Swimming when menstruating — without tampons?

Originally Published: April 27, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 8, 2009
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Alice,

I have to take swimming as a requirement. How do I deal with my menstrual period during that time? The department only allows six absences per term. I do not use tampons.

—New Student

Dear New Student,

Women find different ways to accommodate Aunt Floe when it's time for a swim. To feel comfortable in and out of the water when you have your period, consider the following options.

Plenty of women do not use tampons and simply choose not to swim when they are menstruating. So, it's likely that other female students have had the same dilemma in regards to your swimming requirement. Have you thought about talking with your swim instructor about a compromise? For example, you could attend class and learn the strokes on the edge of the pool (and not be marked absent), or you could make up the sessions at another time when you don't have your period. Regardless of your instructor's gender, s/he is probably familiar with these kinds of concerns. If you're still wary to approach your instructor, perhaps you could email her or him first to introduce your concerns. After opening up the conversation, you can set up a meeting in person to work out the details.

Secondly, if you're curious about alternatives to pads and tampons, there are a few less well-known options. Cervical caps, diaphragms, and menstrual cups serve as re-usable "menstrual receptacles." Menstrual cups are available over-the-counter, but you will need to see a women's health care provider to be fitted for a diaphragm or cervical cap. If you're a Columbia student, you can make an appointment at Primary Care Medical Services through Open Communicator or by calling x4-2284.

When it comes to menstrual cycles, every woman is different. The decision to stay on land during your period or try out a new method like a menstrual cup really comes done to your personal preference. Enjoy your swimming (pur)suits!

Alice