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Feature Story

Easy come, easy flow

Red letter days need not put a period on pool fun.

By Joan Teotico

APRIL 2013

As a competitive and fitness swimmer, Mamiya Ajero, 22, a quality control analyst for a pharmaceutical company, swims up to three hours per day, once or twice a week. She’d skip swimming when the flow surges on the second day of her period, but if it’s necessary for her to get into the pool, “… I make sure that I have a stash of sanitary napkins with me.”

Ida Noelle Calumpang, 31, a coach for a synchronized swimming team in New York, says she’s usually in the pool—working on the deck and in the water—up to three times a week, anywhere between three to six hours per day. “There are no steps or practices I do before I swim if I have my period. Sometimes I use a tampon if I need to get in the water during heavy days,” she says.

Period pointers

Red letter days shouldn’t stop women from doing activities they enjoy. Lyra Clemente-Chua, M.D., fellow of the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS), talks about the do’s and don’ts of swimming during that time of the month. Follow her tips and enjoy swimming safely, even when you have your period.

Avoid wearing napkins while swimming. The blood that’s soaked in the pads may contaminate the pool and create an unsanitary environment. And because it’s already wet, it won’t absorb menstrual flow.

• If your profession—swimming coach, athlete or instructor—requires you to swim especially on days when period flow is heavy, use cotton tampons and change them every four hours. Steer clear from super-absorbent tampon varieties—these absorb menstrual fluids for an extended period of time and have been linked to toxic shock syndrome (see sidebar).

After swimming, rinse off well and change out of your wet bathing suit immediately. “What you really want is to really rinse off the chlorine and the water and whatever that water contains from your vulva and then dry it very well,” explains the OB-GYN. Use a soft cotton towel, paper towel, tissue or toilet paper to pat—do not rub—and totally dry yourself well.

Wear cotton underwear. “They’re absorbent. They make air circulate freely. They don’t trap moisture inside,” Dr. Clemente-Chua enumerates. If moisture is trapped, bacteria will multiply rapidly, because “bacteria thrive in moist, dark, damp environments.”

Try not to stay in the water for an extended period. Dr. Clemente-Chua points out that the length of time of swimming varies in every woman. “Some vulvae are resilient—more resilient than others. Some are very, very sensitive. So it really will depend on the individual.”

• Since women are prone to infections during their menstrual period, use feminine cleansers with antibacterial properties “… but only during a menstrual period—It’s never used continuously,” the OB-GYN adds.

If you feel an itch or irritation, immediately get out of the pool or water to rinse off then dry yourself well. Observe if the itching or irritation disappears. “If it does go away spontaneously, then it may have been something in the water or something in your bathing suit that may have caused it,” Dr. Clemente-Chua says. If the itch or irritation persists, accompanied by erupting rashes, a discharge that is either yellow, green, light or dark brown, or red to pink—then see a doctor right away. The normal discharge is usually clear, whitish or slightly cream-colored. “If [women] have any kind of vaginal abnormality—like a rash, itchiness, discharge—they should not go swimming at all. That infection could worsen because these organisms thrive in warm, moist, dark environments,” she emphasizes.

For more pointers on safe swimming during period days, grab a copy of the April issue of HealthToday magazine.

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