A diver is a diver, regardless of gender. HOWEVER, being a woman does come with an undeniable difference that can impact on our diving experience: the female reproductive system has a rather inconvenient feature that makes for some logistical challenges at that time of the month. But, no need to worry, Girls that Scuba will tell you all their secrets for diving on your period!
Diving before and during menstruation
We all know how we feel at that time, so you can probably work out some of the issues to look out for, from cramps to headaches. But also be aware that the main opinion from the dive doctors is that menstruation can lead to fatigue and dehydration. Interestingly, when we asked the Girls that Scuba, they’ve noticed all kinds of things that you won’t see in the medical articles:
- Getting out of breath more easily when carrying equipment or swimming/finning
- Increased air consumption during the dive (we do not know why, maybe due to fatigue/stress)
- Buoyancy changes due to fluid retention or bloating
- Not being able to fit into usual equipment
“it totally messes with your buoyancy”
“Physically I feel weaker - my legs don't seem to have the same power. Which means my air consumption isn't as good, and getting back onto a boat after a dive with my full kit on is a nightmare.”
“wet suits don’t fit properly as my knees and joints swell up immensely and cut off the circulation”
“the only thing for me about diving on my period is the bloatedness when trying to hook up my BP/W around my midriff ... And have to loosen my webbing a bit. “
Let's talk about our feelings. We are on our periods, ok?!
It is not just the physical effects we need to consider, as always fitness-to-dive is partly about our mental and emotional state. For some women, this can be strongly impacted by menstruation and “the usual over water crazy goes on during diving as well!” We need to be aware of how our mood and concentration may change.
“Definitely fatigue, physical exhaustion and perhaps also due to dehydration is a huge factor for me. That’s when the anxiety can creep in. I feel less relaxed and less confident at that time of the month, whether I’m in the water or not.”
This psychological aspect of fitness-to-dive is as important as the physical limitations, if distraction, irritability or staying oriented is an issue then it is something to consider planning the dive:
“On land I am clumsier and more tired. I personally might avoid a challenging dive,... I might just adapt my limits a bit.”
For a minority of women, this means taking the reluctant, but wise, decision to miss out on diving:
“My mood and concentration are completely shot during my period, ... I become a lot weaker, so I believe I would be a danger to myself and others.”
Will I get eaten by a shark if I am diving on my period?
No, just no! Please let us reassure you:
“Results of several studies indicate menstrual fluid does not attract sharks. ... I have made thousands of dives in 30+ years of diving. Never one problem diving while menstruating - even on "shark" dives with dozens of large sharks.”
There is no evidence that correlates sharks attack and menstruation, nor are there any reported cases of shark attacks on women who are on their period. Marie Levine, Founder and Executive Director of The Shark Research Institute has been diving with sharks for decades reassures she has had no problems at all.
A few of our members have reported being misinformed by other divers about this and urged to stay out of the water. It is just not true! Humans are not a natural part of the shark’s food chain and our smells really do not entice them. Now that we’ve dispelled that silly myth, let’s move on to the really useful information.
Diving on our periods? We feel no difference
On the bright side, for many members of Girls that Scuba, there is no difference whatsoever. And, even better, we are also seeing benefits to scuba diving during periods. Some say periods are shorter. Many talk about reduced pain/cramps and wonder if this may be related to pressure, or the distraction of diving for fun. We don’t really know why, but we are happy to keep diving!
“Except for the paranoia that I'm going to leak everywhere”
Oh, okay, that can be tricky, especially when you are on a boat full of men and there is no toilet in sight! Our best advice on this one is be prepared. Do your research on the facilities and take along whatever you need, tampons, sarong to use as a cover, ... (chocolate!) In fact, you’d be astonished at the ingenuity and come of our more adventurous Girls that Scuba!
It’s all about the cup!
If you are a regular follower you will know our enthusiasm for the menstrual cup. Due to advances in technology and the wonders of silicone, these feminine hygiene products have brought sanitary care out of medieval times! Our 21st century girl can now happily continue all activities as normal, including swimming and scuba diving, YAY! Using a cup has benefits for the environment and your bank account, because they are re-useable for many years.
There are lots of different brands that come in different shapes and sizes, some cups fit better than others and you may need to try a few. In that sense, they are rather like scuba masks: the best one is the one that fits you (but please do not go into a dive shop and ask for assistance with fitting!)
But we appreciate that the cup is not for everyone and there are other options. Join the Girls that Scuba group and search for previous conversations on the topic. There is a whole host of possibilities with contraceptive pills and devices, or period-delay medication, but please seek medical advice.
We all know that leaks can be embarrassing, and as divers, we are pretty darn good at embarrassing ourselves by now, but we’d really like to avoid the whole dive site seeing this! If there is one thing us Girls that Scuba are good at, it is supporting each other, so taking aside a fellow diver and offering to help out is all in a day’s diving, and after all ..
“... it comes with the diving territory that you all get on with these embarrassing issues and at the end of the day no one really minds”
About the author
Laura is a Scuba Diving Instructor and Clinical Psychologist with a fascination for the psychology of diving. She is also the author of the PADI Psychological Diver course. Learn about how psychology can improve your diving on her website www.scubapsyche.com and Facebook page.