Image By: Bri Hammond, taken taken to promote ‘Crimson Tide’, a water ballet celebrating the menstrual cycle
As a girl or woman, if you plan to engage with water this summer either to learn or to enjoy several water based activities, then the chances of you menstruating on a day you plan to swim are very high. However this should not stop you from continuing to enjoy swimming and other water based activities like surfing, scuba diving etc. Women refrain from engaging with water, often on their period out of fear that they might leak in the pool or might be judged for the same. Several women are also not aware of what to do or the kind of products to use for swimming during their menstruation cycle.
“Fret not!” echo experienced swimmers.
Swim whenever you want, wherever you want. National champion swimmer Aditi Dhumatkar remembers a time she had to compete on the first day of her period. “I can’t control the date of my competitions to coordinate with my period,” she says. “I’ve had to train my body in that way too. It’s just the concept instilled in us. Swimming while on my period has never hampered my performance psychologically.” Aditi has never missed a day of training with the excuse of menstruation.
Award winning AUSTSWIM Presenter (Trainer of teachers of swimming and water safety) from Australia, Ceri Weeks, says, “In Australia, things are different as engaging with water is part of our culture. Girls use tampons. It is only a matter of re-educating people – men, parents and women. Be it for recreational activities or even for a casual swim in the sea, swimming is a great activity when on your period. Provided you’re comfortable with your body, jump right in. “Nothing should stop you if you want to swim,” encourages Ceri.
“Competitors cannot afford to miss four days of swim training in a row,” says Olympian Nisha Millet, Program Director Nisha Millet Swimming Academy. “Since I’ve always swum, I have always had regular cycles.” Even at her academy, they don’t discourage girls from swimming if they are on their period.”
Menstruation Hygiene to follow while swimming
It is extremely important to maintain basic hygiene before you enter the pool. “Clean yourself up properly and then go straight into the pool,” says national medalist and Director at Karishma Aquatic Academy, Karishma Sadarangani Shah. Aditi agrees, insisting that as soon as you get out of the pool, go straight to the bathroom, clean and dry yourself out.
It is okay to enter the pool without a tampon but a pad or a panty liner is a complete no-no. “Initially, we never even used tampons,” says Nisha. A menstrual cup or a tampon will prevent leaking. But, the chances of the latter are minimal as the pressure of water arrests menstrual flow. Tampons will never slip out. They are fool proof if inserted correctly. They come in all sizes, so beginners can start with thin ones and then use larger ones. Before you dive in, remember to use a fresh tampon or menstrual cup.
With appropriate hygiene measures exercised, there is no risk of infection if you swim during your period.
The only reasons why you may avoid taking a dip is when you have severe cramps, aches and pains.
Educating a billion Indians
Most people in India believe, it is forbidden for women to enter water while menstruating. Talking about this is also considered taboo. “It is a constant struggle to convince people to swim while on their period,” says Karishma. Some people don’t understand the concept, while there are others who try it and don’t discuss it as they may assume it to be frowned upon.
These days, at various academies, parents, teachers, coaches and swimmers are educated about swimming on your period. “We also sensitize male teachers and coaches,” says Nisha. A professional attitude and sensitive approach is key to provide support to young girls and women who want to swim during their period.
“Educating people is key,” says Ceri. She rightly compares swimming during menstruation to an infant pooing in the pool. “Infants rarely pooh in the pool,” she says. Their body restricts them with the pressure of the water. It is rare for them to have a leakage in the pool. Similarly, for a menstruating woman, leakage in the pool is almost never possible.
Don’t let your menstruation cycle dictate whether you can swim or not.
Swimming Matters, towards enabling a billion Indians to enjoy swimming safely and correctly has partnered with Menstrual Hygiene Day to spread awareness on menstrual hygiene during swimming.
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