As a dive instructor, I receive countless questions from my students. Over time, the same types of questions seem to reoccur. One of the most common recurring questions I get as a female instructor, relates to “that special time of the month”.
Is it ok to go scuba diving on my period?
These days, I can answer the question before it has even been asked. The scenario is always similar. Generally, during one of the first breaks on a dive course, a slightly awkward looking female will corner me one on one. I often feel like a doctor. The nervous female will precede her question with often graphic gynaecological details of her menstrual cycle, followed by “so, is it safe to dive?”
The simple answer to this question is yes, it is perfectly safe to dive on your period. Diving whilst menstruating should not be any cause for concern, provided that normal exercise does not increase your menstrual symptoms. So, simply go about it in your normal way, such as if you were going for a swim. If you are at all concerned about your personal circumstances, do ensure you consult with your GP prior to making your mind up.
Will sharks attack me if I dive on my period?
So that’s the simple answer to the simple question. However, I often find that the simple question masks the real question. What the real question should be is “will I get attacked by sharks if I dive when I’m menstruating?”. The answer to the real question is no! For starters, the chances of being attacked by a shark in any case is so minuscule that you should assume it is nil. From the small amount of shark attack data in existence, there is simply nothing to support the fact that menstruation increases your chances of being attacked. Contrary to popular misconception, sharks are just not that interested in human blood. Studies have been conducted to show that sharks appear curious, but not aggressive when human blood is in the water. In fact, sharks are more attracted to fish gastric juices, rather than fish blood, such as a fish that has been attacked, is dying or injured and leaking gastric juices.
In any case, the amount of blood loss due to menstruation is very small, only a few millimetres of blood a day, with the majority of fluid loss being water and uterine lining cells. Furthermore, most females will find that their period actually stops during their dive; the vaginal opening stays closed and the increase in ambient pressure would stop any potential fluids from leaking.
As a dive professional, I dived every day of the month throughout the year, and you will find that most other female divers also dive continually, whether during their periods or not. Some studies suggest that scuba diving while menstruating may increase a diver’s chance of decompression sickness, but I suspect this may be more to do with fluid loss and dehydration, so I’d advise to dive conservatively and always stay fully hydrated when diving on your period. But, whether on your period or not, I’d always say you should dive conservatively and stay fully hydrated when diving!
Finally, some evidence does suggest that surfers who periodically urinate in their wetsuits may have a higher chance of shark attack than those who do not, although the odds are still statistically minuscule. So, the bottom line is, you are more likely to be attacked from urinating in your wetsuit, whether male or female, than you are from menstruating!
So there you have it. There’s no excuse to stay dry during your time of the month!