Swimming while menstruating

Specialties School


I work in an elementary school where the fourth graders take swimming lessons for eight weeks on Thursdays. This has not happened before, but today I had a student come down in tears because she was menstruating and didn't know how to handle swim class. Her parents had given her tampons, but she was horrified and cried more when I explained how they worked.  Eventually I just told her she could stay with me when the class went to PE.  I'm imagining this is much more common in middle and high school and I'm wondering what the protocol is?

Specializes in School Nursing, Pediatrics.

Rubylove is a company that sells period swimsuits so she won't need to wear a tampon, my daughter used them and it worked out great. Kinda pricey but worth it. 

Specializes in DI.

I would keep a box of pads in my office just in case. 

Specializes in School Nursing.
KimberlyJune said:

I would keep a box of pads in my office just in case. 

Pads? And then have her go in the pool? I just wouldn't have the heart to risk the poor thing leaking from the pad into the pool. I apologize if I'm coming across snarky, that honestly is not my intent. I would probably talk to Mom and see how she wants to handle it. Sometimes its not so much fun being a girl.. 

I took swimming as a PE choice in high school and the instructor (male) had a meeting w/ the girls and let it be known when we were menstruating, we did have the choice to not swim and could sit it out during this time.  He did state he would keep track of when you didn't dress up for swimming, so that nobody was sitting out every other week claiming they were menstruating. LOL

It worked well.  Personally, I only sat out if it was a heavy-flow day, but would use a tampon the rest of the time.

Specializes in pediatrics, school nursing.

Since this is a younger student, I certainly wouldn't push the idea of using a tampon until she is comfortable enough with the idea. You could certainly suggest the period swimwear, but who knows what the family's financial situation is. Clearly, she was upset and so it sounds like the discussion about this with her parents was quite short and not very supportive - shoving a tampon in her face and essentially saying "This is how you deal with it" without any explanation of how it's used is horrid!

I literally taught puberty ED yesterday and I showed the 5th grade students how a tampon worked and the look of horror on their faces was just amazing, so imagining them being told that is their only option right before needing to swim is just crazy to me. 

For this situation, I would probably have a conversation with the teachers involved and let them know that students who may be menstruating should be allowed to sit out without question, and maybe given another activity to do outside of the pool area. 

Specializes in School Nursing.

I'm shocked the parents gave her a tampon without any instructions on how to use it. And a 4th grader?  Poor thing.  I agree allowing her to sit out is the thing to do. 

Specializes in Community and Public Health, Addictions Nursing.

Please do not suggest putting pads in bathing suits- speaking from experience, they don't work.

I remember going on a field trip to a water park in 7th grade. Of course my period decided to return that morning. I tried but couldn't figure out a tampon, so I stuck a pad in my bathing suit. The thing became more waterlogged than a baby's diaper and it was pretty obvious I was using one.

I agree with giving her the choice of sitting out or trying a tampon. 

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