Written by: Martina Álvarez
“I have to dive and I just started menstruating. It’s all good, right?” Let’s be honest, the addition of the hesitant question at the end really means, “A shark is not going to eat me, right?” The relationship between sharks and menstruating cycles is one of the most frequently asked topics by women that love scuba diving from all around the world. And, unfortunately, most of the time, it also tends to be an embarrassing topic for women to bring up.
Today we decided to break this taboo and inform our community of female divers about it. The answer is very simple: Yes, it is ok to dive during your period and there is no evidence that your chances of being attacked by a shark increase (see more from Divers Alert Network).
However, as we know, each body is different. During the period of menstruating, some women may have stronger pain than others, experiencing severe and possibly debilitating cramps. In that case, the advice is the same as taught in the PADI Open Water course: safety is always the most important thing. Dive only if you feel good and comfortable doing so.
To continue our investigation, we decided to talk to a woman who has spent countless days diving with sharks ever since she was 14 years old. The ecologist and filmmaker Madison Stewart, better known as “Shark Girl.”
Do you dive with sharks while menstruating? Do you feel any difference?
Yes, I do dive with sharks during my menstrual cycle, and I don’t feel any different. If I’m in physical pain, it actually tends to ease in the water.
I remember being 15 and getting my period a day before I was meant to dive with tiger sharks, haha.
I don’t wear tampons, so I usually jump in the water in a wetsuit but nothing else, so a lot of blood goes into the water. It’s a really nice natural feeling.
What would you say if somebody asked you if they were safe to dive with sharks while menstruating?
Period blood and nose bleeds have never made a difference on any shark dives I’ve been on in my life. There is a lot of stigma around sharks and blood. However, sharks don’t react to blood as much as they do the specific chemicals in fish blood. When it comes to human blood, they don’t turn into bloodthirsty killers at the smell of it. What sharks will pick up on from an injured human is actually a stronger electrical impulse going through the water from our heartbeat because the tear in our skin no longer acts as an insulator.
I get asked this question a lot. It’s a very common thing for women to fear or have confusion about, especially because of what the media and movies show us.
Why is it so important to end this fear of sharks?
Fear is dangerous, and when it comes to sharks, fear is responsible for a lot of the legislation that opens them to exploitation and hides them from the public eye. We don’t defend sharks anywhere nearly as much as we do dolphins and whales.
How is your connection with sharks as a woman?
Sharks are very instinctive animals, basing a lot of their survival and hunting off the electricity and energy they feel in the water. Sharks can tell an aggressive or nervous human from a calm one. I think, as a woman, they feel a lot more comfortable around us sometimes.
What has been your best moment with a shark?
One of my best moments with a shark was at Tiger Beach, Bahamas, when I was a young child. Two tiger sharks I was diving with disappeared, and a huge hammerhead swam past. I remember feeling so tiny next to it. It was amazing.
What do you think is the number one lesson we need to learn about sharks?
We need to learn that they are dangerous predators, and with that comes a responsibility to be educated and smart around them in the water.
Any advice about sharks to the girls that love scuba diving?
My advice is sharks look for weaknesses, so don’t show any. Be smart and be safe, but never feel like being a woman and that menstruating is a disadvantage.
In conclusion, there is no evidence that diving during your menstrual cycle increases any safety risks for your dives and thus should not affect the programming of your dive unless your period pains put you in a position where you do not feel like diving.
Whether you are a man or a woman reading this, we can change the taboo that is generated around sharks and learn more about and understand one of the ocean’s greatest animals.
Ready to begin your PADI Open Water Course? Click here to start your adventure now.