Let’s Clear This Up: You Can Totally Go Tampon-Free While Swimming
Truth: Having a period also means you need to sift through quite a few period myths to find out what’s true and what’s total BS. Getting pregnant on your period, for example, can totally happen, while syncing up with your friends is more of a numbers game than a seal of sisterhood.
One Q that gets asked again and again: Does your period stop in water?
So…does your period stop in water? Even just a little?
First, let it be known that water itself will never make your period disappear. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in water or on the top of a mountain or in a ditch, your period still comes,” says Michele Haughton, MD, an ob/gyn at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian.
Basically, barring any medical problems like hormonal disorders that can make you skip periods, your uterus will keep on shedding its lining whether you dive into the ocean or not, says Dr. Haughton. So, sorry, but spending a week in your bathtub isn’t an effective way to skip out on your monthly visit. Womp.
Get the answers to more of your period questions here:
But getting into the water can make it seem like your period goes away. That’s all thanks to the pressure of the water surrounding your vagina—it can counteract the force of gravity that helps blood flow out of your body. There’s no biological magic going on here, it’s all physics. “When you’re in water there’s some opposite pressure happening,” says Dr. Haughton.
Think back to your high school physics class for a sec: You may remember the word “buoyancy.” Buoyancy, also known as “upthrust,” is the upward force a liquid exerts to counter the weight of an object (this is part of the reason that certain things float and others don’t). “Water has way more resistance than air,” says Dr. Haughton. “So water can counteract the blood flowing out of the vagina.”
Essentially, the water doesn’t make your period “stop,” but it can block the exit. If you’re planning to get into the bathtub or go swimming without using a tampon or menstrual cup, rest assured that there will be no red, bloody trail behind you, says Dr. Haughton.
“Most women bleed only 60 milliliters (about three to four tablespoons) over five whole days,” says Dr. Haughton. Even if you’re free-flowing into the pool for five hours, there’s no way that water is going to turn into the Red Sea with the amount of blood coming out of your body. Even a whole pool full of people on their periods wouldn’t give the water even the tiniest pink tinge.
And, while we’re on the subject of periods in water, there’s absolutely no chance that this tiny amount of menstrual blood will attract every shark in the ocean (or even just one of them), so let’s put that myth to rest right now. “Whenever I hear the shark myth I think, ‘How much do you people think you’re bleeding?’ It’s not like you’re waving around a bloody arm,” says Dr. Haughton. (Yep, she tells it like it is.)
Well, does that mean I don’t need to wear tampons (or menstrual cups) in water?
Even if your period tends to be light, tampons and menstrual cups can save you when you exit the water. “The second you come out of the water your period will start flowing again,” says Dr. Haughton. “And then you’ll have a nice stain on your bathing suit.”
They also come in handy if you tend to have a lot of blood clots (there’s no guarantee that water pressure will counteract an actual clot, versus drops of blood).
The bottom line: No, your period doesn’t magically stop in the water, but water pressure can prevent your flow from coming out. It’s still wise to use a tampon or menstrual cup.
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