Can You Go Swimming During a Menstrual Cycle?

Girls sitting poolside with beach towels

Often starting between the ages of 8 to 16, menstruation is a normal part of every girl’s life. During the menstrual cycle, a woman’s body expels blood and tissues that have accumulated along the walls of her uterus. Typically lasting three to seven days, a woman’s period generally occurs once every month until she reaches late adulthood. Many girls wonder if they can still go swimming during a menstrual cycle.

Get in the Swim

To answer the question quite simply, yes, you absolutely can go swimming during your menstrual cycle. In fact, your period really should not stop you from doing any activity. Some women even have sexual intercourse during menstruation; although the activity might get a bit messy, it is perfectly safe. Whether you are swimming in gym class, as part of a club or simply for fun, your menstrual cycle should not stop you from jumping in the pool.

Be Prepared for Action

That said, you must use the proper supplies while swimming during your period. Be sure to tuck extra tampons or a menstrual cup in your swim bag. If you wear a menstrual pad while swimming, the pool water will cause the pad to become wet and soggy. Along with making the pad less absorbent, it could also allow your blood to leak into the pool water. Instead, use a tampon or menstrual cup to catch your blood while you're swimming. A tampon is a cylinder of soft cotton that is inserted into the vagina. Once inserted, the tampon absorbs blood and blocks it from exiting your body. A small string attached to the end of the tampon hangs out of your vagina, allowing for easy removal. When wearing a bathing suit, simply tuck this string inside the crotch area of the suit. If you don’t like tampons, consider using a menstrual cup. Typically made of rubber or silicone, these small cups are also inserted into the vagina during your period. Rather than absorbing blood like a tampon, the cup simply catches the blood. Depending on your blood flow, menstrual cups can typically be worn for 6 to 12 hours before needing to be emptied, although more frequent emptying can prevent overflow.

Go With Your Flow

Tampons come in a wide variety of sizes and it is important to choose the appropriate size for your period. Base the tampon size off your blood flow; heavy bleeding requires heavy absorbency, while light bleeding only requires light absorbency. Using a light absorbency tampon on a day of heavy bleeding could result in leakage, which could be an embarrassing problem whether in the pool or on dry land. Since the tampon string will likely become saturated with pool water, change your tampon after swimming.

Cramping Your Style

During menstruation, some women experience severe cramps in the lower part of the stomach. Although these cramps generally do not cause any significant problems, they can be extremely painful. Although exercise generally helps to relieve cramps, you may need to avoid swimming if your cramps are too intense. If menstrual cramps often cause you to double over in pain, lose your breath or clutch your stomach suddenly, swimming could be unsafe. If you choose to swim with severe menstrual cramps, make sure an adult is nearby to keep an eye on you.