For girls, teens and women, there’s nothing quite like that feeling the first time you get a swimming invitation after your period has started. Even girls and teens who confidently manage their periods at home and at school often find themselves with a new load of worries and questions.
With a little help, period swimming is safe, healthy and fun. Three simple steps — empathy, options, choice — will allow any parent or caring adult to move a girl or teen from worry or frustration to empowerment.
Are you thinking ahead for a girl or teen? Check out these tips to make sure you’re ready.
Period Swimming Step 1: It’s Not Fair!
Puberty can be a rocky road for anyone. If your daughter expresses frustration, disappointment or anger about her period interfering with summer, that’s normal. Acknowledging her feelings is the essential first step when Why Me?! reactions come up. If you are a woman who has experienced periods and swimming, you probably still remember something that frustrated you that first summer.
When your girl or teen expresses how unfair it feels, try to meet her there for a moment or two without jumping right into a solution or idea. Consider statements of empathy that don’t include silver linings:
- You’re right, there’s nothing fair about this.
- I am so sorry you have to deal with this today. It sucks.
- This is a crummy situation. I’d be upset, too.
- I remember how I felt when this happened to me. It really is so hard.
- I haven’t been in your shoes before, but I hear how frustrated you are — and I don’t blame you.
It’s not unusual if your daughter’s emotions (and the hormones that amplify them) have hijacked her ability to think about solutions. Acknowledging how she feels before anything else helps open lines of communication to discuss options.
Period Swimming Step 2: Explore Options Together
There are options that make period swimming possible.
Online retailers offer specialized period swimwear options that eliminate the need for a tampon or cup. Period swimwear is designed to contain menstrual flow while swimming. Specialized materials prevent leaks and noticeable bulky areas. Because this swimwear is most readily available online, this solution takes some time. If you have the opportunity to plan ahead, period swimwear options are great to explore before an important pool party or swim meet.
Tampons and menstrual cups
These are great options for swimming during her period, but they can be unfamiliar to girls and teens whose period recently started. If your daughter is curious about tampons, menstrual cups or other period products, our providers are always here to help with questions and concerns. It’s perfectly healthy and safe to swim with a tampon or mentrual cup inserted. A good rule of thumb is to remove a tampon after swimming and replace with a new tampon or other form of period protection.
Sitting out a swim party doesn’t have to mean staying home. A swim top pairs perfectly with athletic shorts (and the usual period protections). Add a favorite hat or pair of sunglasses for a simple option any girl or teen can use to enjoy the scene from the edge of the pool. Offer to help your daughter practice how she might answer any questions that come in a way that matches her desire for privacy or discretion. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
While maxi pads are a great product for periods, they are not effective while swimming. They also can become bulky, heavy and awkward as they quickly absorb water.
Swimming without any period supplies is not recommended. Some girls and teens may experience a temporary reduction in flow for a range of reasons, but there is no guarantee against an embarrassing mishap.
Period Swimming Step 3: Give Her Choice
The first time a girl or teen has to navigate swimming during a period, she can feel a loss of control. Giving your daughter choices during the summer will increase her feeling of control and independence.
Help her think ahead when there is a trip or swimming event scheduled. As she learns to track her cycle, she can feel more confident about anticipating times she might need a period swimming option.
Remind her that all of the options you’ve discussed are hers to choose. She can always decide if she wants to try a tampon, look for period swimwear or consider a cute poolside outfit. Help her put together a simple period kit if you’re traveling. Be sure to include a few tampons — even if she’s never used one before — to make sure she has the option away from home.
Plan Ahead When You Can
Stock up on these items to make things go a little easier when the pool opens up:
- Purchase a small package of thin, low-flow tampons with smooth applicators.
- Search for online retailers that sell period swimwear. Read credible reviews and get to know the sizing and measurements. Factor in shipping and fulfillment time to make sure you’re set up before swimming starts.
- Consider buying a pair of black nylon shorts. These can easily slip over a swim bottom for modesty or comfort. A black quick-dry fabric also easily conceals leaks or accidents.