should return. 

What are the best period products for swimming?

There are plenty of period products that you can use while swimming. Read on to hear about the benefits of each one. 

Can I use a tampon while swimming?

Tampons are a great option when you’re on your period and you want to take a dip. Be sure to insert the tampon before you enter the water so that it can absorb menstrual blood rather than the water. When you leave the water, change the tampon to a new one for comfort and hygiene since sometimes, the tampon can absorb some pool or seawater. For many people, using tampons may not be an option. The good news is that there are plenty of other period products to choose from.

Can I use a menstrual cup while swimming?

Menstrual cups made from silicone or rubber are an environmentally friendly alternative to tampons. They create a seal around the cervix and collect menstrual blood. Unlike tampons, menstrual cups only collect menstrual flow, and not water, so you don’t need to change it right after your swim if you don’t want to (9). They’re also great at preventing any stains or leaks (10). Since it creates a tight seal around the cervix, it is less likely to let water into the cup. A menstrual cup should be inserted before you are in the water. You can empty it after your swim, or if you’re short on time after your dip and your flow is not too heavy, you can keep it in for up to 12 hours (11). Even better for those long beach days with limited access to toilets! 

How do I use period-friendly swimwear? 

Period-friendly swimwear is designed with added layers for protection, allowing you to go for a dip without worrying about your period. They are designed to be worn instead of your normal swimsuit or bikini, like a swimsuit with extra protection. Typically, they include a waterproof outer layer and a highly absorbent inner layer to absorb stains or leaks from menstruation. It's worth noting that most brands recommend using them only when your flow is light to medium (11). 

Can I use a pad while swimming?

Swimming with a pad during your period is difficult since pads are highly absorbent and lose effectiveness upon contact with water (13). In other words, they absorb the water rather than period blood. They can also lose their stickiness increasing the risk of slipping out of your swimsuit. If using a pad is your only option, consider wearing dark shorts over your swimwear to secure the pad and hide any stains or leakage.

Will swimming make my period cramps worse?

Swimming and other aerobic exercise can help relieve menstrual cramps (14,15). During and after exercise, your body releases endorphins, which act as natural painkillers and elevate your mood (16). Additionally, research indicates that swimming can reduce symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (15,17). 

For some people exercise might be made more difficult by their menstrual cycle. British gold medalist Dina Asher-Smith broke taboos when she revealed that cramps caused by her period ruined her chances of a title. She called for more research on the impact of the menstrual cycle on performance in female athletes. 

What do I do if I want to swim and my period flow is really heavy? 

Some people experience excessive menstrual bleeding that negatively impacts their lives. Dealing with heavy periods can be tough, but it shouldn’t stop you from swimming if you feel up to it. Menstrual cups and super absorbent tampons can hold up to 35 ml of blood, around 2 tablespoons (18). Just remember to change your tampon before and after you get in the water. If you’re worried about how much you bleed during your period, it’s important to speak to your healthcare provider as there may be an underlying cause. 

How do I prevent stains and leakages? 

It's natural to be concerned about stains and leaks during your period. To prevent these, choose period products based on your menstrual flow. On heavy-flow days, consider using a superabsorbent tampon or menstrual cup. These options are also effective on lighter flow days. You could also consider wearing period-friendly swimwear. If you're feeling particularly concerned, you could wear darker swimwear or layering shorts over your swimsuit.

Can I delay my period until after I go swimming?

You can delay or skip your period if you take the combined hormonal contraceptive pill. How you do this would depend on the type of combined contraceptive pill you take. Speak to your healthcare provider, pharmacist, or sexual health practitioner about the best way to delay your period. If you do not take the combined contraceptive pill, there are other options such as norethisterone (19) however, this option isn’t suitable for everyone. 

Will everyone know I’m on my period?

No. If you use tampons, you can just tuck in the string. No one will be able to see if you are wearing a menstrual cup or period-friendly swimwear. All three methods effectively prevent blood from leaking while you swim.

Opting for darker swimwear during your period can also help conceal any potential leaks, however, if you prefer not to use any of these options, that's perfectly fine too! Kiran Gandhi made headlines by running the London Marathon on the first day of her period without using any period products, challenging the stigma surrounding menstruation. It's important to remember menstruation is a natural process that affects approximately 1.8 billion people each month (20), so you’re unlikely to be the only one in the water on your period. 

What else should I keep in mind when swimming on my period?

