Diving while on period

This post is for ladies like myself who would want to go on an adventure against all odds, and also to gentlemen who are friends with ladies like myself.

I wrote about my first diving course in Entering a new life: in the open waters last week. Now this post is dedicated to very specific circumstances that many of us might find ourselves in – diving while on period.

Disclaimer:
a. I am going to share my own experience and my opinion on it. I’d say, take it with a pinch of salt, as it is based on only one single experience. There might be many more aspects to it.
b. I will also share some gyaan  from online forums and a couple of friends’ experiences that I found useful.
c. Things will get yucky in some parts of this article.

So, I had registered for this four day course and I knew that my period would start somewhere around the fourth day. So I research with all possible sources about what kind of tampon to buy, which size to buy, how to wear it, how to avoid infections etc and prepared myself for ‘the fourth day’.

Now,
Lesson no. 1 – This is not all first hand knowledge.. some from online forums, some from friends’ experiences.
If you are using a tampon for the first time, use either the smallest size or the regular size. Else, it is going to hurt. Plus, larger size tampons means longer exposure with your vaginal skin, which in turn means slightly increased chances of infection.

Lesson no. 2 (specific to India) – This is all first hand knowledge.
Not all shops will provide the smaller/regular sizes even in prime areas of a city like Bangalore, as apparently the demand for them is too low (don’t know why in God’s name). So make sure you buy them a day or two in advance, so that you are not in jeopardy at the last moment.

When I reached Pondi, I came to know that if I am ready to work longer days, I can even finish the course in three days. My instructor was more than happy to finish it in three days. I was super-happy that I wouldn’t encounter my period by the end of my course.

I spent my first day watching the theory videos and doing some basic pool sessions with my instructor. I was to dive in the sea next day😎
Next day, we started with a large group of divers on the boat. all of them were there for different programs. Both my dives went well. I also met some interesting people among these divers – an award winning journalist who covered naxalism in Chhattisgarh, an advanced diver who also was a high altitude trekker and was planning his next trek to Stok Kangri the next month. All of this made my day.
I was super-happy. Now all I had to do was go back, eat some lunch, get a nap if possible and get ready for the remaining pool sessions.😎😎
Once we reached to the shore, I put my kit in the van and went to take a pee.
And Holy Mother of God.. was not really happy with me. It had begun 🤥

Lesson no. 3 – First hand knowledge again.
Expect your period to arrive to start much earlier than expected (by a number of days or sometimes by more than a week), if you are going through any strenuous activities. I have seen it happen with many women on a couple of long treks.
I assume it must be true with diving too.

Lesson no. 4 – All of us know this very well; still want to reiterate.
Be ready for your period to start a day or two early. Always. Even in absence of strenuous activities.

By the time we reached the dive school, there was hardly any time left for a lunch and a nap. The first thing I did was to check whether I even had any tampons with me in my bag. Thankfully I had. So I wore my brand new ornament, ate a little bit and left to the pool with my instructor in the very same swim suit I had on since morning.

The pool sessions went well. I did take a quick break to check whether my ornament was safely in place and was doing its job well not letting any body fluids out! But to summarise, it was a peaceful five-hour swim.
I took such a good long shower that evening, preventing so many others from using the dive-school bathroom.

I had rented a bicycle in Pondi. So, I had some food on the way and headed back to my hostel. I was super-exhausted. But along with that, another anxiety grasped me.
Only a day earlier, I had watched videos on all the precautions to be taken while diving, various sicknesses and hazards which might occur if we don’t take proper care or dive when we are unwell.. Now if diving when you have gases in your stomach can create problems, there must be some risk in diving when you have a whole uterus wall disintegrating and rebuilding itself inside your body!

I started reading some articles around it. But I was so so so tired that I had no idea when I fell asleep.
Now this loss of blood also makes your body need more rest. So I got up late, completed reading a couple of articles and even though I tried pedalling my bicycle as fast as possible, I ended up reaching late. Thankfully, unlike earlier two days, there were no dogs following me that day.

Most articles said, there is no risk in diving on a period. Apparently a lot of people worry that sharks might smell human blood in water and might follow a bleeding diver. But as many of you might already know, when we are submerged in water, the vaginal opening is closed due to water pressure and there is no inflow or outflow happening when your are inside the water. But along with all the encouraging stuff, I had also read a couple of scary things about diving on a period. An article talked about a study that proved a positive correlation between menstruation and decompression sickness. This means that if you are diving while on period, you are more likely to decompression sickness. This is a condition where the nitrogen dissolved in blood releases is released in form of bubbles and can affect any body part including brain.

Lesson no. 5 – Collective knowledge from things I read along with my opinion.
The biggest worry is not bleeding in water and leaving a red trail behind you.
You should rather worry about –
a) risk of decompression sickness due to diving too deep or for too long
(Note: The causal relationship between menstruation and decompression sickness is not yet proved scientifically, even though the correlation is proven.)
b) bloating – a common symptom in many women during periods – which might result into barotrauma, which is an injury caused by changes in air pressure in air filled spaces in our body. The air pressure keeps changing while we ascend or descend in water.

By the time I reached, everyone was ready to leave and were waiting for me. I was greeted a ‘good afternoon’.
Before packing my kit and changing into my wetsuit, I found my instructor, handed him the article and told him that it was now time for him to read some theory. I was not sure how much they taught instructors about this stuff. I was also not sure how comfortable he would be reading about menstruation, being only an 18-year old from a super-conservative country. But he had to know.
(The killer kid passed this test too)

Lesson no. 6 – Conventional wisdom, but very true.
Your instructor/ leader must know about any health conditions you are going through, no matter how small they are. Be it on a trek or a dive or any adventure sport.
The trekking community has seen deaths on high altitude treks only because some trekkers were either overconfident or hesitant to talk about their health to their trek leaders. I assume there must have been such accidents in the diving world too.

There was no time for breakfast. I had packed my leftover dinner from earlier day, which I could eat on the boat. I pushed a boiled egg in my mouth and got into the van.
My first dive went well. I was worried about blood leaking from my tampon after I got out of water. No blood had leaked; such a relief. I was not really tired either (surprising for the second day of period). I didn’t change my tampon even though I was carrying some extra ones, as there we were on a small boat and it had no washroom.

After the second dive, we came back to the shore. I rushed to the restroom to check the status. But as soon as I undressed, the tampon popped out. It had become heavy and completely soaked up.. not with blood, but with water. I pushed it inside again, put on my swimsuit and wetsuit again.
Had I had a heavy flow that day, I would definitely have some leakage and a little embarrassing situation.

Lesson no. 7 – Of course first hand. I am telling you what to do through my experience of not doing it.
Always carry extra tampons with you. If you have a heavy flow or if the dive is long, do change the tampon between dives.
If there is no changing room/ washroom available on the boat, then build a temporary changing room with towels, sheets or ponchos. But do not be lazy or hesitant to change.

So here it is.
Moral of the story? – Do not lose on an opportunity just because of your period.
Period comes and goes every month. Opportunities don’t!

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