Although it’s a great idea to pack the period product that works for you before heading to the swimming pools, it’s also worth bringing some water. Hydration levels can be influenced by fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone before your period (21). Additionally, swimming can contribute to dehydration since you still sweat, and being in the water might trick you into feeling hydrated when you're not (22). Don’t forget to apply sunscreen when you’re out in the sun, and make sure you don’t stay in a wet swimming costume for too long after swimming. 

How do swimmers deal with periods?

Even professional athletes have to think about their periods during swimming. One study reported that female swimmers in Colombia had to take extra precautions to prevent stains or leaks, suffered from cramps, and sometimes delayed their periods using the combined contraceptive pill (23). They also found that the swimmers feared the lack of understanding about their menstruation from their peers and trainers. 

How do Clue members manage their periods while swimming?

In a recent global Clue survey on first period experiences, 24% of respondents shared that they experimented with various types of period products during puberty. In the same survey, 21% said that they were nervous to try internal period products, but interestingly many Clue users said swimming was the motivation for trying tampons for the first time. 

The stigma around periods can be a reason why some people decide to skip pool days while menstruating. However, one of our members from Iceland shared how the stigma surrounding periods was eliminated from a very young age, simply by going swimming:

If you go swimming in Iceland (similar to the other Nordic countries) everyone gets changed in open changing rooms (split between male and female of course) and if someone was on their period as a child you could see them place their pad in their underwear or see their tampon string getting tucked away before going out to the pool. I'm sure that at some point I asked what it was but generally for as long as I remember I’ve felt like I’ve known. And all this has led to a society without shame and with the opportunity for open discussion.

It's not just the stigma that prevents people from swimming during their period, but also a lack of awareness about available period product options. A Clue member from Australia shared how using tampons transformed her summers:

I was initially scared to try tampons but I was a very active sports person and living in Australia in summer and wanting freedom to swim. After a couple of years and encouragement, I tried tampons and never looked back.

Trying tampons for the first time can be intimidating, but as many Clue members shared, it can be liberating once you get it right. 

“I used pads because that's what [my mom] used and found the most comfortable. Later I discovered tampons when I wanted to go swimming with friends but it took me a while to get the hang of them.”

“I feel more confident to do things when I’m on my period now. I was petrified of trying tampons and going swimming on my period but those are things I do now.”

Having the right information about periods and swimming can empower you to live more in sync with your cycle. It can also help you find the perfect period product for you, allowing you to get back into the water. However, if you're happy with your knowledge but decide to skip the pool, that's perfectly fine, too.

Join thousands of other swimmers with menstrual cycles

Tracking when and how long your period lasts can help you plan when you might want to go swimming and when to remember to pack your period products if necessary. Tracking exercise alongside your cycle can help you to identify how your menstrual cycle affects your athletic performance and how you feel. You can also track any accompanying symptoms of your period, which you can bring to your healthcare provider if you need to.

Being on your period shouldn’t stop you from going swimming

Whether you're a seasoned swimmer or simply enjoy a refreshing dip, your period shouldn't put a damper on your plans. The most important thing to remember is that you can use whatever period product you are most comfortable with. It’s not so much about hiding your period, but understanding your cycle and empowering yourself with the knowledge. Opening up conversations about menstruation and activities like swimming or other exercises is a crucial step in breaking the taboos surrounding periods and physical activity.

FAQ

Will my period leak in the pool?

It’s unlikely for your period to leak out as the pressure from the water should slow the flow of blood (7,8). If your flow is very heavy or you cough or sneeze, there's a slight chance that some blood may leak out. The reassuring news is that it's unlikely to be noticeable in the pool or sea. 

Is it OK to swim on your period without a tampon?

Yes! If tampons aren’t your thing, you could consider the menstrual cup or period-friendly swimwear. You don’t have to use anything if you feel comfortable doing so.

Will blood show if you swim on your period?

If you use tampons, a menstrual cup, or period-friendly swimwear it’s unlikely that any blood will show. You could wear darker swimwear to cover up any unlikely leaks. 

What do female swimmers wear during periods? 

Most swimmers are advised to opt for tampons or menstrual cups since pads absorb water, rendering them ineffective (24). Olympic gold medallist Kelsi Worrell once remarked in an interview, "Nothing is too embarrassing" (25). Discussing tampons, she noted, "Sometimes there’s not much there to cover and you do have a tampon string showing." One study looking at elite athlete’s personal experiences of the menstrual cycle found that for some, using the menstrual cup is easier since it only needs to be changed every 12 hours (26). It also highlighted the importance of educating those in elite sports, including male coaches, on the menstrual cycle.

A previous version of this article was published, June 21 2017

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